Imagine a society where every individual is an executive equipped with a team of efficient and responsive personal assistants. With the help of artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as ChatGPT and Midjourney, these assistants can produce exceptional visuals, write professional letters, and even create original songs and graphics in any style. While this may seem like a far-fetched idea, advances in AI technology have brought us closer to making this vision a reality. However, ensuring that everyone possesses a thorough knowledge of how to use these tools to achieve their goals will be crucial. This will require a fundamental shift in how we educate our children to prepare them for the new working paradigm.
Artificial intelligence has far-reaching applications beyond the tasks mentioned above. In the field of education, AI has the potential to revolutionise how we learn and develop our talents. Many companies are currently working on AI solutions that can customise learning materials to meet individual needs, provide learning approaches that match individual learning styles, and adapt to different backgrounds and current levels of development. These personalised learning systems aim to make learning more effective and efficient, ultimately transforming education as we know it.
The education sector has access to a wide range of AI tools that aid with administrative tasks, enhance student engagement and achievement, monitor student progress, and analyse learning disabilities to provide targeted solutions. This article will focus solely on the use of generative AI tools, particularly ChatGPT from OpenAI, in education.
After ChatGPT’s release for general usage in November 2022, the education community has shown immense enthusiasm about its potential to revolutionise the learning process and disrupt the status quo in education. However, the question of whether to allow its usage in lessons, student homework and assignments has sparked heated discussions. While proponents fully support its use, they also warn about the potential for abuse by students. Educators are being presented with a variety of guidelines and arguments on how to adopt ChatGPT in the learning process, which revolve around three crucial principles:
The zeroth principle is to prepare students to work alongside machines, rather than like machines. This principle is labeled the “zeroth” because without it the rest of the principles would be useless. The main idea is that we already have access to a powerful tool; instead of competing with it, we should learn to use it effectively.
The first principle is not to trust everything ChatGPT says. ChatGPT is based on a generative AI algorithm that can create seemingly new and realistic content. However, the underlying engine uses statistical models to generate new data from a training dataset. According to the garbage-in, garbage-out principle, the output produced by ChatGPT depends on the data it was trained with. Obviously, it is crucial to verify the accuracy and reliability of the information generated by ChatGPT before accepting it as valid.
During my personal use of ChatGPT I asked it to provide me with a chord progression for the famous song Fly Me to the Moon. It generated a set of chords that appeared to be appropriate and matched it with completely accurate lyrics. However, all the chords generated were major chords. As a musician, I knew that this set of chord progressions was wrong without even trying them on a musical instrument. Interestingly, in addition to the chords and lyrics the answer also included a paragraph of information about the song’s composer and how it was composed. Nevertheless, although the presentation style of ChatGPT’s answer was convincing, the answer to the main question was entirely incorrect.
One positive aspect of ChatGPT is that its knowledge keeps evolving with the information provided by users. When I asked the same question again a month later, ChatGPT was able to produce the correct answer. Furthermore, I was able to request a customised chord progression for a different music genre. I specified that I wanted a jazz flavour, and ChatGPT generated a chord progression with various chord tones that matched different jazz styles.
The previous example highlights the importance of the second principle – learning how ChatGPT works and understanding its limitations. Whenever a tool is used, it is crucial to have a basic understanding of how it functions. While one doesn’t need to learn coding and create one’s own generative AI, a general understanding of how the technology operates can help in identifying what input is needed and what output should be expected.
It is important to understand ChatGPT’s limitations. Its responses are based on the data set it was trained on, which means that it may not provide a valid response to a new or unfamiliar topic. In such cases, it may provide an answer that seems believable but is not accurate. For instance, when asked about Industry 5.0, ChatGPT responded with a set of well-crafted and seemingly knowledgeable answers that were all about Industry 4.0, without realising that we were still in Industry 4.0. Therefore, it is essential to understand the tool’s limitations in order to know what to expect from it.
By keeping these three principles in mind, ChatGPT can be an invaluable tool in various fields, particularly in education.
THE FUTURE OF AI IN EDUCATION
While ChatGPT has tremendous capability to transform education and the way we develop our skills, one fundamental issue remains – that of the equity and equality of education. There are those who have access to the tool, and those who do not. The digital divide we have already experienced will only become more pronounced with the looming problem of the AI divide. Although the GPT engine was created by a group of open-source supporters, its engine can be used to build more advanced commercial products. In addition to the free version that is available for anyone to use, ChatGPT also has a more powerful fee-based version, whereby those who can afford to pay the subscription fee will have access to better services than those who cannot. Governments, universities and schools must take this problem into consideration and set up policies or support to narrow this divide.
ChatGPT is not the only application that uses generative AI as its engine; other applications are available that have been customised to fit specific tasks and flavours. One of the most interesting features of AI applications is their ability to link and integrate with other applications. ChatGPT has been linked to a flight booking engine, so that it can access real-time information on available flights. Other information sources have also been planned to link with ChatGPT to allow users to query information via the ChatGPT interface. Users will be able to conduct business, do online shopping and perform other tasks using a conversation style similar to talking with actual people instead of interacting with website interfaces.
In the realm of education too, the GPT engine has immense capabilities when used with existing and widely-used applications. For instance, Khan Academy has implemented its Khanmigo by embedding the newest GPT engine into Khan Academy’s tutorial tools. The AI-enabled Khan tutoring system can interact with its learners like a live tutor. The AI can help to guide students according to misunderstandings that the AI can detect, and can work out the details until the student has a clear understanding of the subject.
The age of artificial intelligence is here now, and technologies are becoming more powerful every day. They promise to have a vast and increasing impact on our daily lives. What we need to do is to learn how to make use of such technologies effectively and efficiently. This means we will need to rethink the process we use to develop human capabilities and skills.
AI may not be able to replace human beings entirely, but it has demonstrated that there are many things that it can do better than human beings. The education world has been discussing lifelong learning recently to help people remain relevant in the context of all the forthcoming changes in the VUCA world. A key issue that we will need to explore in research and policy-making is ensuring that we can live creatively alongside powerful intelligent machines.
DR KRITSACHAI SOMSAMAN
Dr Kritsachai Somsaman is Centre Director, SEAMEO Regional Centre for STEM Education.