Pivoting towards a Future with AI in the Classroom

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ChatGPT: Menace or Marvel?

 

In bemoaning the current state of education, Sir Ken Robinson said, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

At the risk of being wrong, I have a contention: schools need to stop banning and start embracing artificial intelligence like ChatGPT. ChatGPT is the single most mind-boggling thing I have seen on the Internet in the past 20 years. Trying to hold back this technology is like trying to hold back the ocean with a spoon.

But educators, stuck in their ways and afraid of any change to the status quo, are pulling the fire alarm and seeking to “ban AI.” Mainstream education’s current obsession is on developing artificial intelligence that can recognize the writing of other artificial intelligence. These efforts are understandable and important, and we clearly need to develop assessment styles that ensure students are independently able to master the material (old-fashioned blue books and oral exams are making a comeback). Nevertheless, the thought that this new technology might actually help students learn seems to have not crossed anyone’s mind. The fact that for every student who uses this as a tool for intellectual sloth, there is another one who is on the program right now expanding their mind.

I know that not only allowing, but even encouraging, the use of ChatGPT and the other artificial intelligence in the classroom is opening a Pandora’s box. But I believe Pandora has already escaped, and our best bet is to pivot the way our education system works, so we can create a bigger box.

Chat GPT writes at more or less at a B+ high school level. But that’s without grade inflation. If I’m totally honest, I would say only about 10% of my students can write better than it. 100% of them, however, could think better if they were encouraged to use it. Our teaching needs to focus on how to write sophisticated prompts that produce outputs that can be used as a jumping off point for more nuanced ideas. I believe the floor of our expectations for students has been raised to the 80th percentile. And I don’t see that as a bad thing.

But before we capitulate to our bot overlords, I will say this: Chat GPT will NEVER be able to THINK like a true human, inshAllah. I recently completed a project in which I wrote 30 College Essays in 30 days. No artificial intelligence could have written about the etymology of my name: John Marshall Hamzah Mahboob McCormack Henshaw (Day 4). ChatGPT would not be able to explain why my disastrous foray into cryptocurrency was one of the best decisions of my life (Day 21) or how I found Islam in a McDonald’s bathroom (Day 23). What artificial intelligence forces us to do is get in touch with the very core of our humanity: the stories we tell ourselves and others, the ideas we have went out on long walks, our ability to wonder and question.

My school is strongly considering pivoting and allowing the use of AI within the curriculum. In my more than 20 years as an educator, this is the scariest and most exciting decision I’ve ever been a part of. But ultimately, I think it could be a game changer. I’ll keep you updated…

al-noor academy
Al-Noor Academy Mansfield, MA

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