AI in the classroom – dodge it or embrace it?
Sadichya Pradhan, Marketing Executive at Kimberlin Education

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Riding the influencer wave: How to get your resources into the hands of Aussie teachers.

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If you haven’t heard of a little thing called ChatGPT, then perhaps you are living under a rock. Within 28 days of its launch, it has already earned itself a bad reputation, especially amongst educators who’ve raised concerns regarding the implications on teaching and learning. Will this invention mean the dawn of a new era where AI in the classroom becomes the norm?

Before we debate the idea of letting ChatGPT out in the wild for anyone to make use of it, let’s understand what it does and why educators aren’t too keen on letting their students anywhere near it. ChatGPT is a language-based AI program that can generate human-like text to questions on demand, capable of engaging in complex written dialogues. People are claiming that it can write songs, program codes, write essays and even facilitate an interview session. It also passed the Amazon Web Services Certified Cloud Practitioner exam which apparently takes us humans 2-6 months to prepare for..

Now, we are starting to understand why educators are reverting back to old ways of teaching in an effort to dodge the ChatGPT bullet. Students can misuse the application to cheat on their assignments without the fear of being caught by teachers. Some concerned schools and educators are thinking of tackling the problem by blocking access to the app on school networks and devices, replacing assignments with oral exams and asking students to hand-write their assignments.

Are such drastic actions necessary or even effective? Students can always find a workaround to utilise ChatGPT once they’re outside the school parameters. So, instead of fighting it, wouldn’t it be more helpful to embrace it and learn how to use it to our advantage? Thinking back to the time when calculators were first introduced, I bet many people thought of it as a dangerous tool that would put the future of Mathematics as a subject in grave danger. But people learned to live with it and it allowed educators to upgrade their assessments that challenged students to solve more difficult problems. Perhaps we can learn how to safely and appropriately incorporate AI into the classroom as a teaching aid.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles published by credible sources on how to effectively integrate ChatGPT into student learning. Let me share a few arguments they’ve put forward in favour of learning to use the new tech in the market rather than finding ways to shun it.

ChatGPT can assist students to write essays, and I don’t mean write it for them but help students who are struggling to organise their thoughts by providing them with a structure or a template to work with. Students can then spend more time engaging and developing their critical thinking skills by adding their personal thoughts, opinions and arguments into essays using their own tone of voice.

ChatGPT may be a highly advanced technology that can generate texts in response to complex questions but for that to happen students are first required to think deeply about the questions that they’re going to ask, analyze the answers generated by the AI, formulate follow up questions, select arguments to elaborate on, rephrase paragraphs to maintain a rhythm that ends with a strong closing statement. Students can use chatGPT all they want but the process of using it to generate essays for school will require them to use their critical thinking, creative thinking and problem-solving skills.

Teachers can share some of their workload with ChatGPT, leaving more time and energy for them to engage in classroom activities, discussions, and high level tasks. It can assist with creating worksheets, quizzes and designing lesson plans that suit the learning requirements of individual students. It can also provide feedback to students on their writing skills and grammar by providing different versions of how they can rewrite or reframe their essays.

Like any technology, ChatGPT has flaws that justify our hesitation to embrace it with open arms. There is no 100% guarantee on the accuracy of the text generated by ChatGPT which makes it an even bigger threat to students relying on it to complete their assignments. But unfortunately there is no stopping students from using new technologies that are so easily available to them on the internet.

So the questions remain: Should we spend time building policies to ban its use in schools? Or do we teach students how to use AI-based technologies as an aid to hone their skills and elevate their learning experiences?

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