What has defined 2023 so far in schools? It has to be the advent of Chatbot GPT (OpenAI, 2023) the artificial intelligence (AI) programme that will write everything for you. Is this the kiss of death to essay composition? Will all teachers use it to save time thinking of pertinent phrases in student reports? Should we be worried as information literacy specialists?
We certainly cannot put the genie back into the bottle but what we can do is to understand the limitations of this technology and embrace what will be a true aid in encouraging students and staff to think creatively and write. Chatbot GPT and other similar technology can only base its output on what it has access to and what it has “learned” from humans using its program. The very word “chat” in its title indicates we should treat its answers as part of a conversation. It will not be using the most recent information on a topic (nothing written in the last 2 years) and its referencing is questionable to say the least! Sometimes, it will refer to documents and research that simply does not exist so checking the output is absolutely essential. Nonetheless, it can take the tedium out of listing essential factors about a topic, outline the main arguments surrounding a discursive issue and even write constructive vignettes.
Chatbot GPT may have hit the headlines but there is far more development behind the scenes in AI technology and this is having an impact on the school curriculum. It has been part of lesson plans since 2018 in China and is now being introduced to school students in the USA (Welk, 2020). The article suggests focus is on 5 big ideas where intelligent robots can have influence – perception (robots using visual sensors), representation and reasoning (where robots construct models and then use these to debate and resolve issues), learning (where robots can learn from the information they have been given to construct new content), natural interaction (where robots use natural language to help humans feel more comfortable and safe conversing with them) and social impact (will robots affect how we live our lives in the future?). This all sounds amazing, so why do people have doubts?
As information professionals we may be concerned that if AI does the thinking for us then we will drift even further from our goals of getting the general population to understand the digital and analogue world surrounding them as defined by MILA (MILA, 2023). The technology is only as good as the human brains feeding its knowledge so if humans become less adept at providing this, will the creativity decline and new ideas be solely based on past achievements? Machines are emotionless and lack the passion that often sparks an innovation. We should indeed be concerned about this and change the way we teach students, so we concentrate on the non-routine cognitive elements rather than the behaviourist fact regurgitation our exam system currently endorses. The workers of the future will be made redundant through this technology unless they develop a more critical information and digital literacy understanding.
Aside from Chatbot GPT what else is on the horizon? The wonderful Gartner Hype Cycle for Artificial Intelligence (Gartner, 2022) gives us clues about what to expect. Here we can see there are four main areas of development – data-centric AI, model-centric AI, applications-centric AI and human-centric AI. Although we are unlikely to see self-driving cars and robots with inherent general knowledge intelligence as commonplace for another 10 years, using computers to analyse visual material is already at launch point. This has huge implications for diagnosis in medical tests or machine faults as it can produce results in a fraction of the time a human takes and probably with greater accuracy. On our personal devices, this technology will help students and staff create 3D models and scenes and develop our learning pathways through using a multisensory approach. How exciting is that?
Returning to earth from our blue skies thinking, teachers are concerned about the use of this technology to “cheat”. This has parallels with the approach to the use of phones and tablets in the school environment and concerns over online safety – the solution being to impose a ban rather than suggesting a way to work with what is out there. There are programs inevitably that have now been developed to recognise chatbot generated text such as GTPZero (GTPZero, 2023). The irony however is that in the Curriculum in England there is no coursework and all marks towards a national qualification are given under exam conditions. Some years ago at a LILAC conference (2012) David Puttnam remarked that if you took a surgeon from Victorian times and placed them in a modern operating theatre they would not know how to begin but if you took a teacher from the same era and placed them in a modern day classroom they could deliver a lesson. We need to embrace this new era of technology using our professional knowledge of how information works and encourage schools to adopt a new approach to teaching and learning, equipping our future workforce with the competencies they will need.
Gartner. (2022) What’s new in artificial intelligence from the 2022 Gartner Hype Cycle? Available at: https://www.gartner.com/en/articles/what-s-new-in-artificial-intelligence-from-the-2022-gartner-hype-cycle
GTPZero. (2023) GTPZero: Humans deserve the truth. Available at: https://gptzero.me/
LILAC (2012) Lord Puttnam of Queensgate. Available at: https://www.lilacconference.com/lilac-archive/past-keynotes#puttnam
MILA (2023) Media and Information Literacy Alliance. Available at: https://mila.org.uk/
Open AI (2023) ChatGPT: Optimizing Language Models for Dialogue. Available at: https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt/
Welk, K. N. (2020) AI for K-12: Bringing next-level tech skills Into the classroom. Available at: https://elective.collegeboard.org/ai-k-12-bringing-next-level-tech-skills-classroom
Sarah Pavey – Independent Consultant and Trainer and one of the Information Literacy Group’s School representatives.