What Artificial Intelligence Means for Educators
The integration of artificial intelligence into our classrooms is a topic that warrants serious consideration. Since the emergence of AI tools, such as ChatGPT, educators have been scrambling to adapt and respond appropriately. Many educators have been focusing on the negative aspects of AI, such as plagiarism and cheating, while others have been more optimistic. I say, let’s be optimistic.
Like innovations that came before, artificial intelligence tools can enhance our students’ learning experiences in ways that we aren’t even aware of yet.
Rather than viewing the rise of AI as a threat to our students’ education, let’s look at it as the incredible opportunity that it is. As educators, it is our responsibility to create authentic learning experiences for our students, experiences that will equip them with the ability to apply the wealth of knowledge and skills obtained in school to real-world situations. To ensure this type of knowledge transfer occurs, it is critical that we provide truly authentic learning experiences while children are in school. This means we cannot ignore new tools, pretending they don’t exist. Neither can we deny learners the tools that are now at their disposal. To teach and assess students in ways representative of the real world, we must encourage students to take advantage of the resources that are available to them in responsible ways. Just as we encourage the appropriate use of dictionaries, calculators, and the Internet, we should teach students how to use AI tools, like ChatGPT, responsibly and ethically.
Like innovations that came before, artificial intelligence tools can enhance our students’ learning experiences in ways that we aren’t even aware of yet. Even in its early stages, AI can be used for much more than just doing students’ homework for them.
- Academic support: AI can generate study materials, such as summaries, flashcards, definition lists, concept maps, discussion prompts, and quizzes. It can also answer direct content questions for students, benefiting students who may need additional tutoring during times their teacher may be unavailable.
- Brainstorming: Students can use it to brainstorm ideas for essays, research papers, and other projects. Simply input a single theme or idea and AI can suggest related topics, outlines, or thesis statements that can serve as a jumping off point for students who struggle to get started on creative projects.
- Research: When researching a topic, students can use AI to ensure comprehensive coverage of a topic, identify available resources, and organize information. AI can assist students in finding and organizing information for research projects, saving them time and improving their research skills. Artificial intelligence is already being used to expand the capabilities of web browsers and search engines, like Microsoft Bing and Opera.
- Feedback: AI can evaluate student writing and instantly offer constructive feedback regarding the strengths of their compositions, as well as possible areas for improvement.
- Language learning: Students can use AI to practice their conversational skills when learning a new language. Engaging in conversations with fluent speakers is one of the most effective ways to master a new language. In this way, AI can help students learn new languages more efficiently and effectively.
While recognizing and appreciating the power and value of AI is important, we can’t ignore the challenges it introduces in academic settings.One such challenge is the potential for academic dishonesty. With a simple input, such as, “What were the short- and long-term effects of the emancipation proclamation?” AI tools, such as ChatGPT can generate a fairly well-written multi-paragraph response. It can also customize its response based on feedback from the user. For example, students can indicate the type and length of response they need, prompt the system to expand or shorten the response, or add more detail. Students can request that responses be written in a certain type of prose, in a particular style, or from varying perspectives. AI content generators can also provide responses in multiple languages, including programming languages such as Python or C++. Its power is seemingly endless.
If you’ve worked in the field of education for any length of time, you have likely come to view open-ended questions, such as long answer questions, essays, and research papers, as being some of the most valid assessment types used in student courses. As such, you have probably come to regard them as being among the most valuable types of questions. A research project requiring students to systematically investigate and draw conclusions about a hypothesis or research question using their own words has, historically, been viewed as a highly valid assessment method. However, recent advances in AI have significant implications for our ability to accurately assess student proficiency levels. What were previously valid assessment types, like research papers, are now viewed as, potentially, the least reliable assessment types out there.
As we all know, education is not just about the transmission of information but also the development of skills, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and creativity. These are areas where AI is limited. In addition, AI content generators cannot yet develop very high-caliber written compositions. As such, AI output has fairly low complexity and overly consistent verbiage. Even so, our assessment strategies must change to accommodate the availability of AI to our students, especially considering the rapid advancement of AI tools. It’s not likely that we will discontinue written responses altogether, but we do need to formulate more effective ways to assess students, in light of this new resource. In the meantime, clarifying expectations about the responsible and ethical use of artificial intelligence on such assignments is critical. Students must understand that, while AI tools are powerful resources for brainstorming, organization, and research, they should not be used to complete work on their behalf. As a part of our attempt to mold our students into Christlike citizens, we must foster a culture of academic integrity and emphasize the importance of honesty. However, there’s no doubt the issue of academic integrity will remain. Fortunately, tools such as Open AI’s Text Classifier, AI Content Detector from Copyleaks, and GPTZero, already exist that can detect the use of AI content generators in written submissions. Additionally, TurnItIn is preparing to release AI detection in its products in the coming weeks. While these tools are not 100% reliable, they will only get better with time.
The Opportunity to Move Forward
The world of academic assessment has been turned on its head. Educators have a responsibility to assess student mastery using highly valid assessments, and AI has presented a complex challenge that requires a creative, multifaceted, and deliberate response. Therefore, let’s start with the first step. We must first firmly establish our perspective on artificial intelligence—hopefully as a positive one.
We are educators. It is our job to provide authentic and valid learning activities and assessments for our students. This means we must adapt to the world our students live in; we cannot expect our students to forfeit innovations to accommodate an education that wasn’t designed for the world they live in. The solution to this is not to deny students access to these tools. As a matter of fact, avoiding the use of AI is quickly becoming near impossible. Instead, we must teach students how to use AI responsibly and ethically. It is our duty to ensure that our students not only master academic objectives but also understand the ethical implications of the tools they use.
We cannot expect our students to forfeit innovations to accommodate an education that wasn’t designed for the world they live in.
We must accept that there is to be great change in the field of education over the next few years. Once this has been accepted, we can hunker down and do the hard work of devising new methods for assessing students in valid and authentic ways. The integration of artificial intelligence into our classrooms holds vast potential for enhancing students’ learning experiences and promoting knowledge transfer. Our stance as educators should not be one of denial or fear. We must acknowledge and embrace this advancement while also addressing the potential challenges that come with its use. Let’s celebrate this incredible innovation that can, and will, revolutionize the way our students learn.