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Managing AI advantageously

EducationWorld July 2023 | Magazine Teacher-2-teacher

All school teachers must become familiar with Chat GPT as soon as possible. They should utilise its speedy capability to produce lesson plans, worksheets and assessments writes Lawrence Fray

Lawrence Fray

Nations are vying for Artificial Intelligence (AI) supremacy, businesses are harnessing it for their own ends and educators need to come to terms with it. It’s clear that its potential benefits can revolutionise teaching-learning processes, improve learning outcomes, and facilitate student success. It can help teachers plan, assess and evaluate learners as groups and individuals, and enable them to draw important inferences from student data to inform their own teaching and formulate plans for whole school development.

Chat GPT. Chat GPT is an AI chatbot that provides conversational responses based on its immediate evaluation of the user’s requirements. However, the responses need to be checked before incorporating them into any official communication as Chat GPT can, and does, make mistakes although it continues to learn and improve. Download it to your computer and your phone and ask it what you will; it’s always ready to help. And, at the time of writing, it’s free-of-charge.

Chat GPT is becoming popular because it can interact with students as smoothly as a human. It can match its communication level to the learner’s so there are no barriers to comprehension. Better still, the learner’s self-confidence increases as she is in charge of terminating the conversation at the click of a mouse.

Students can certainly use AI to improve learning. It has become the quintessential tutor with an ever-expanding database greater than any individual could have hoped for.

Inevitably, there is a downside. Chat GPT could be used to sidestep the learning process by commanding it to churn out essays and solutions without the student making the necessary effort to engage with the teacher’s lessons. Yet a basic law of education, which states that ‘effective learning is proportional to effort’ cannot be circumvented. True, in a matter of seconds, Chat GPT can provide a completed assignment that otherwise would take a student substantial time and effort to research and produce. But such misuse of AI-based learning platforms not only replaces proper learning with easy solutions (with disaster looming when examination time comes around), it also hampers the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills of students. More seditiously, it can trivialise the importance of teacher-student interaction.

In short, there are great differences between a student’s use of Chat GPT to clear doubts and another who deploys it as a homework-generator. Like all discoveries throughout history, it is the user’s intention, rather than the creation itself, which determines the consequences.

Against this backdrop, let’s examine the role of AI in four main areas of the teaching-learning transaction.

Planning for learning. All school teachers must become familiar with Chat GPT as soon as possible. They should utilise its speedy capability to produce lesson plans, worksheets and assessments for specific age groups on any topic when properly prompted. Moreover as a lesson planning tool, it is truly a blessing.

Practice. The teachers’ community should accept that Chat GPT can do homework, projects and assignments effectively if an enterprising student prompts it with appropriate vocabulary. However, at the time of writing, Chat GPT’s work cannot be submitted in its raw state. Obviously, Chat GPT’s output needs to be read through and properly checked. But one must bear in mind that AI is always learning and its database continues to evolve.

The discerning teacher should be able to differentiate between authentic student output and AI-generated answers. But doing so is likely to lead to much classroom tribulation and argument. Instead, a form of flipped, or blended, learning will become prevalent, where homework is used for class preparation in answer to a series of prompts from the teacher, and the classroom becomes a place for learning verification, collaborative work, presentations and feedback, and individual target setting.

Assessment. Curricula which incorporate assignments into summative grading have good cause to be worried. The safest ways forward are: no assessment without supervision, coursework plus viva (discussion with the teacher), and presentations to the class with questions to follow.

Evaluation. This is another blessing for teachers and institutional managements. AI can provide meaningful data in several formats, allowing for effective data-driven learning that identifies individual strengths and weaknesses. Such powerful methods of tracking student progress allow teachers to adapt their teaching to drive student success. However, it’s important that the collection and use of student data must be transparent, ethical and explained in keeping with best educational practice and legal requirements.

Soon, schools will be compelled to issue policy statements on the use of AI. Rules should advise them to resist the temptation of using AI as an ‘easy fix’. Support should be provided by way of seminars on the proper use of AI to students and parents. A consensus should be derived that AI-generated output should not replace learning to the detriment of developing students’ cognitive capabilities, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

(Lawrence Fray is a Gurugram-based educational consultant, teacher trainer and curriculum designer)

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