Queenswood Educational Analysis – Opportunities and Threats of Plain Language AI
Friday 3 March 2023
Our interpretation of the educational opportunities and threats of this type of AI are outlined below. These are written about ChatGPT but will be equally applicable to emerging competitors.
- ChatGPT is available 24/7, and as such could provide help or assistance to students outside of normal school hours.
- ChatGPT can answer questions directly, and thus save you time in scouring the internet for the material you are searching for yourself. It can thus increase productivity.
- ChatGPT is a non-human source of knowledge, and you are therefore less likely to be constrained by social factors that might prevent you from asking questions in class.
- ChatGPT can give feedback on your work. This can be extremely useful if you are attempting to understand how a piece of work could be improved and redrafted.
- ChatGPT can show worked examples of how to solve maths problems, and is capable of debugging computer code.
- ChatGPT can provide a basic structure for an essay which will help you to understand how best to answer questions in essay subjects. Whilst its output is quite basic, you can ask it to re-write paragraphs to include more detail, examples, or counter-arguments. The process of interacting with it can be extremely useful as it mirrors our own cognitive processes. It can also force you to think about what the right questions to ask are.
- ChatGPT can be asked to target specific GCSE and A-level requirements, helping in understanding and mastering exam technique.
- ChatGPT can produce output that mimics the output of a human. As such it could easily be used as a tool for plagiarism, and current mainstream plagiarism software is unable to recognise its output.
- Students who are time poor are likely to be tempted to take shortcuts using ChatGPT and thus miss some of the essential skills they must learn to pass terminal exams.
- There is a danger students may become overly reliant on ChatGPT and neglect other sources of information.
- Students may (incorrectly) assume the output of an AI to be beyond reproach and simply repeat it verbatim.
- Students may lack understanding that the output of ChatGPT mimics the underlying content of the internet, and as such is subject to the same stereotyping, bias and misinformation that plagues parts of the internet. It is also liable to overstate the relative importance of one side of an argument, and as such may be misleading.
- The English language model on which ChatGPT is largely trained naturally reflects the Western skew of the written internet, and as such may undervalue the contribution of other languages and cultural models.
- Students may limit their social interactions and the potential gains of collaborating with other students if they become overly reliant on this system.
On this basis, we would encourage you to speak openly with your children about the use of this and other plain language AI tools in education. We would make the following recommendations:
- Like any tool in the past that has altered how humans work (e.g computers, the internet), it is important that we learn to use AI correctly. This includes an understanding that like any system, ChatGPT has several limitations. Do not assume that ChatGPT’s output is always correct. Critical thinking skills remain key to success in life and also to gaining top grades in exams.
- Whilst ChatGPT can quickly and easily synthesise information (who, what, when), it is not so adept at analysis and evaluation (how and why). It also struggles to evaluate significance. Engaging higher order thinking skills (analysis and evaluation) is essential to securing the highest grades at GCSE and A Level.
- When used correctly, ChatGPT can help you to learn. As a support tool, it can help you with research, revision, questioning, answer structure and feedback. However, be wary of the issue of over-reliance. ChatGPT will not be with you when you sit your GCSE or A Level exams, and as such it must never become a crux on which you rely. It should be used amongst a suite of other tools to support your education.
- Whilst ChatGPT can help you to gain the skills and confidence to improve your written output, it cannot help with many of the vital soft skills which will contribute to your future success. You must continue to develop robust skills around collaboration, team working, social interaction, critical thinking, analysis and evaluation skills and public speaking.
- Do not use ChatGPT exclusively when researching new topics. Research skills are an essential skill both in higher education and in later life. It is of paramount importance that you learn these skills yourself. A wide variety of sources will add to the depth and nuance of your arguments and make them less susceptible to bias and misinformation.
- The output of ChatGPT is overly simplistic, and lacks the nuance, context and subtlety of a well written human response. It is also subject to misinformation, bias and stereotyping. You must never use any AI BOT to write answers you submit as your own work. This is plagiarism, a serious form of academic misconduct that can result in whole courses being failed in higher education.
- ChatGPT does not cite its sources unless specifically asked to. Again, if you do not properly reference other peoples academic work in your submissions, this is a form of plagiarism. If you are using information gathered by ChatGPT as part of any A Level work submitted, you should find out the sources it has used and think critically about how reliable these sources are.