ChatGPT, other AI tools aren’t harbingers of education’s demise

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It’s all over the news, and it’s sparking concerns in classrooms across the country. 

It’s artificial intelligence (AI), and people seem to be overreacting.

Currently in the spotlight is a tool called ChatGPT, which is created by the nonprofit OpenAI. This piece of technology seeks to revolutionize how individuals write. All you have to do is type in a question or command, and in seconds it will produce whatever you need — an essay, a poem, or any other form of text-based communication. 

The end result reads like a human wrote it, which is accomplished thanks to the tool being trained on the vast amounts of text that live on the Internet.

For some educators, this is a problem of academic integrity. It makes cheating easier as the students don’t have to write anything. They can just tell ChatGPT to do it. It’s not plagiarism, but it isn’t student-produced work either, which is why administrators at Kansas colleges and universities are already discussing how to handle it and looking for ways to detect AI-generated work.

The levelheaded will see that this tool isn’t a huge issue, despite concerns about academic dishonesty. After all, the tool might produce realistic and grammatically sound pieces of writing, but if you read it closely, you’ll start to notice issues. 

For example, ChatGPT isn’t always accurate and sometimes lies in order to please the user. Also, the AI can’t effectively connect ideas between paragraphs, and it can’t properly cite its sources, which was pointed out in an essay for The Chronicle of Higher Education by Christopher Grobe, who is an associate professor of English at Amherst College.

“That’s because it is not actually dealing with facts about the world, but with the proximity of various clusters of words in a hugely multidimensional language model. It can endlessly move through the layers of that model and around each layer’s clusters of keywords, but it cannot get below these words to the facts they represent,” Grobe wrote.

Besides, different forms of AI are used every day. Whenever a person asks Siri a question or shouts a command at Alexa, AI is at work. Even writing tools like spellcheck, predictive text, Grammarly or Microsoft Editor work because of AI.

So AI popping up in our lives isn’t something new. This is just a new version of it, so it isn’t something to panic about or lament as the end of homework.

If anything, ChatGPT’s presence should serve as a catalyst for reflection. Educators need to rethink how and why they require students to write. Writing should be viewed as a form of thinking

So, if AI can complete a writing assignment easily, it begs the question of whether or not the prompt was a good assessment of knowledge in the first place. 

In short, the focus of education should be on learning and developing critical thinking skills, not assessments that check boxes.

Some educators are even embracing the tool, such as Ethan Mollick of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He is requiring students to use ChatGPT

In an interview with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelley, Mollick argued that students need to learn how to write in a world where AI tools like ChatGPT exist. 

“We’ve taught people how to do math in a world with calculators,” he said.

Therefore, AI tools such as ChatGPT sound the call for reimagining methods of assessment and teaching that remember that the education being provided must be equitable, meaning considerations of Internet access, physical and learning disabilities, and English fluency must be taken into account. This will ensure gaps between the haves and have-nots won’t expand.

The point is, ChatGPT and other AI tools that will come are not harbingers of education’s demise. It’s an evolution that will continue into the future. AI-powered technology can do great things for education, such as personalized learning, giving students on-demand instruction, and providing real-time feedback while students learn at their own pace, among other positives.

Instead of wringing their hands, educators need to acknowledge and adapt to the shifting landscape. It’s time to flex creativity and develop more impactful learning.

In terms of writing assignments specifically, the mindset of American University linguistics professor Naomi S. Baron should be adopted, which was articulated in an article for The Conversation: “The purpose of making writing assignments must be more than submitting work for a grade. Crafting written work should be a journey, not just a destination.”

Todd Vogts is a native of Canton, a resident of McPherson County, and an assistant professor of media at Sterling College. He can be contacted with questions or comments via his website at www.toddvogts.com.

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About toddvogts 840 Articles
Todd R. Vogts, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of media at Sterling College in Kansas. Previously, he taught yearbook, newspaper, newsmagazine, and online journalism in various Kansas high schools, and he ran a weekly newspaper in rural Kansas. He continues to freelance as a professional journalist from time to time. Also, Vogts is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the Journalism Education Association (JEA), and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), among others. He earned his Master Journalism Educator (MJE) certification from JEA in 2022. When he’s not teaching or writing, he runs his mobile disk jockey service and takes part in other entrepreneurial ventures. He can be reached at twitter.com/toddvogts or via his website at www.toddvogts.com.