ChatGPT: thinking out of the box
Posted on January 23, 2023 | [Eduardo Oliveira]
My own reflections on ChatGPT #2
(perspectives and opinions are my own)
In my previous post on Dec 9 (2022), I spoke a little bit about what ChatGPT is and briefly discussed a few challenges this technology poses to education. Since then, we've all been bombarded by ChatGPT articles, posts on social media, and so on. I feel at this point that most of the articles I've read about ChatGPT and education have been focused on raising concerns about assessments, academic cheating, originality of essays and so on. That’s truly important, no doubt. But that’s not only where our attention should be. Apart from a select few, we are missing the opportunity to focus on the unmeasurable value this technology brings to education.
As educators, we may feel intimidated and even a bit panicked by the challenges and changes that ChatGPT is requiring from us. In response to the unexpected surprise (we were not ready for ChatGPT release), news such as "NY has blocked ChatGPT access on schools" and "state schools in QLD and NSW decided they will also ban ChatGPT from students" have become normal. Educational institutions are divided. Some avoid it and some say the technology is unavoidable and should be explored. Perhaps these are temporary bans to bide some time to figure out a way to incorporate the use of these technologies into the teaching and learning journeys/processes. Who knows?
Professor Silvio Meira brilliantly asked us to imagine ourselves in the Middle Ages, in a place where there was no paper, pen and ink. In his post here, he says... "Suddenly, the three (paper, pen and ink) appear and someone who already knows how to read and write begins to enable many more people to do the same. From there to books appearing and alternative versions of scriptures is just a jump in social space-time; even if it takes decades, in previous centuries nothing had happened. Technology -like writing, paper, pen and ink- liberates. And, as NYC has interpreted it (*here, his text makes a reference to NYC blocking ChatGPT use in schools*), it threatens the status quo. It is not by chance that, at the beginning of the information revolution -with Gutenberg's press, from 1454 onwards- and when it had the power to do so, the Catholic Church controlled the publication of books with its imprimatur [bit.ly/3WUfGWM]. Smartphones, which have the potential to free students from classroom walls, are still banned in most schools around the world, under the assumption that their ban reduces bullying and student dispersion [bit.ly/3GPupfZ]. But what does science say? That there is no impact of the cell phone ban on student performance [bit.ly/3Cw1eMI]. The case, of course, is not solved by science or technology, but by a combination of habits, behaviours, politics and… learning. One day, the school learns that makes no sense to ban things. Not smartphones, not ChatGPT, not… books. None of them".
How wonderful that you can now learn and access information in various innovative ways? Imagine these:
Opportunity to use technologies that will be (largely) available in the future;
Opportunity to access diverse and inclusive contents;
Opportunity to learn contents from different perspectives;
Opportunity to learn how to better perform coding tasks;
Opportunity to communicate, interact and learn from impersonated historical figures;
Opportunity to improve writing and communication skills: how to structure articles? essays? working plans? training programs? recipes? meeting minutes? how to explain things in different ways? endless possibilities.
Opportunity to think out of the box and to explore contents in creative/innovative ways: "explain what is a comet as a bee to a year 1 school child"
And much more. Students have the opportunity to also learn about ways to provide better feedback to each other, to reflect on their essays and tasks, to work in collaboration with an AI assistant so they don't feel isolated (plus they can validate their ideas, which will help them building confidence in those related topics) and so on.
ChatGPT is one of the most significant innovations of our time. No doubt! However, the technology is far from being perfect! It's important (during this learning time) we acknowledge the tool's limitations and potential risks/issues as well. Many articles have been raising concerns about its generated biased, racist or inappropriate contents, for example. ChatGPT (and similar AI models) can also invent facts (while presenting them with great confidence and sophisticated vocabulary) without providing source reliability or transparency. OpenAI Chief Executive Officer, Sam Altman, suggested people hit the “thumbs down” on these kinds of results to help ChatGPT to improve.
A few references on this:
As this post from The Decoder suggests, "the core question controversially discussed in the educational context is: Should AI-supported writing tools be used proactively in the sense of generators of draft texts in the classroom to ultimately generate higher quality work via the automated creation of initial draft texts and the subsequent “manual” optimization of the texts? From our standpoint, the answer is: Yes. Or rather: Yes, but. It is what it is: AI language models and systems are a fact of life in knowledge work. Hiding and ignoring are not appropriate tactics. But if it’s no longer a matter of “whether” to use AI tools, then the question must be: How should we use these tools in the future? What knowledge, what competencies do students (teachers, pupils) need?"
In this context, I believe it's time for us to start planning, designing, learning, promoting and developing AI literacy among academics and students, and to discuss and reflect on the opportunities that these technologies offer to education (considering its risks and challenges). We have a chance to significantly change the way we've been thinking about education. Let's do it!