Interdisciplinary Approaches to Teaching & Learning
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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.
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.
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.
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.
GPT-3 is more powerful than previous AI tools for several reasons.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If care is taken to mitigate the drawbacks of the GPT-3, it is possible it could positively impact education.
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.
There are many ways in which AI tools like the GPT-3 can significantly improve personalized learning opportunities for students.
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.
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