The Sky is Falling … AGAIN

The current community buzz is about something called Chat GPT — a powerful AI bot that can engage in human-like conversation. It launched on Nov 30, 2022 — so, it’s been around for about 7 weeks — 7 weeks and it has already topped out at 1 million users. And, yes, it has stirred up a hornet’s nest of concern about how it will destroy education.

Breathe. Everybody breathe.

Here’s how Chat GPT works. It responds to user prompts based on a very large archive of information. It then uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to generate coherent responses to these prompts.

I’ve seen a few examples of its work and it’s pretty cool. Ironically, one of these examples was generated from a local teacher request asking it to write a ‘Seasonal message to all staff from the Superintendent’. It was pretty good — made me giggle. It was almost as good as my message (#wink).

Chat GPT still makes factual errors (especially because it is pulling from historical and not real-time data) but it can certainly string some coherent sentences and paragraphs together. Without a doubt, there will be future AI bots that build on the Chat GPT experience and they will all get better at what they do.

Remember to breathe.

Everybody Breathe

None of the technology innovations that have come about have decimated education. Why? Because we have learned to leverage them. By teaching students HOW to use them correctly, these innovations have become part of a more accessible and equitable learning environment.

I’m guessing that when I mentioned Wolfram Alpha many of you likely had no idea what I was talking about. Yet, when it launched in May 2009, it sent shock waves through the education system. I never hear about this particular website today –never. And it is still on the web.

We learn how to accommodate these new tools.

You already use AI in your home with Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant. AI currently surrounds us in our daily lives and will continue to grow in its applications. It’s not disappearing — so, we might as well figure out how to use it properly.

My point is this … with each of these innovations, including Chat GPT, there have been tremors sent throughout education that we need to do something drastic like banning them. That doesn’t work. Technologies become ubiquitous in a short amount of time. Trying to ban them in schools is like trying to stop a river by throwing a rock in the middle — you may slow the river down for a split second, but it soon finds its way around the obstacle.

Banning an innovation also misses golden opportunities to build awareness and expectations about its use as well as reinforcing the importance of personal honesty and integrity.

Using the education system to teach about technologies seems like a WIN to me.

The sky has not fallen.

Chat GPT is simply another tool in our growing toolbox. Now that it’s here, we need to read the owner’s manual to learn how to use it correctly.

(A good friend of mine, and fellow Superintendent blogger Chris Kennedy, has also written a post on the same topic — just before I published mine. I’ve copied it here for your interest. It’s a fun read: “Can We Please Not Jump to Banning Stuff!”)

11 thoughts on “The Sky is Falling … AGAIN

  1. One of my profs at Uni said that in assembly line model (in which we still find ourselves) when things begin to shake loos and change, the first reaction is to tighten down the belt (ie prevent the change). Eventually the change comes and we adapt. The Chat AI you are mentioning seems very like the chats now found as customer service on many corporate sites. It “responds” with a preprogramed reaction that is sometimes helpful, but at others is simply frustrating (kind of like predictive text!). As with most progress that people would like to stop or limit, the our response needs to involve critical thinking. Our responsibility, as educators, is to help our students look at evidence and look logically to sift through information and misinformation to find reliable sources to corroborate what we read, and to think about possible bias that might lie in what looks like conversation (or advertising).

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    • Well stated, Sheila. Critical thinking is such a ‘critical’ skill for our students to have some mastery over. Chat GPT is just another opportunity to teach them about it. Thank you for your comments.

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  2. Outstanding post! I like the way this article discusses the fear that Chat GPT, a powerful AI bot that has already topped out at 1 million users, will destroy education.
    I’m glad you also cover how this fear is baseless and misses golden opportunities to build awareness and expectations about its use.
    Michael

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    • Thank you for your comments. We can’t hide from the reality of AI, so how are we going to not only respond to it, but use it to our collective advantage in education. I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

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  3. It made me a really nice course outline for English 10, including a scope and sequence for 18 weeks of instruction in reading and writing, including suggested Canadian Indigenous literature, included assessment strategies, core competencies etc etc. It can also make teacher evaluations – they are a bit bland though.

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    • Yes, some of the production I’ve seen is pretty good — not perfect by any means, and it can be dated — but, still quite interesting. We are certainly at the beginning of this new use for AI.

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  4. I was (and still am) a big fan of Wolfram Alpha (though I am a bit rusty on refined queries). Its always great to go to this and watch the “lights come on and cogs start to turn” when someone is first exposed to this awesome and extremely powerful tool. And I have always thought smart phones, etc were a fantastic tool to be leveraged, not banned (remembering fondly having classes jumping up and down . I am sure it won’t take long to leverage Chat AIs to improve learning and encourage critical thinking, etc…I follow a number of professors who are looking at it as a starting tool to generate discussion and critical thinking…others to do a starting build to their guest speaking (it has a great knack for providing a start but where it fails tends to trigger thoughts on “oh, this is missed, we have moved past that, oh I must remember to say,….etc). Exciting times! Now, just to find Chicken Little a relaxing place to collect themself before the next “alarm”.

    Thank you for your post on this topic! (and for reminding of Chris Kennedy’s post)

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    • Hi Clint. Thanks for your comments. I agree — we need to find ways of working with Chat GPT. It’s here and not going away — and there will be others down the road. I appreciate you taking the time to write.

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