Should Educators Be Worried About GPT-3

March 11, 2023

As increasingly sophisticated and user-friendly artificial intelligence (AI) tools become available to consumers, it is impossible to ignore the impact AI is bound to have on the field of education. Spurred on by significant funding from the likes of Elon Musk and Microsoft, AI tools have drastically improved in recent years, catching the attention of the mainstream media and shifting seamlessly into public awareness. Considering this branch of computer science’s rapid growth, AI is sure to become a massive part of the education sector sooner rather than later.

With this knowledge, educators must be prepared to embrace the blossoming relationship between education and AI and adapt accordingly. But what does this entail? Understanding AI tools like GPT-3 and the role AI can play in a classroom setting will be imperative as educators prepare to accept the inevitable incorporation of AI technology into their educational institutions.

What is GPT-3?

In its own AI-generated words, Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3, or GPT-3, is “a state-of-the-art natural language processing [NLP] model” developed by OpenAI. Boasting 175 billion parameters, the GPT-3 is one of the largest language models ever created, making it capable of generating highly sophisticated text. 

Perhaps GPT-3’s most notable feature is its ability to respond to a prompt seamlessly. The example prompt given by OpenAI to demonstrate GPT-3’s abilities is, “write a tagline to an ice cream shop,” to which the GPT-3 responds, “we serve up smiles with every scoop!” This is called text completion

How does GPT-3 work? 

GPT-3 works by using a neural network, a computer program inspired by how a human brain operates. A type of machine learning (ML), neural networks are made up of interconnected “nodes,” like the neurons of a human brain. Connected by links, the GPT-3 sends information between nodes to learn the patterns and relationships within language. This process is called deep learning. Its sophisticated neural connections and massive amounts of data allow the GPT-3 to perform extraordinary language tasks. 

What can GPT-3 do?

One of the most powerful AI tools available, the GPT-3 can contextualize language, pinpoint meanings of words and contexts across different languages, summarize long and complex texts, produce structurally and grammatically correct text, and generate advanced math and science material. GPT-3 is even capable of creative writing, including playwriting, storytelling, and poetry. Most notably, the GPT-3 is trained on completion, meaning it can take an inputted prompt and answer it with great accuracy.

Why is GPT-3 more powerful than previous AI tools?

GPT-3 is more powerful than previous AI tools for several reasons.

  • Size: As mentioned previously, the GPT-3 has 175 billion parameters. This allows it to form more connections than previous AI tools, thus giving it a superior understanding of language.
  • Capabilities: the GPT-3 can perform a broader range of language generation tasks than similar AI predecessors and perform said tasks with great efficiency. The language generated by the GPT-3 is complex, structurally sound, and accurate. 
  • Pre-training: GPT-3’s extensive training on such a large and varied dataset makes it capable of understanding and replicating text with great accuracy and gives it a significant knowledge base. 
  • Efficiency: Because GPT-3 was pre-trained on such a large dataset, little fine-tuning is needed for the model to operate efficiently. 

What are the potential negatives of AI tools like GPT-3?

GPT-3’s uncanny ability to complete a wide range of text-based tasks, while impressive, could potentially have a negative impact on education if not addressed or effectively implemented into the curriculum. 

Cheating and academic dishonesty

One of the primary concerns regarding how AI could impact education is academic dishonesty. Because the GPT-3 can produce such natural-sounding grammatically correct text, students could use the model disingenuously to generate academic writing, including answers to long-form questions, writing assignments, and even entire essays. 

Further to this issue, the use of the GPT-3 is difficult to detect with common plagiarism detection software and other education technology used in educational institutions, making it possible for plagiarism to go unnoticed. 

Potential barrier to critical thinking

Because the GPT-3 can also generate quick answers to questions and prompts inputted into its AI system, this may provide a shortcut to students conducting research, undercutting the need for them to develop their critical thinking skills further. Although AI could make the process of conducting research and communicating ideas more convenient, it may also prevent students from learning these skills independently. This issue will need to be addressed by educators as AI continues to develop. 

Although the GPT-3 imposes a potential barrier to critical thinking, it can also teach better critical thinking skills to students by generating prompts, open-ended questions, and resources that encourage students to develop these skills. Thus, the impact the GPT-3 has on critical thinking skills depends entirely on how the educator chooses to use it. 

Cost

Although it is difficult to say how much the GPT-3 would cost for an educational institution without having access to further data about the specific institution itself, the GPT-3 can be costly due to the resources and technology it requires to function. 

GPT-3 prices are based on usage and vary depending on the circumstances. Regardless, the cost issue might make the GPT-3 financially inaccessible to some institutions, which may have the potential to further academic inequality. 

Although GPT-3 technology is some of the most sophisticated AI created to date, it is still a new technology with flaws and potential shortcomings. These potential issues need to be considered when designing a curriculum.

What are the potential positive impacts of AI tools like GPT-3?

If care is taken to mitigate the drawbacks of the GPT-3, it is possible it could positively impact education. 

Greater ease for educators

GPT-3 can be used to automate and streamline time-consuming daily tasks that teachers undertake. For example, the GPT-3 can help accelerate the grading process and create educational content to use in class. GPT-3 can even help educators write individualized feedback faster and more efficiently. These changes could be incredibly helpful in mitigating teacher stress and burnout. 

Expanded learning opportunities for students

There are many ways in which AI tools like the GPT-3 can significantly improve personalized learning opportunities for students. 

  • Personalized learning plans: GPT-3 can track data about a student’s academic performance, preferences, strengths, and areas for improvement and help create a personalized learning plan based on that student’s needs. There are already examples of technologies on the education market, such as CENTURY Tech, that are using AI to track student performance and create personalized learning paths to great success. 
  • Adaptive learning: GPT-3 can be used to develop adaptive learning plans that meet students where they are. Using AI, GPT-3 can adjust the curriculum to fit a student’s level of understanding, including providing supplementary material and resources to students who are falling behind or providing more challenging material to students already demonstrating adequate understanding of the subject matter. GPT-3 can also aid in language learning for students who speak English as a second language. And it can generate adaptive tests that reflect the student’s skill level. 
  • Intelligent tutoring: GPT-3 can use student data to develop a personalized tutoring plan, provide feedback to the student, or generate supplementary material to help the student learn.

AI tools in education

Although GPT-3 technology has many potential benefits, it cannot fully replace teachers in the foreseeable future. Students will still need to work in conjunction with a human being who knows them personally and oversee the curriculum and their academic needs and progress. 

However, AI can greatly benefit both students and teachers when used correctly. Simplifying the teacher’s workload, creating educational materials, and using data to create opportunities for student progress are just a few examples of how AI could positively impact K-12 education and higher education.

That said, if AI is to be incorporated into the classroom setting, so too must topics in media literacy and AI education. Teaching students how to use AI as a tool and not a shortcut will be imperative to successfully implementing AI technology within the classroom to reduce potential negative impacts.

Teachers may consider leading class discussions, exercises, and activities to teach students the benefits and drawbacks of AI and media literacy regarding AI-generated content. Educators need not shy away from AI but rather enforce its practical uses without compromising students’ critical thinking and writing skills. 

Encouraging students to ask the right questions, create the right prompts, and ultimately work alongside AI can make it a powerful educational tool. Educators need to be educated on AI tools like GPT-3 to use them to their advantage and be proficient in spotting AI-generated academic dishonesty. 

Should educators be worried about the GPT-3? No, but they must be educated on it so that they can reap the rewards of using AI in an educational setting without running into potential pitfalls. Furthermore, at this point, AI is not a threat to teachers’ job safety, as it cannot replicate human intelligence, compassion, and creativity.

Are you an educator looking for turn-key curriculum solutions for your health science course?
Get a free demo

RELATED STORIES