How might Chatbot Technology impact on Education and Training?

There has been a lot of excitement in recent weeks around the arrival of ChatGPT, a conversational artificial intelligence program released recently by OpenAI. Here at home, it is also making headlines in our national papers and suggesting that it will influence many areas of our lives including academia, teaching, law and journalism. Much has been written in the past few weeks on how it may be heralding the death of the college essay and that it may even replace many of our skilled jobs.

Article from the Irish Examiner, December 16th 2022

So what is ChatGPT? The tool is the latest in a line of generative AI tools and had 1 million users in 5 days after its release at the end of November. The Guardian wrote that:

The system … is the latest evolution of the GPT family of text-generating AIs. Two years ago, the team’s previous AI, GPT-3, was able to generate an opinion piece for the Guardian, and ChatGPT has significant further capabilities.

ChatGPT is therefore not new and there have been earlier versions of such tools in recent years (i.e. Tay and BlenderBot 3), but it is more powerful  than previous such tools and it has the potential to generate responses to exam queries that academics believe could ”result in full marks if submitted by an undergraduate, and programmers have used the tool to solve coding challenges in obscure programming languages in a matter of seconds – before writing limericks explaining the functionality”. Thus, it has potential to impact in real ways on how we teach, how students learn and it has particular challenges for how we assess our students.

Students in schools can also use this tool to help them complete their homework or to do their homework for them. The following video, which gives a very nice overview and background to ChatGPT, has an interesting example of a student typing in an test question into ChatGPT and the system then automatically “shows you how to do it, says how to do the Math and at the end the answer is B”.

What is ChatGPT? OpenAI’s Chat GPT Explained

While some are suggesting that ChatGPT will herald the end of essay writing and that robots might even one day replace teachers, others are suggesting that the arrival of these new tools will require us to rethink how we reset homework assignments and exam questions. More importantly it will elevate key skills, such as

researching a topic, judging claims, synthesizing knowledge and expressing it in a clear, coherent and persuasive manner

Imagine using ChatGPT to solve an equation, as in the video above, and then asking your students to see if the solution is correct and if they would take a similar approach in solving the equation themselves. Students might ask ChatGPT to write an essay on a topic of their choosing and then review the text and find errors or statements that you don’t agree with? Others might ask it to generate some computer code in Python and then check to see if it could be further improved or some teachers might use tools, such as ChatGPT, to develop the digital literacies of their students by asking them to verify if a particular text was created by a human or by AI.  There is no doubt that such tools will become more sophisticated in the coming years and it appears that teachers will need to develop engaging questions and tasks for their students and so they really develop those critical skills mentioned above. Furthermore, it reminds me of the work of Mike Hughes and Magenta Principles and the need to ask good questions, that really get students to think.

The key is that we, as teachers, need to know what AI is and how tools, such as ChatGPT, work and how we can use them for good in education. To this end the European Commission has recently developed Ethical guidelines on the use of artificial intelligence and data in teaching and learning for educators. Furthermore, the Department of Education is a partner in an EU Erasmus+ project, Artificial Intelligence by and for Teachers (AI4T), designed to upskill teachers in the use of AI in education. This project is developing training programmes for teachers and it will trial these in the coming months with a selection of teachers across Europe. These will then be available to all teachers later in the year.

Over Christmas and New Year if you get a minute visit ChatGPT and play around with it and see what it can do and consider how might I use this tool for good with my learners? So go and have some fun with ChatGPT and consider how it could be used and please share your ideas with us, as we could include them in the upcoming AI4T training in early 2023. Thank you in advance.

ChatGPT screenshot
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