Ai generated image of a woman on her laptop

The AI (artificial intelligence) revolution has well and truly started and with it comes a typical response to the “unknown” from some quarters. In particular a knee-jerk reaction to the uptake of ChatGPT, that of “we don’t understand it so let’s ban it”.

ChatGPT is just the baby of what is to come and is a perfect “learning ground” for both educators and their students to explore. I felt compelled to write after seeing yet another article about banning the use of ChatGPT in the school environment. Consider we didn’t ban Google and it is full of false information, bias and frankly some things that young people just don’t need to see while they are growing, yet it is commonly used by educators and students alike.

Apprehension towards AI is understandable as the changes are coming so fast however Educators in my opinion should lead the charge when it comes to ensuring that students are well-equipped for the future, and this includes changes in the way we learn.

There are many benefits for educators themselves for a start. Consider how much administration time can be saved using AI tools- these could be seen as powerful allies to both teaching and learning.

In this article, I will share my thoughts on how we can address concerns, highlight the importance of understanding AI for future generations and look at some practical ways in which we can harness the use of AI without compromising the integrity of learning.

Understanding AI and ChatGPT

If we consider that at its core, AI is simply a branch of computer science, which aims to create tools/machines which are capable of mimicking human intelligence.

ChatGPT is what is known as a LLM — a large language model — designed to be “chatty” — that is it has been developed to have more of a natural approach in the way it delivers information. It can’t actually “think” like a human, it just responds like one. However the field of AI is rapidly developing, and its uptake has provided billions of pieces of data to help inform its development — so it may not be that long before we see artificial consciousness develop. Hiding in the sand at the early stages is not going to benefit anyone.

For Educators, AI tools will be able to give instant feedback and provide a wealth of resources for the benefit of both students and educators. ChatGPT can be used as a research assistant (and given it is often wrong, it could be a great educational journey to explore and double-check facts offered); it can be a virtual tutor, giving feedback on students’ ideas, and is fabulous for practicing language skills.

Let’s talk about the fears and misconceptions

Straight up, ChatGPT is not a robot that is going to walk (roll, wobble) into a classroom and take over from a teacher. Perhaps down the line, this will be a factor but right now it is in both the educator’s and the student’s interests to properly debate the pros and cons, and then work with these results. ChatGPT is a tool to supplement, not replace teaching and learning,

Let’s consider some of the ways ChatGPT can assist right now:

  • Generating personalized learning materials using its language model to create content tailored to a student’s level of understanding. For example, if a student is struggling with a particular concept in mathematics, a teacher could use ChatGPT to generate explanations and examples that are appropriate for the student’s level. I often use this to break down concepts, I will ask for explanations suitable for anything from a rocket scientist to a specific age group (such as a 6-year-old, a 15-year-old), because this helps to inform my writing for a specific audience, and also my own understanding.
  • Instant Feedback: Take the example of a student who has written an article but isn’t sure of grammar and punctuation or correct referencing. Using ChatGPT they could input a sentence and ask for feedback on grammar, syntax, and vocabulary for example. The need to learn how to prompt in order to do this. It would include checking for spelling and other grammatical differences that are relevant for the audience. The students are corrected in real-time, which can enhance their learning.
  • In the same way, teachers can use prompts to help them to better formulate questions. They might even use a specific style of a student and ask for the question to be worded to suit that ability. What a blessing to make education so inclusive, and a time saver for the educator.

The importance of AI education for future generations

AI literacy is going to be an absolutely required skill for students. Just as learning evolved to embrace the use of computers for writing (alongside still teaching writing skills), so we need to understand that AI is not going away, and will only continue to evolve.

Understanding AI and its implications will open up a whole new world for students, not just through career paths, but also to empower them to participate in discussions about the use of Ai and other future technologies. Privacy, ethics, and governance in an AI-driven world are going to be vital, and we need teachers to be teaching critical thinking skills to enable students to navigate this new landscape. New subjects will emerge along the way

How can educators harness the power of AI?

Here are just some of the potential uses for educators:

  1. Create personalised learning plans:
    These can be very specific for each child and save the teacher hours of work. The teacher still needs to inform ChatGPT what they need, and of course review answers, and modify or rework as required, but there is a considerable opportunity here for teachers who already struggle under large administrative workloads.
  2. Reporting:
    When I think back to when I worked in education, there was so much pushback from parents and some educators about the automation of areas of student reporting, but the time savings were incredible. However, there was some use of more “generic” answers which were a bit bland at times. AI is going to be able to be informed about a student’s progress and make reporting even more meaningful.
  3. Identify Learning Gaps:
    A teacher could use ChatGPT to analyse responses to help to identify gaps in understanding, The teacher can input their own thoughts and also have this validated or maybe even discover some new ways to engage the student. This could be achieved by inputting information about a students strengths, weaknesses and interests to help to develop a plan that suits that student. I am positive that AI tools are already being used by educators within programs, so they really should understand the importance of students also understanding the use.
  4. Instant Feedback
    As mentioned in point 3, students can obtain instant feedback on their work. It is vital that teachers help students to ensure that they don’t just accept an answer, but write it in their own words, which will help to embed the learning.
  5. Interactive Learning:
    Consider using ChatGPT to create learning experiences in the voice of historical figures, poets, authors, and singers? Creating engaging content that is both fun and educational can help students to become more immersed in the task and deepen their understanding of the learning materials.
    Just for fun I just input the paragraph above and asked ChatGPT to use the voice of Dumbledore — here is the result:
    “My dear students and esteemed colleagues, have you ever considered the enchanting possibility of using ChatGPT to conjure learning experiences in the voice of historical figures, poets, authors, and even singers? Just imagine, if you will, the thrill of receiving a lesson in the eloquent words of Shakespeare, the passionate verses of Emily Dickinson, or the stirring speeches of Martin Luther King Jr.
    In our quest for knowledge, it is not merely the information we seek, but the journey of learning itself that holds the true magic. By creating content that is not only educational but also engaging and delightful, we can inspire our students to dive headfirst into their studies, much like a seeker diving for the snitch in a heated Quidditch match.
    In doing so, we can help our students to not just learn, but to immerse themselves in the material, to live it and breathe it. And in that immersion, they will find a deeper understanding, a connection that goes beyond mere facts and figures. So, let us harness the power of ChatGPT, and in doing so, bring a touch of magic to our teaching.” 
    You have to love it right?
  6. Teaching about AI
    Educators can use ChatGPT and AI to help students to learn and understand how AI fits into our world and the potential risks. What an incredible subject for debate! Experimenting, fact-checking and for those students who code it’s a must!

Ensuring Authentic Learning in the Age of ChatGPT

There most definitely are some valid concerns about the use of ChatGPT and AI in the learning environment.

Lazy Learning:
Quite commonly there is the worry about “cut and paste” learning where students just regurgitate information without understanding, To negate this strategies such as project-based learning could be used whereby students need to apply knowledge in real-world scenarios.

Understanding how to use AI tools such as ChatGPT I believe is crucial in the digital age and learning to navigate them is vital. When students learn how to use ChatGPT, they gain a deeper understanding of the material they’re studying, engage in interactive learning experiences, and as already mentioned in this article, can receive instant, personalised feedback.

An area often overlooked in current education is the fostering of critical thinking skills. When students learn to question and evaluate the information generated by the tool they are developing this important skill — one that will only increase in value as our world evolves further with technology.

Privacy: Concerns about privacy are valid and any tool used should always be examined as to who created it, what they do with data and whether it is kept (and where stored), this is a prudent policy. ChatGPT is no different. It is important that it is used in a way that doesn’t identify a student. According to OpenAI — data is only stored for 30 days and is not used to improve its models. That said there are also considerable disclaimers about not using sensitive materials

It is recommended that using ChatGPT educators and students should avoid inputting sensitive personal information about themselves or the student. If specific student data is used to tailor the AI’s responses, it should be anonymised and used in a way that complies with all relevant privacy laws and regulations in the country in that it is being used in.

An essential part of digital literacy that should already be in place, is understanding privacy and the importance of being careful about what we do share in the online space. Something I have been educating about since I wrote FutureProof Your Kids in 2013.

Any AI tools such as ChatGPT can become powerful aids in the classroom, however, their use must be balanced with a strong commitment to maintaining the privacy and security of student information.

In conclusion

Rather than seeing AI and ChatGPT as threats to education, embrace the positive benefits. See ChatGPT as an opportunity. hrough understanding and embracing AI, educators can enhance their teaching methods and help to prepare students for the future whilst ensuring authentic learning.

Rather than shun AI out of fear, seek to understand its potential and use it as a tool to augment our capabilities. Let’s not leave our students behind in this AI-driven world. Instead, let’s guide them towards a future where they are empowered by AI, not fearful of it.

I will leave you with the wise AI generated words of Dumbledore
“Let us remember, dear friends, that progress is not to be feared, but embraced. Tools like ChatGPT are not threats, but opportunities — magical keys that can unlock untold potential in our students. As we stand on the precipice of this new era in education, let us not shy away from the unknown. Instead, let us stride forward with courage, curiosity, and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. For it is not our abilities, but our choices, that show what we truly are. Let’s choose to guide our students towards a future where they are empowered by technology, not fearful of it. After all, as we’ve seen time and time again, help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”

Note: The use of the tone of Dumbledore is simply to illustrate how you can have fun with this and is by no means representative of the Harry Potter brand or its author or Warner.

This article was written by a human (me Fi Lucas) , with the use of ChatGPT to illustrate answers.