Shakespearian-style sonnets, programming software based on problem descriptions, and explaining concepts at the level of a 10-year-old. Given the range of Chat GPT’s capabilities, educators are understandably concerned with student cheating and the spread of misinformation.
However, rather than just focus on the concerns or ban Chat GPT’s use — as New York City Public Schools did — we must see the potential for these tools to enhance learning by introducing novel ways for students to interact with learning materials, their fellow students, teachers and AI-based agents. The potential is greatest for supporting 21st century skills like communicating, collaborating and critical thinking.
Such skills are difficult to teach and assess in the classroom. They require significant support from teachers who have limited time to read drafts of students' writing, listen in on groups completing team projects, or work one-on-one with students to craft their arguments. Artificial intelligence tools like Chat GPT can serve as personal editor to kids. They provide immediate writing feedback. And they free teachers to give students more personal instruction and guidance.
Writing is a skill that only develops with much iterative practice. To be successful, students need time to build writing strategies. They need to develop pre-writing processes to organize their thinking and learn to write across content areas. Yet, the typical middle school student may write no more than a paragraph a week. Then they wait another week to receive feedback.
Artificial intelligence tools like Chat GPT can serve as personal editor to kids. They provide immediate writing feedback.
Rather than losing time to this bottleneck, students could use AI tools during class to help with brainstorming topics or getting a quick critique on a first draft. Students could then revise and continue working with the system while teachers monitor progress of the class and hone in on students who are struggling.
Initial applications using this approach in the classroom, in essence “writing to learn,” show that students develop and retain writing skills and learn domain content material better. The idea is to empower teachers to do more of what they do best: work with students directly on their writing and thinking.
Students have few opportunities to practice deep social-collaborative learning in the classroom. Yet most jobs require the ability to work well in teams.
Recent technological advances have greatly increased the potential for AI to support the development of higher-order thinking skills in the classroom.
AI-based collaborative agents hold promise in working with teams to interact more effectively. They can interact with students as a virtual partner or peer mentor. The agents can understand and respond to student speech. They can help facilitate conversations. They support team brainstorming and keep student groups on track.
Concurrently, AI partners can support teachers. They can help them identify teams that need targeted support. And they can match kids up to create effective groups.
Recent technological advances have greatly increased the potential for AI to support the development of higher-order thinking skills in the classroom. AI technologies are not replacements for teachers. By using these technologies to drive productive dialogue between students, teachers and agents, we can reframe AI as intelligent partners that provide valuable support to the learning process.
This article is part of a report by the Walton Family Foundation sharing the results of the first national survey of teacher and student attitudes toward ChatGPT.