Exploring the Possibilities and Challenges of AI in Education: A Look at ChatGPT’s Impact on Teaching and Learning
Open AI’s ChatGPT has sparked debates on its impact on the future of education as more educators explore its potential for a new engaged pedagogy in the classroom.
By Audrey Dietz
Early December 2022 saw a new main character on Education Twitter: Open AI’s ChatGPT, a Large Language Model trained to help answer questions and provide information on various topics.
Early testing by instructors revealed that the chat received high scores on AP test questions. Professors posted full-length essays generated by AI. Middle school students cheered, gleefully anticipating an end to pesky short answer questions. Proctoring and plagiarism-detecting software companies experienced a cold chill. There were a few hastily scribed hot takes predicting the end of homework and, therefore, the downfall of education as we know it (more on this in a moment).
Amid the rush to sound the alarm and drag everyone back to campus for in-person, handwritten, proctored exams out of fear of the AI – and haphazardly dismantling all of the progress made in recent years toward accessible education modalities for students with disabilities and distance learners, others saw not ruin, but glimpses of an incredible future for educators and students. For one such nuanced take on this topic and how AI can support outcomes for students, especially disabled students, read this essay by AHEAD Journal CEO Dara Ryder.
As students throughout history have made abundantly clear, banning tools simply won’t work and will often work against students’ best interests. Students will graduate into a world that uses generative A.I. programs, and forbidding their use will be akin to banning calculators, dictionaries, autocorrect, and yes, even Wikipedia from use in schoolwork. As technology columnist Kevin Roose explains, society uses these tools, and it’s up to educators to model how and when to deploy them effectively while being aware of their strengths and weaknesses (Roose, 2022).
College writing instructor and author John Warner has a more colorful take on ChatGPT. The author of Why They Can’t Write, and The Writer’s Practice says, “It has no idea what it’s saying. It understands syntax, not content. It is not thinking in the ways humans think when they write” (2022). Warner’s work focuses on the systemic ways that teaching writing has been sidelined by generations of standardized assessments, lack of autonomy for teachers and students, and top-down education mandates. Writing (like all disciplines) is, at heart, a specific way of thinking, and to become a skilled writer requires practicing that type of thinking.
The reality is that form-first writing (five paragraphs, anyone?) is prioritized, often at the expense of the critical thinking and metacognition necessary to make intentional writerly moves.
In Warner’s view, ChatGPT brings freedom from formats and structures that teachers of writing know don’t always serve our students or support their development as independent thinkers and effective writers. Why assign a generic format on relatively mundane topics when A.I. can quickly reproduce that format? It’s an opportunity to “make the work worth doing” (Warner, 2022). Ultimately, even Warner – who likens ChatGPT to the Shakespearean monkeys banging on a typewriter, but without the gibberish – ultimately concedes that he can “see potential in crafting assignments that encourage and empower students to utilize the AI in their work.”
Viktoria Manukyan, Chief Data Officer at InSpace, writes, “The future of education is here and it’s driven by technology. It’s important to stay ahead of the curve in education. By embracing AI tools like ChatGPT, teachers and students can unlock new possibilities and improve their learning experiences.” For many educators, this looks like automating teaching tasks that take time away from specialized instruction and student interaction. For other instructors, this might involve coaching students on interacting with the A.I. in discipline-specific ways to provoke metacognitive challenges and seek critique on their work. For a deeper dive into how to achieve this, Ditch That Textbook recently released a handy guide to 20 ways to incorporate ChatGPT into teaching and learning, as well as a roundup of educator anecdotes from social media on how they’ve approached using ChatGPT in the classroom.
And of course, in all of this, there are questions for InSpace and the other virtual classroom platforms out there. Do we educators want to be forever tethered to the pedagogy and tech of compliance as evoked by Zaretta Hammond (in Rebora, 2021)? Or do we want freedom from the virtual platforms and pedagogies that don’t serve our students (that we know aren’t serving our students)? Do we want to settle for the tech of convenience or demand technology (and pedagogy) of liberation?
At InSpace, we are always carefully walking a line–always drawn to the futuristic technology that lets us build virtual classrooms unlike anything else, but also fiercely protective of the educators and students whose humanity transforms a platform into a classroom. We build tech that’s designed to get tech out of the way so that teachers can teach in spaces where students have the freedom to learn. ChatGPT is liberating in this way as well, representing freedom from pedagogical tasks that do not serve our students and inspiring a new understanding of what it means to learn, demonstrate understanding, and inspire intellectual curiosity.
We’ve focused our product roadmap on features that prioritize connectedness, community, and fostering student autonomy (in other words, features that respect the true purpose of an educator) over automations that imagine the role of an educator as a paper-pushing, attendance-ticker who can’t function without a slideshow. We’re about building social layers that will support our students long after graduation, not seating charts for the here and now.
Miller, M. (2023). ChatGPT, Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence in Education. Retrieved February 8, 2023 from https://ditchthattextbook.com/ai
Rebora, A. (2021). Zaretta Hammond on Equity and Student Engagement. ACSD (79)4. Retrieved Feburary 1, 2023 from https://www.ascd.org/el/articles/zaretta-hammond-on-equity-and-student-engagement
Roose, K. (2022). Don’t Ban ChatGPT in Schools. Teach With It. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/12/technology/chatgpt-schools-teachers.html
Ryder, D. (2022). AI is here – If we fight it, we’lll lose and so will our students! AHEAD Journal. Retrieved from https://ahead.ie/journal/CEOs-Corner-AI-is-here-If-we-fight-it-we-ll-loose-and-so-will-our-studentsl
Warner, J. (2022). ChatGPT Can’t Kill Anything Worth Preserving. Retrieved February 10, 2023 from https://biblioracle.substack.com/p/chatgpt-cant-kill-anything-worth.