The education sector needs to quickly catch up and adapt to the changing environment. (Getty Images)
Chat GPT has multiple uses, from writing or fixing a code to getting suggestions, getting explanations, writing non-plagiarised essays, creating summaries of long write-ups, getting solutions to problems etc.
Written by Poojan Sahil
January 15, 2023 07:30 IST
Iron Man’s Jarvis and Star Wars’ C-3PO once seemed distant, the stuff of science fiction fanatics. But the growth of technology has been so rapid that it has often blurred the lines between fiction and reality. Back in 2020, people used an app called FaceApp for extremely realistic images of how they would look when they are old. FaceApp was, for most of us, among the first experiences into the power of Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning. Since then, there have been many other tools that use AI, leaving us awestruck. One of these tools, which is getting widely popular, is ChatGPT by OpenAI.
ChatGPT has multiple uses, from writing or fixing a code to getting suggestions, getting explanations, writing non-plagiarised essays, creating summaries of long write-ups, getting solutions to problems etc. The possibilities are still open to explorations as the beta version is available for users to try out.
It especially gained popularity when students started realising that they can use ChatGPT to get through their homework assignments and projects by just letting this “assistant” do it for them. Students around the world have been using it to complete their work and teachers have been reporting about how they are doubting the credibility of the work being submitted to them. These developments are catching a lot of traction on the internet.
There seems to be a lot of merit in the argument that ChatGPT and similar AI tools, in the near visible future, are going to change the way we live our lives. One of the major areas to be at the receiving end of this change, will be education.
The education sector needs to quickly catch up and adapt to the changing environment. The change that is looking at us in the eyes is that, with Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning-based tools, the skill of just knowing an answer is becoming increasingly less important.
The factory-model school structure, where a teacher gives instructions to numerous students and teaches them to follow those instructions with efficiency, now seems an ancient setup. The skill of memorising information has been something we have stressed on for far too long in the way we teach and learn, but that focus will have to shift now.
We have been teaching our students to be mere “rule followers”, people who follow instructions properly and get a task done efficiently. With AI, this skill runs the risk of turning irrelevant. We cannot compete with a machine when it comes to following instructions and carrying out a task with efficiency and accuracy. Creative thinking is where the focus needs to shift. We should be helping students form their own opinions and perceptions that are individualistic.
An important skill is to learn how to ask the right questions or an inquiry-based approach. You must have noticed that while doing any research, an important aspect is to know what to search for, what to type into the Google search bar for the best fitting result. With AI, we still need to know what to ask the machine.
We need to reflect if our education system is giving enough scope for this skill to be developed. Are schools equipped with a comfortable student-teacher ratio where each student gets a chance to ask questions and nurture their curiosity? Do we have enough infrastructure and budget allocation to ensure these setups? The culture of asking questions seems to be on the decline in our social fabric too, and that poses a major concern.
Another skill that gives Human Intelligence an upper hand is our ability to adapt to change in circumstances. For example, simply applying tape on the wrong side of the road can cause an autonomous vehicle to swerve into the wrong lane and crash. A human might not even register or react to the tape. This means that we need to focus on learning how to adapt and apply the learnt knowledge rather than finding a direct solution. We do see a shift in assessments with an emphasis on competency-based questions.
With our national curriculum still shying away from allowing secondary school students to use calculators, we are not prepared to let our students be independent learners who are not just being trained to know the answer can create their own paths.
The fear with technology was often that it would replace humans at multiple jobs and leave a huge working population helpless. However, we cannot deny how the rise in technology has also created a different set of jobs that works with and for technological development. Ignoring the inevitability of technology in our lives now is nearly impossible. AI might be doing a lot of work for us in the future, but we need to know that it is a tool that we use. We should be making ourselves and the future generations empowered to efficiently use these and also to be able to create similar technology. Another important role we need to play is to be able to correct the biases that data can create and uphold the ethics of any tool. An AI tool might not have the social-emotional context of all situations, which we need to keep enhancing.
This discussion raises a deeper question: what makes us humans? The answer to this will be our strategy to remain relevant in a world full of AI. These human elements are what we need to focus on while designing our education plans for the future. Education cannot be just about gathering cognitive knowledge, but has to include the entanglement of our learnt knowledge with social, emotional and ethical implications. In an extremely competitive ecosystem with coaching centres creating a factory of “efficient computational machines”, our view about education and the purpose it serves has become extremely myopic.
In conclusion, a checkpoint for AI in education— — a location where we are prepared for ChatGPT and other such tools — seems quite far. However, we can make a start by humanising our concepts across all subjects. Remember, we are humans and should not try to transform into machines. Machines are definitely going to be better at that than us.
The writer is an educator who specialises in mathematics
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