The swing of the pendulum
The recent pandemic rapidly pushed teaching and classrooms into the digital and filled it with online hand-ins, digital presentations, and online assessments in a way that one could not have predicted. The ingenuity of educators generated a digital revolution for education - albeit a trying one - that aided in rethinking how educational technologies augment the learning environment.
The return to a new normalcy in the wake of the pandemic was readily welcomed by educators across the globe. To come back to their physical classrooms filled with eager students and the learnings of a digital transformation spoke to new opportunities. Meanwhile, new technologies like AI, having also benefited from the rapid growth of the digital industry, had been evolving quietly in the background.
In November 2022 the emergence of ChatGPT, an AI for text generation, quickly landed itself as the focal point of educational communities as its ability to mimic human writing allowed cheating and plagiarism to rear their ugly heads once more. For many, it challenged the use of digital writing tools as it confounded the ability to distinguish the author from the ghostwriter and raised the question if written assignments could be trusted. A fundamental aspect of the newly laid digital classroom’s foundation was challenged. Can I trust that my students have produced their own work?
Look back upon how the educational system has transformed in the past four years. It’s no surprise why AI is disrupting how we think, but it is likely disrupting education for a different reason entirely.
What’s so disruptive?
A machine’s ability to compose text like a human being is certainly discomforting - almost something straight from Sci-fi. Yet this isn’t anything new to educators as ghostwriters have always existed - the newest form using a language based in 1’s and 0’s. Knowing that education is more than the production of texts, teachers have a deeper level of concern that needs to be discussed. The discomfort occurs because AI like ChatGPT has required educators to rethink what assessment is as discussed in Dr. Nick Jackson’s article. What was once considered a suitable means of measurement may no longer be the case, and that is scary. How should educators measure? What ways are still viable? Must educators once again sprint to meet the demands placed upon the system?
The late Sir Ken Robinson stated elegantly that “the role of a teacher is to facilitate learning” and teachers facilitate learning by passing on knowledge in stimulating, provoking and engaging environments where they, the teachers, are mentors. As understanding of assessment methods changes, so must all other aspects of these learning environments. To design assessments require the careful design of instructional materials, the precise execution of implementation strategies, and the skillful placement of reflective moments in a teaching plan. AI is impacting education, and in doing so it is actually creating a space for educators to reflect upon their role and the next steps to take in order to meet their students in this strange new world. The technologies around us are changing, yet the goal of educators is the same. The facilitation of learning.
The future is unknown as AI's like ChatGPT are developing presently at an amazing rate. Unfortunately, we won’t know their full effect on education until after the dust settles. Will educators and school leaders stand idly by? Definitely not. Classrooms, schools and institutions are dynamic and teachers and school leaders are visionaries and problem solvers. Their creativity is evidenced in all the technologies of the past that have been adapted and embraced in learning environments. AI is no different. What is important now is to apply previous learnings to the development and use of AI in education and not to do this alone.
A key factor at present is the discussion about working with AI in the classroom. The spread of information between colleagues, districts, and institutions is allowing for a clearer understanding of the pitfalls and benefits of this new technology. It is only to continue talking with the role of the educator and the role of education at the heart of these discussions. Much like teachers facilitate learning for their students, these discussions can enable all within education to facilitate learning about AI and its effect.
Interested in learning more? Sign up for our panel discussion where John together with Erik Winerö and Suzanne Pathkiller will discuss AI and ChatGPT's impact on education (in Swedish).
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