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ChatGPT, AI and the future of education

By Joe Lumsden,
Deputy Head of School and Secondary School Principal

As an AI-powered language model, ChatGPT is an example of the potential of AI in education. With its natural language processing abilities, it can interact with students and provide them with information, answer their questions, and offer personalised support. The future of education could see the integration of AI in many areas, such as personalised learning, automated grading, and intelligent tutoring systems. AI has the potential to transform education by making it more efficient, effective, and accessible to students worldwide. However, it is crucial to ensure that the use of AI in education is ethical and responsible, and that it complements the work of human teachers rather than replacing them.

I didn’t write any of that.

I simply asked ChatGPT to write a paragraph about ‘ChatGP, AI and the Future of Education’. It seems to have done a fairly good job, responding to the task with sensible projections about possible future uses. I particularly like its final sentence in which it desperately tries to reassure educators that it’s not coming for their jobs, but wants to work collaboratively with them. I’m not sure many teachers would quite believe that.

These early performances of ChatGPT have, of course, got people around the world excited, but this doesn’t feel revolutionary yet. For the past twenty years, students with access to the internet have been asking Google questions in order to complete their homework. A Google search usually provides summary answers and then links to appropriate websites. Students wishing to take short cuts then take the information they find, reorder sentences, change some words, and then present it as their own work, all in an attempt to avoid being caught by plagiarism-checking software like

Other students get friends, parents or private tutors to help them write their homework assignments. Yet, for some reason, such practices are not as frowned upon as taking language directly from other sources and passing it off as one’s own words. Is this only because the cheating in such cases is more difficult to prove?

As educators, we’re constantly telling students to ‘write things in their own words’, but what exactly does this mean? If I’m being asked to explain how electricity works, why should I have to struggle to find a different (presumably more basic) way of describing the process when plenty of explanations are available to me and I understand them well enough? I very clearly remember a Dutch student who was struggling with English complaining to me one day, “When I write something with my level of English, I get a bad grade. But when I write something in advanced English, you accuse me of cheating. I can’t win.” It was difficult to disagree with him.

All of which brings me to the point of how ChatGPT and other AI tools could revolutionise education.

Teachers are still working in a system that requires students to demonstrate knowledge, particularly in subjects like Sciences and Humanities. Yet now, due to the availability of internet resources, the only way you can trust that students are communicating their own knowledge is to force them to do so under exam conditions. Exams, most would agree, are a very archaic way of assessing student competence in any meaningful way, and success as an exam-taker is probably not a great predictor of future success after graduation.

This is where the ChatGPT-inspired revolution has to happen – assessment practices. ChatGPT may be one of the final nails in the coffin of knowledge-based assessment tasks, particularly those done at home or with access to the internet at school. Battling against ChatGPT plagiarism will needlessly sap the resources of teachers and schools. It’s far better, instead, to alter assessment practices in line with the availability of knowledge and technology in 2023.

Students need to develop the ability to utilise useful knowledge and demonstrate genuine understanding in real-world scenarios. It doesn’t matter where the knowledge comes from or whose words they are – whether or not a student can use the knowledge to solve genuine problems is the key. Assessment tasks, therefore, have to be designed to require students to assess knowledge claims and sources, compare information from different perspectives, apply their understanding to various scenarios, and creatively synthesise knowledge from diverse fields in order to gain a fuller understanding of the challenges that they will face in the world. This means that assessment needs to focus on project work, group discussions, debates, and presentations to panels who can question and challenge the students.

Perhaps ultimately the teachers who should be afraid for their jobs are those who rely on their knowledge as their source of authority. ChatGPT is challenging the relevance of such teachers. It’s time to get more creative in the classroom.



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