AI in Education: Evolution or Devolution?
With Artificial Intelligence (AI) invading schools and universities, many are worried that the only brain power remaining in those institutions will be machine-generated rather than human. If you haven’t heard, ChatGPT is a new chatbot AI software that is becoming as ubiquitous as it is powerful. It can generate on-demand, human-like responses to any question or prompt. This new “student’s entry into the classroom has sparked concern. Globally, educators fear a rise in cheating, increased plagiarism, less critical thinking, eroded problem-solving skills, and an exponential surge in old-fashioned laziness.
Excellent schools and teachers have transformed countless minds and lives. For those in low socio-economic groups, it’s often the vehicle to success. There’s a lot at stake.
University of Otago’s Deputy academic vice-chancellor Prof Helen Nicholson says that they, along with other New Zealand universities, worry that this new technology has “potential in triggering new academic integrity issues.” New York City’s education department spokesperson, Jenna Lyle, explains their decision to ban ChatGPT in schools emanated from “concerns about negative impacts on student learning, and concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of contents.”
Historically education has been a driver of advancement in many societies. Excellent schools and teachers have transformed countless minds and lives. For those in low socio-economic groups, it’s often the vehicle to success. There’s a lot at stake.
But some educators believe “all universities should allow AI and teach students how to use it.” Technological advancements are inevitable. They should be welcomed, just as the calculator was. Charles Darwin University AI expert Stefan Popenici views AI’s introduction as an “opportunity to rethink what we are doing in education.” Chair of University New Zealand’s committee of Deputy Vice-Chancellors Academic, Professor Catherine Moran, shares similar sentiments; she believes it’s also “an opportunity to ensure students are truly engaged with their learning.”
Despite the mixed responses, there’s still an evident desire to use AI in education.
In that case, faculty will need to get more creative in assessing students’ knowledge of a curriculum and how they apply it. Perhaps oral assessments will return. Or even a revival of what might be the “creative” solution we’re after—pen-and-paper-only exams. Even though technological advancements are expected, educational institutes must ensure measures are taken to implement them safely.
Despite the mixed responses, there’s still an evident desire to use AI in education. Plagiarism checkers like Turnitin are already upgrading their systems to detect bot-produced work. Organisations like Universities Australia are reviewing their academic integrity guides and “meeting with experts.” To combat the University of Otago’s concerns, Prof Helen Nicholson stated that her institution is also discussing the impacts of this AI tool with universities abroad.
Conversation, competition and human connection must remain at the heart of education.
Don’t get me wrong, AI has its place, but we need to strengthen the context. Students spend their most impressionable years in these institutions. Education is not just information but also formation. What kind of people will we produce if AI takes residence in our classrooms? Victorian sci-fi writer H.G. Wells posed the dilemma: “We need to constantly be challenging ourselves to strengthen our character and increase our intelligence.” Let’s embrace the tedious yet enriching challenges of writing essays from scratch or doing personal research for group projects.
Perhaps human intellect can be replaced or even superseded. But conversation, competition and human connection must remain at the heart of education. In short, once again, it’s all about lecturers and teachers.go back