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ChatGPT, is it the end of education as we know it?

ChatGPT has taken the world by storm and media frenzies have us worried that if we’re not careful, it will take our place in the world by storm too. But what exactly is this AI machine? ChatGPT is an AI model developed by OpenAI that uses deep learning to generate human-like text. It’s trained on a large amount of data from the internet, including websites, books, and social media, so it can answer questions and have conversations with people. ChatGPT has evoked a lot of conversations in the education space as we look at what this growing ‘omniscient’ machine means for how children are learning and what the future of education and teaching looks like.

To start, why is Chat GPT so effective?

As headteacher Jane Lunnon states, it’s due to its “plausibility” and “scope”. It’s seamless mirroring of the voice used/requested by the user and the magnitude of data it has at its disposal, allowing it to answer any question from any field almost instantaneously, makes it a weapon in today’s instantly gratifying, efficiency-driven society. In education, this raises questions like whether the purpose of homework is eradicated since students can just put the questions through a machine. The education system has been facing criticisms of being outdated and prioritising rote learning and the wake of ChatGPT exposes why this system needs to change or be changed.

This may not mean the negative impacts we naturally perceive, however. ChatGPT negates a lot of the fundamentals of teaching. From retrieving facts and information to collating schools of thought to doing research, ChatGPT pulls from existing human knowledge to answer these questions immediately. But as Prof Thomas (director of the Centre for Educational Neuroscience at the University of London) states, this could be the key to raising the bar in education rather than harming it. ChatGPT readily giving access to longstanding pedagogical practices, now challenges teachers to think about how to teach alongside it and embrace it as a new teaching tool.

Since many of the fundamentals are now given, the focus will be on creativity, innovation, and critical thinking. This is where using ChatGPT as an effective tool can elevate learning. For example, students can be tasked with analysing essay plans produced by ChatGPT. This acts as a vessel for critical thinking as students explore the strengths and weaknesses using Chat GPT can have. It gives them an understanding of the biases it pertains to, the negative uses it can have, and a comprehension of how it works. This is a helpful way of learning for students as they learn what ‘standard’ answers to the question look like and are encouraged to evaluate how the answer can be improved. Being able to find faults in an argument and make suggestions on how to improve a piece of work is the kind of crucial, challenging thinking that tends to fall to the side in classroom learning where the teaching of information is prioritised. With ChatGPT being integrated into learning, we could see a climate where factual and information learning is shifted to homework, and the classroom learning centers around discussions, making links, and presenting arguments. This should help train students to think beyond just retention of information and develop a deeper understanding of a topic.

This revolution towards creative thinking and innovation is powerful because it is exactly what employers are looking for. As we have mentioned in our previous works and as is the case, there is a clear gap between employers’ expectations of skills and knowledge and what students are taught in school. Employers are looking for innovation and creative thinking at the forefront of choosing candidates and the revolution towards this thinking in schools will better prepare students for what is expected of them post-education. Due to ChatGPT, school education might start preparing students for the real world. If that is the future, the emergence of ChatGPT maybe a blessing in disguise.

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