It’s March 2023—almost a full three months into the year—and it seems like every academic and student (and their dog) has brought up artificial intelligence (AI) in their conversations and discussions. Whether it be in the form of chatbots, facial recognition, or smart assistants, artificial intelligence, or AI, has formed a strong presence in today’s world.
While AI is such a popular topic of conversation, it is not always for the best reasons. With newer inventions like ChatGPT, universities have become weary of the use of AI in the classroom. Some schools in the US have even banned the use of ChatGPT by students for fears of cheating and the spread of misinformation—something to discuss shortly (Rosenblatt, 2023). At this point, I would not be surprised to see schools in Canada do the same.
Seeing how far technology has come in the 21st century, I would argue that ChatGPT has great potential in the classroom setting, and this technology should be leveraged to promote creativity and critical thinking.
Follow along with me to learn more about this AI and how it can be used as a learning tool rather than a learning threat in schools.
What is artifical intelligence?
Before I dive into my argument, let’s take a brief look at what artificial intelligence, or AI, is.
The origins of AI date back to the 1920s as just a mere concept. Over the years it has developed from Alan Turing’s Imitation Game to Yann LeClun’s Convolutional Neural Network, to the plethora of smart technologies that we have today (Ergen, 2019, p. 6).
While AI has been around for decades, everyone’s definition of it differs.
Rapaport (2020) explains artificial intelligence as a scientific study of computation in problem-solving and task-based scenarios (p. 54). Meanwhile, Ergen (2019) describes AI as a “technological wave” that has enabled machines to partake in human cognitive functions (p. 5).
Both definitions have their nuances based on each individual’s area of study, but in essence they surround this idea of technology processing information as humans would to perform tasks.
As surprising as this may be, AI technologies can be found in our daily routines. From Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri, answering any questions you may have to Netfilx providing you with curated watch suggestions based on your activity on the platform, AI surrounds us more than we may notice.
The current state of AI in schools
As I mentioned, the discussion of AI in the classroom can bring out mixed emotions amongst university students and instructors. For instance, if you are currently a university student—or just a student in general—you may have heard of ChatGPT.
ChatGPT is an AI chatbot that launched in November 2022 and grew exponentially in popularity over the following couple of months. It’s recognized for its ability to produce language in a conversational manner with the help of user-generated instructions (OpenAI, 2023).
Going back to the article from NBC that I linked earlier on schools banning the use of ChatGPT, I can understand the reason for it. Rosenblatt (2023) notes in the article that this technology has inspired students to cheat on their assignments and exams and created a learning environment prone to “negative impacts” on students’ learning experience.
A representative from New York City’s Department of Education went on to argue that ChatGPT’s ability to answer questions does not enable students to think critically and engage in their problem-solving skills—both essential skills needed to strive in academics and in life (para. 3).
While I agree with the representative’s claim that AI technologies like ChatGPT don’t enable students to fully participate in critical thinking and problem-solving, I believe that these technologies can still be used to promote creativity and critical thinking in terms of the use of AI technology in the education system.
Why AI should be used in schools
At the rate that AI technology is growing in popularity, it will be difficult to rid school systems of its use entirely. Instead, schools should embrace the presence of ChatGPT and use it to challenge instructors’ and students’ creativity in the production of ideas and critical thinking in terms of the use of AI in education.
Mhlanga (2023) supports this argument, noting that not only does using ChatGPT in the classroom “modernize” learning, but it can be used as a means of learning. Teachers can use ChatGPT to gauge students’ preferred learning techniques and create new means of assessing students’ skills based on their preferences. Meanwhile, students can question the accuracy and reliability of the information produced by ChatGPT as part of their work. Ultimately, both teachers’ and students’ findings can provide them with opportunities to collaborate with one another and encourage the generation of new ideas to support each other’s learning journey (p. 10).
Halaweh (2023) makes a great point that builds on this. He explains that if schools want to ensure the safe, responsible, and ethical use of ChatGPT, there should be policies and guidelines enacted regarding the use of this AI technology in students’ works. In his example, he list that students should “examine and evaluate” the information produced by ChatGPT, as well as clearly disclose the use of the chatbot in the creation of one’s work (p. 5). By engaging in a full set of guidelines for the use of ChatGPT, schools can support the use of AI technology in the classroom without risking the obsolescence of creativity and critical thinking.
All in all, ChatGPT has its drawbacks in the classroom setting. However, with its rapid growth in popularity and use, we must consider the benefits of leveraging this AI technology as a tool to help teachers and students. While ChatGPT can cause concerns for cheating and unoriginality, it can challenge both parties to think about the means through which learning is evaluated and the ways in which the contents produced by ChatGPT are inaccurate and lacking context. Ultimately, this AI technology can be used to promote creativity and critical thinking skills.
Duke University. (2021, April 13). What is artificial intelligence? [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0m6yaGlZh4
Ergen, M. (2019). What is artificial intelligence? Technical considerations and future perception. The Anatolian Journal of Cardiology, (22), 5-7. https://doi.org/10.14744/anatoljcardiol.2019.79091
Halaweh, M. (2023). ChatGPT in education: Strategies for responsible implementation. Contemporary Educational Technology, 15(2). https://doi.org/10.30935/cedtech/13036
Mhlanga, D. (2023). Open AI in education, the responsible and ethical use of ChatGPT towards lifelong learning. SSRN Electronic Journal. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4354422
OpenAI. (2023). Introducing ChatGPT. https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt
Rapaport, W. J. (2020). What is artificial intelligence? Journal of Artificial General Intelligence, 11(2), 52-56. https://doi.org/10.2478/jagi-2020-0003
Rosenblatt, K. (2023, January 5). ChatGPT banned from New York City public schools’ devices and networks. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/new-york-city-public-schools-ban-chatgpt-devices-networks-rcna64446