Chat GPT and other AI

Keith Rispin
PEAI
Published in
10 min readJan 27

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What does this mean for education?

AI in Education

Straight from the AI's mouth
ChatGPT is a natural language processing model developed by OpenAI that is capable of generating human-like text. It has the potential to revolutionize the field of education in several ways.

One potential benefit of ChatGPT is its ability to generate personalized learning materials. By asking questions and providing input, students can use ChatGPT to generate tailored study guides and practice exercises. This can be particularly useful for students who struggle to keep up with the pace of a traditional classroom or who need extra help to understand a particular subject.

Another way in which ChatGPT could impact education is through its ability to facilitate interactive learning. By engaging with ChatGPT in a conversation, students can receive real-time feedback and clarification on any questions they have. This could be especially useful for students who are too shy to ask questions in a traditional classroom setting.

In addition, ChatGPT could potentially be used to create virtual tutors or teaching assistants. By interacting with ChatGPT, students could receive one-on-one support and guidance without the need for a human teacher or tutor to be physically present. This could make high-quality education more accessible to students in remote or underserved areas.

Overall, ChatGPT has the potential to greatly enhance the field of education by providing personalized learning materials, facilitating interactive learning, and creating virtual tutors. While there are still many challenges to overcome, ChatGPT has the potential to revolutionize the way we think about education.

— ChatGPT 3.0

Now for something a little more carbon-based
Every last word above was written by ChatGPT 3.0, a simple (relatively speaking) AI that has people pondering the future. What makes ChatGPT so revolutionary is that it appears to have solved the problem of how to get an AI to understand natural language. All I had to do was enter a prompt, "write a 5 paragraph essay on the effects of ChatGPT on education." in less than 15 seconds, I had a 5-paragraph essay on the effects of Chat GPT on education. Getting a handle on Natural Language Processing is a HUGE deal on the road to moving the development of AI forward.

As Chat GPT told you in its introduction, it is called a Natural Language Processing Model designed to process and generate a response to a user's written prompt. If you ask it nicely, Chat GPT can write essays (as above), evaluate, debug and write Javascript, Python, HTML, and CSS. It can write you a recipe for virtually anything, write marketing emails, can help you write complex formulas for your excel spreadsheets, and so much more. Even though people are rightfully marvelling at the power of ChatGPT as it is available today, this is just the FIRST publically available iteration. Imagine what they are working on that we have yet to see. Not only that, natural language processing is but a fractional part of the larger AI landscape. What is about to happen over the coming years in the world of AI is going to change EVERYTHING.

Now, this is not to say that ChatGPT isn't without its shortcomings. I asked it to give me a list of things to do when I was in Tofino for Christmas, and it told me I could go skiing at Mount Washington, just a short 250-kilometre drive away. I suppose it wasn't wrong, just geographically challenged. I have also been told by an English teacher friend that Chat GPT is horrible at writing Shakespeare-style poems, so I had to give it a go.

For Example

Oh, fairest love, thou art my shining star,
Thy radiance guides me through the darkest night.
Thy beauty and thy grace leave me astound,
I am thy servant, thou my dearest light.

Thy voice, so sweet, doth fill my heart with song,
Thy touch doth set my soul on fire.
I am but a fool, with love for thee so strong,
Thy love doth lift me higher and higher.

Thy lips, so soft, do tempt me with their charms,
Thy eyes, so bright, do hold me in their gaze.
I am but a moth, drawn to thy loving arms,
Forevermore, my love, I’ll sing thy praise.

Thy love doth fill me with a joy divine,
I am thine forever, my love, my Valentine.

Undoubtedly the poem is vomitously bad, but I am thinkin it should fetch at least a solid C+, but I ain't no English teacher. It does, however, beg the question, what does this mean for education as we know it? Remember, this is the first iteration of ChatGPT, and dozens of other AI tools have suddenly appeared on the scene since ChatGPT's unveiling in November 2022. Since I began writing this article, ChatGPT has released version 3.5, and if I don't hurry up, version 4.0 will be released, and developers are promising even more usability and capability. Again, it cannot be stressed enough, ChatGPT represents just a portion of what the world of AI has in store.

We cannot ignore the fact that we are on the precipice of some major changes in how people access and generate information, with or without any kind of knowledge of what AI has produced for them. This IS NOT a fancy search engine, The days of wading through reams of information using a search engine are coming to an end, and we are embarking on a new era of internet search and information sharing.

The KneeJerk Reaction

So far, the world of education and academic thought is beginning to react to ChatGPT predictably. First out of the gate was the New York City Public Schools

New York City schools have banned ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence chatbot that generates human-like writing including essays, amid fears that students could use it to cheat. — The Guardian

Then a notable international conference on machine learning banned its use.

“The International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML) announced the policy earlier this week, stating, “Papers that include text generated from a large-scale language model (LLM) such as ChatGPT are prohibited unless the produced text is presented as a part of the paper’s experimental analysis.” — The Verge

Even the center of the coding community, Stack Overflow, has temporarily banned its use until they can get a handle on dealing with the profound ramifications of people using ChatGPT to participate and create content.

StackOverflow imposed the temporary ban because answers created by ChatGPT are “substantially harmful” both to the site and to users looking for correct answers. — zdnet

In addition to the above, I have checked in with a few colleagues working in school districts throughout Canada, and ChatGPT has been blocked within every one of them. I have yet to be at a staff meeting since ChatGPT came out, but there is some potential for some spirited discussion about how we can keep kids from using it for academic purposes when they leave the building. As tempting as this approach may be, I believe it is a mistake. Wasting our time playing AI whack-a-mole is futile, and our energies can be much better spent in much more constructive ways. As they say in Star Trek Next Generation: "Resistance is futile." but this doesn't mean we surrender; instead, we have to be part of the discussion on how to be part of the changing educational landscape and our world for that matter.

Technology to date

Although it may not seem like it at times, technology has changed education immensely in the past 30+ years. I know, I said the exact opposite not two paragraphs ago, but both statements can be true. From chalkboards to short-throw projectors and smart boards, from encyclopedias and card catalogues to keyword internet searches, and from reel-to-reel movies to on-demand streaming. As much as classroom technology has changed in the past 30 years, education is still primarily about relaying information. The difference is that today, teachers are no longer the gatekeepers of all that information. Up until the late ’90s, “We” still controlled the learning. We determined how information was doled out, grade by grade, course by course. Your student body was much more homogeneous, and kids generally knew and didn’t know the same things from year to year. Today, however, you have no idea what you are going to get from year to year because technology has made learning so much more accessible from Kindergarten up to Ph.D.

What we see today as a result of the explosion of access to information is that some kids have figured out how to use technology to leverage their learning, propelling them to ridiculous levels of achievement even before they set foot in your classroom. As an Information Technology teacher, I get kids in my class who have self-taught themselves coding, 3d modelling and animation, music production, and robotics… to a level I cannot even begin to measure up to. I have had kids who have walked straight out of high school into jobs in the tech industry that University grads would covet. Kids have successful podcasts, YouTube Channels, marketing businesses and even music careers all because of the technology we have at our disposal. For some kids, technology has enriched their learning and nurtured their interests in a way that has rendered much of the traditional education model irrelevant. Kids these days can learn despite the conventional classroom, not because of it.

The problem is, for all the success of a certain group of students, the past 30 years of technological proliferation in the classroom has not served all students equally. We still have kids who struggle with learning, despite all the technology available to them. Instead of a levelling of the playing field, as technophiles like me predicted, the divergence of the strongest students from the weakest students has accelerated and become even more profound. The result is that technology has made the classroom more heterogeneous than it once was. Teachers are faced with considerable differences in skills and abilities within grade levels and subject areas, which in turn makes meeting the needs of all students infinitely more complicated than it once was. To make matters worse, access to technology has created a problem in determining if students are demonstrating genuine learning and understanding of the curriculum or if they are demonstrating proficiency at using technology to project the illusion of having learned the curriculum.

The Reality

Let me preface this final section with this; this entire article is my opinion. I could name a half dozen colleagues who would disagree with me, another half dozen that would agree, and the rest who would prefer not to think about it. With that said, my experience and education predispose me to think about these things more than most, so take what works for you and disregard the rest.

I have been teaching since 1993 and have been an early adopter of Educational technology ever since. During my teaching practicum, I still remember creating a crossword puzzle as a classroom activity on Macintosh Classic II and printing it out on a dot matrix printer. The office staff were horrified at how much printer ribbon it used, but they kindly humoured me. My sponsor teacher was amazed, then promptly dismissed it as gimmicky and not teaching. Ever since I have been at the pointy end of many colleagues’ ire as I gleefully embraced new technologies that they vehemently opposed. Over the past 30 years of my career, adopting any technology that advanced beyond an overhead projector has frequently been seen as the end of education as we know it. Yet, new technologies, for better or worse, infiltrated education despite opposition, and education has survived. Based on these 30 years of experience, I can confidently say that AI is not going away, just like the technologies that have preceded it. In the words of HG Wells (kinda), Adapt or perish, now as ever, is technology’s inexorable imperative.”

If we look at ChatGPT’s own rosy outlook on its future effects on education, which started this opinion piece. It is apparent that it “thinks” it can have a positive effect on education and learning. Whether this is true or not will depend on how educators prepare and guide the adoption of what is coming because it is coming, just like the technology before it. The difference this time is that we are not simply changing how we relay information to students. This time the technology is about to truly disrupt what we know about teaching and learning. If we don’t attempt to have some influence, if not control, on how AI plays out in education, government and private interests will dictate how it comes to fruition.

To wrap up

Let's end this piece the same way as we began it and ask ChatGPT what negative effects AI may have on education. ChatGPT gives us a perfectly reasonable set of concerns about AI in education and perhaps a starting point to apply our efforts in guiding the adoption of AI in education.

What could be some possible negative outcomes of AI in education

  1. AI-enabled technologies can reduce the amount of human interaction in education, decreasing creativity and critical thinking.
  2. AI tools may increase the digital divide as AI-based tools and resources can be expensive and may only be available to some students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds.
  3. AI-based tools can be challenging to control and may present a lack of control for educators and students.
  4. AI-based tools can be biased and can lead to inaccurate learning results.
  5. Privacy Concerns: AI-enabled technologies can raise privacy concerns as data is often collected from students and can be used for various purposes.
  6. AI could lead to a decrease in job opportunities for teachers as AI takes over more of their job functions.

We either make an effort to manage the future of AI in education, or AI will manage the future of education for us.

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Keith Rispin
PEAI
Editor for

Father, Husband, Educator. Think life is far 2 short 2 B taken seriously. Some would say I also know a little bit about technology in education.