Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Why AI and School are at odds

Written By Prajwal Gattupalli (Grade 10)


ChatGPT took the world by storm as a tool of the future. Almost two years on, our next generation faces a unique problem – a cheat code in the place of learning. As A.I can now do homework, Is the traditional system of learning we have today ready to face the future thats already here?

ChatGPT, the first “realistic” chatbot in now a long line of many so called Large Language models (LLMs). Being the first, releasing back in 2022, many people were amazed by its capabilities. From explaining calculus to a 5 year old to Writing A+ college essays, this was tech that was never seen before. And as a student myself, I get it. Why work harder, when you can work smarter?

For example, in a Harvard student’s experiment, AI-generated essays received an average GPA of 3.3. Ai models could earn passing grades in liberal arts classes at most universities. A study found that 43% of college students have used ChatGPT or similar AI tools, with 89% using it for homework. 90% of high schoolers are already using chatGPT for homework.

And clearly, I’m not alone in this kind of thinking: the top result after typing “chatgpt essays” into google is “chatgpt essays cheating”. This is because of the clear ethical dilemma when it comes to AI tools for schoolwork. After all, it is a valid concern that Ai tools do schoolwork completely. This could leave the student unaware of what is being submitted, let alone understand it.

And even if institutions choose to take the path of cracking down on Ai generated content, It is still not easy. While current checkers can tell you how likely it is that an essay was written by an Ai, it cannot tell you with absolute certainty that it was.

So for now, banning all Ai on school devices outright might not be the whole story. Besides, such a move would likely just bring more attention to the idea. That raises a obvious question – What then?

The truth is that challenge and learning go hand in hand. Learning is impossible if everything is easy. There have been countless stories of students merely memorising lines in a textbook over and over again to no avail, and for good reason. Memorisation is likely the “easy way” out, avoiding a proper challenge. For one, simple memorisation or re reading text is just confirmation bias – you keep learning what you’ve already learnt, and you keep ignoring what you haven’t. Doses of challenge in learning serve as reality checks on our abilities – They show us the weaknesses in our understanding, and force us to fix them over time. We need to focus on comprehension, not memorisation. And the best way to figure out if you have comprehended a topic and also help comprehend it is in the form of assignments and tests.

And this is why schools have assignments and tests. School and learning is not memorisation, but about facing challenges and overcoming them. So in this sense, Ai could be used to automate the monotonous tasks that serve no use.

Think about it. I’m likely not the only one who gets sucked up into a never ending spiral of Google searches looking for information everytime I have an assignment. This is the kind of task that Ai could easy automate, taking the monotonous part off the student’s shoulders, and leaving more room for real comprehension.

Chatbots work by predicting the next immediate word until it forms a (hopefully) meaningful sentence – Even the chatbot itself does not know what the final sentence will be. On top of this, its important to be question whether the things you ask a chatbot are truly helping in the process of critical thinking, or not. Asking ChatGPT for different views on a text encourages learning, while asking for a summary does the exact opposite.

Whether its “right” or not to use chatbots to help in an assignment varies drastically based on the task and also the individual teacher or student. There are always two polar opposites in terms of whether a given prompt to a chatbot is misuse or not – Some think that asking chatGPT for help brainstorming aids the thinking process, while others think it kills creativity. Some think that editing with chatGPT just needs to be cited, while others think that asking a chatbot to change your essay defeats the whole point of writing it.

At the end of the day, there would be some who’d say that asking students to be so self responsible might be too much to ask. And maybe thats an issue to address itself. while it is indeed a valid concern that relying solely on students’ sense of duty could be unrealistic, this also puts educators and the education system itself at a crossroads. If students can get around the usual assignments, maybe its time to make sure that it doesn’t matter – by shifting the focus to critical thinking, curiosity, and creativity. This way, AI tools can aid learning, not restrict it. Although tests and grades and GPAs were designed to simply monitor learning, the education system has ended up putting these numbers at a higher priority than the actual learning behind them.

To conclude, I believe that the education system’s priorities are misplaced and have been for a decent while, and its high time for a revision as Ai ushers us into a new era of the future. While Ai shouldn’t be dismissed outright as harmful, they need to be approached in a way that ensures true benefit to the children that will end up living in a world more even more defined and saturated by computers than now. How can Ai now keep tough things tough instead of simplifying them? How can we make students use AI responsibly now and in the future as well? This is likely the real challenge for modern education.


Featured Image Courtesy – Poets&Quants



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