Artificial Intelligence

You may have come across ChatGPT already, you may even have used it but do you really have a grasp of what it can and can’t do? We ask Chris Hack, Physics Teacher, aDTL and Director of eLearning at Abingdon, about the benefits and possible pitfalls of ChatGPT.

What is ChatGPT?
At heart it is a piece of software that generates text as a response to text input prompts at a natural human level. It is a very advanced, exciting and quickly evolving technology.

What are the benefits of ChatGPT?
For both students and teachers, there are numerous potential benefits, most of which essentially speed up a process – these might include brainstorming ideas, summarising text and proofreading.

Are there any pitfalls?
It is important that individuals remember ChatGPT is not infallible – in fact, it is quite the opposite. When asked to provide factual content, it can often just make things up but it does so in a way which can be very plausible, for example using references from real authors but invented paper titles.

Also, there is the challenge of potential academic dishonesty and plagiarism – i.e. passing off ChatGPT as your own work. Interestingly, universities have now said that if a student is publishing a paper, they can quote or cite ChatGPT as a reference but any submitted academic papers need to be written by the named author.

One thing I should add, whenever you put something into the free online version of ChatGPT you are handing over that information to Open AI, the company who made ChatGPT. They can use it to train and refine their AI model so you need to be careful to not to send anything that could be sensitive, or that contains personal information or data that is protected by any data regulations.

What is the future for ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is only one of a larger family of AI models – others can generate images in response to text input, some can replicate voice and video. I don’t think it is an understatement to recognise that AI will have a significant impact on the workplace and how the job market will be shaped in the future.

It is not going to go away, and it is in its least sophisticated form at the moment so it is only going to get better. We need to embrace this technology, as we have in the past (for example, when the internet was created or the steam engine) and work out how it can help us, while keeping the wellbeing of real people at the heart of everything we do.

In education, the Covid pandemic forced the industry to find other effective ways of study when the normal classroom environment was shut down, but I think most would agree that the impact of remote learning also had disadvantages. That’s because education is not simply about learning, it’s also about socialisation and discovery. It’s about finding out who you are as an individual and your place within a wider community. Therefore, I don’t believe that AI will substitute human teachers but I do believe that, as educators, we need to guide creativity, structure students’ time and understand how the ever improving capabilities of AI provide opportunities to complete tasks better, quicker, smarter and more effectively.

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