in high school When English teacher Kelly Gibson first encountered ChatGPT last December, existential anxiety quickly set in. While the internet rejoices in chatbots’ superficially complex answers to user prompts, many educators aren’t so happy.If someone could ask ChatGPT to “write 300 words about the green light symbol the great Gatsbywhat will stop students from handing over homework to robots? Speculation swirls about a new era of rampant cheating and even the death knell of dissertations or education itself.
But amid the panic, some enterprising teachers saw ChatGPT as an opportunity to redesign learning — something they invented that could shape the future of the classroom. Gibson is one of them. After her initial alarms died down, she spent winter break tinkering with ChatGPT and finding ways to incorporate it into her curriculum. She might ask the kids to use the bot to generate text, then edit it herself to find the chatbot’s mistakes or improve its writing style. Gibson, who has been teaching for 25 years, likens it to more familiar technological tools that enhance rather than replace learning and critical thinking. “I don’t know how to do it yet, but I hope AI chatbots become like writing calculators,” she said.
Gibson’s view of ChatGPT as a teaching tool rather than a perfect liar raises a key point: ChatGPT is not as smart as a human, despite its ability to spew human-like text. It’s a statistical machine that sometimes introspects or creates lies, and often requires direction and further editing to get things right.
Despite these limitations, Gibson also believes she has a responsibility to bring ChatGPT into the classroom. She teaches in a predominantly white, rural, low-income area of Oregon. If only students who have ready access to an internet-connected device at home can gain experience with the robot, it could widen the digital divide and further disadvantage students without access. So Gibson thought she could turn ChatGPT into, in the educator’s words, a teachable moment for all of her students.
Other educators who reject the notion of educational apocalypse argue that ChatGPT may not disrupt education at all, but will draw attention to the fact that the system is broken. “Another way to think about it is not how do you find new forms of assessment, but what are our current priorities in further education? Maybe they’re a bit broken,” says Alex Taylor, who researches and teaches human-computer interaction at London’s Metropolitan University.
Taylor said the robot has prompted discussions with colleagues about the future of testing and assessment. If a chatbot can answer a series of factual questions on a test, is the test a worthwhile metric to learn from? In Taylor’s view, the rote questions that chatbots can answer don’t facilitate the kind of learning that would make his students better thinkers. “I think sometimes we get it back to the front,” he said. “We were like, ‘How the hell can we test people to meet some level of performance or some metric?’ However, really, education should be about a broader idea.”
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