- Many educators are unsure of the role generative AI will play in their classrooms
- Despite this hesitation, there are some compelling reasons to use AI to augment teaching and learning
- See related article: How ChatGPT made my lessons more engaging
Artificial intelligence is not a completely new concept in education; it has been used for years. Consider spelling and grammar checks that are built into word processors and autofill suggestions in search engines. What has become new to us this year is easy access to generative AI models, which can generate text and images with simple prompts.
In response to these new tools becoming available to the public, many teachers found themselves resisting AI, considering the ways in which it could complicate verifying academic honesty in student writing and artwork, acknowledging the inaccuracies that AI can generate, the human biases that impact the dataset AI uses, and more.
These are legitimate concerns, and educators must embrace a new wave of change with these new AI tools available.
Argument #1: Students will lose their writing skills if they lean on AI to do it for them.
When students began using Microsoft Word and Google Docs to draft their essays years ago, the spelling and grammar checking software automatically pointed out or corrected common mistakes. Autocorrect and spell check tools didn’t replace our students’ needs to have a base understanding of the conventions of writing; they simply offered assistance with proofreading. Similarly, widespread use of the calculator didn’t erase the need for mental math; instead, knowledge of how to use the calculator to one’s advantage became just as important as the math itself (Ditch That Textbook, 2023).
Generative AI can be viewed as an extension of autocorrect or the calculator, offering suggestions to students while they use their own critical thinking and writing skills to revise, enhance, and personalize a written piece.
Argument #2: It’s just a trend; we’ll all lose access to it soon.
The first American-made motor car was sold in 1898. Alexander Winton was a seller of bicycles, but considered the idea that the person steering it might not have to be the source of propulsion. A replacement to the expensive and labor-intensive care of horses as a means of transportation seemed incredible, and others often ridiculed the idea because they couldn’t conceive of motor vehicles replacing horses and bicycles (Winton & Saturday Evening Post Editors, 2022).
This is where we find ourselves in the sudden AI revolution. Something has become widespread that can streamline our work, save us time, and assist us in everyday tasks. It will soon become a necessity to know how to use it. Even if widespread access becomes subscription-based instead of free, using generative AI to impact the efficiency of work will be seen as a basic expectation of workers. We can either stick with our outdated horses and carriages, or we can embrace this new tool to develop the way we see work.
Argument #3: Using AI feels like the “easy way out.” Students won’t have that in the real world.
Artificial intelligence is being used in a variety of job sectors, and now that generative AI models are easily available, workers are creatively using it to benefit their productivity. According to NPR, one study done in a customer service department found that the number of problems workers were able to resolve in an hour increased by 14 percent. Not only that, but customer satisfaction increased and employee turnover decreased (Wong & Ma, 2023).
Now, do we dare say that these employees “took the easy way out” by using generative AI to help them resolve customer’s problems? Customer service is well-known to be an emotionally demanding job, with high turnover and burnout. Using a tool to help achieve a healthier workplace while serving customers more efficiently isn’t “lazy,” it’s innovative. It’s how the workforce operates. Many would argue that part of the goal of K-12 schooling is to prepare students for what comes next: navigating life, forming healthy relationships, and entering the workforce. If innovative and ethical uses of generative AI are skills that are needed in the world our students enter after graduation, we should teach and practice those skills in school.
Argument #4: It’ll make plagiarism easier to commit and harder to catch.
Most educators who are resistant to generative AI are concerned about academic honesty, and it’s an incredibly valid fear. Lines blur when different teachers have different ideas for what AI can be used for when students are completing classwork (Ditch That Textbook, 2023). The same fear was widespread when search engines streamlined the research process for students as well: Will students use it to cheat instead of inform their project? Educators should view generative AI as a similar development–one that must be modeled, discussed, and parameters set for what is ethical and honest. Students should be explicitly taught how to engineer prompts to provide to an AI assistant, how to appropriately use and cite responses that were AI generated or drafted, and, much like with sources on the internet, how to determine the legitimacy of a response that has been generated. Working with artificial intelligence is a whole new field of media literacy that students need to be fluent in.
Winton, A., & Saturday Evening Post Editors. (2022, July 26). Get a horse! America’s skepticism toward the first automobiles. The Saturday Evening Post. https://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2017/01/get-horse-americas-skepticism-toward-first-automobiles/
Wong, W., & Ma, A. (2023, June 2). How will generative AI – such as ChatGPT – affect the workplace?. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2023/06/02/1179612143/how-will-generative-ai-such-as-chatgpt-affect-the-workplace
Ditch That Textbook. (2023). AI for educators online course: week 2 summer cohort. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxwPTjORSFc.
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