ChatGPT goes to alter education, not destroy it


But it is going to take time and resources for educators to innovate in this fashion. Many are too overworked, under-resourced, and beholden to strict performance metrics to make the most of any opportunities that chatbots may present. 

It is way too soon to say what the lasting impact of ChatGPT will likely be—it hasn’t even been around for a full semester. What’s certain is that essay-writing chatbots are here to remain. And they’re going to only improve at standing in for a student on deadline—more accurate and harder to detect. Banning them is futile, possibly even counterproductive. “We have to be asking what we want to do to organize young people—learners—for a future world that’s not that far in the longer term,” says Richard Culatta, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), a nonprofit that advocates for using technology in teaching.

Tech’s ability to revolutionize schools has been overhyped previously, and it’s easy to get caught up in the joy around ChatGPT’s transformative potential. But this feels larger: AI will likely be within the classroom a technique or one other. It’s vital that we get it right. 

From ABC to GPT

Much of the early hype around ChatGPT was based on how good it’s at test taking. In truth, this was a key point OpenAI touted when it rolled out GPT-4, the newest version of the big language model that powers the chatbot, in March. It could pass the bar exam! It scored a 1410 on the SAT! It aced the AP tests for biology, art history, environmental science, macroeconomics, psychology, US history, and more. Whew!

It’s little wonder that some school districts totally freaked out.

Yet in hindsight, the immediate calls to ban ChatGPT in schools were a dumb response to some very smart software. “People panicked,” says Jessica Stansbury, director of teaching and learning excellence on the University of Baltimore. “We had the flawed conversations as an alternative of pondering, ‘Okay, it’s here. How can we use it?’”

“It was a storm in a teacup,” says David Smith, a professor of bioscience education at Sheffield Hallam University within the UK. Removed from using the chatbot to cheat, Smith says, lots of his students hadn’t yet heard of the technology until he mentioned it to them: “Once I began asking my students about it, they were like, ‘Sorry, what?’”

Even so, teachers are right to see the technology as a game changer. Large language models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and its successor GPT-4, in addition to Google’s Bard and Microsoft’s Bing Chat, are set to have an enormous impact on the world. The technology is already being rolled out into consumer and business software. If nothing else, many teachers now recognize that they’ve an obligation to show their students about how this latest technology works and what it may make possible. “They don’t want it to be vilified,” says Smith. “They wish to be taught learn how to use it.”


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