If you were to ask high school students about using Chat GPT in school, you would think they would be eager to take a few shortcuts and ease their workload, especially in the last few weeks of the academic year. Much to teachers’ relief, it turns out that students are not opposed to opposing the use of Chat GPT in student learning.
This became clear when six ACS Athens Academy students took to the stage on May 24, 2023, to debate the effect of Chat GPT on student learning. The debate was moderated by Giannis Anastasooulos, who serves as Microsoft’s Industry Sector Lead in Education in Greece, Cyprus, and Malta. It was the second event in the ‘Shifting Paradigms’ series co-hosted by the Institute of ACS Athens and The Academy of ACS Athens.
To convince the audience, both the proposition (the team advocating that Chat GPT benefits student learning) and the opposition (the team arguing that Chat GPT harms student learning) answered these five questions:
- Will Chat GPT make students smarter or not as smart as they could be?
- Does the use of Chat GPT enhance creativity in writing or encourage plagiarism?
- What ethical considerations should be taken when using Chat GPT in education, especially regarding ownership and responsible use of content?
- Could generative AI provide tutoring based on individual needs better than teachers?
- GPT models may have bias and provide misinformation. How does the potential bias impact its use compared to other teaching methods?
The audience voted for the best response to each question by raising a blue card for the proposition or a yellow card for the opposition. After the responses were tallied, the student body generally felt that Chat GPT could be more harmful than beneficial to student learning.
Beyond the expected arguments citing plagiarism, ethics, bias, and loss of critical thinking, debaters from both sides also brought up some unique perspectives and ideas that Open AI and other tech companies could stand to consider as they evolve chatbot technologies, including the following opportunities:
- Students can use Chat GPT to get immediate feedback on questions to aid learning instead of having to wait to get clarity from the teacher or getting a bad grade, which could create a negative learning experience.
- The use of Chat GPT as a supplement to traditional teaching could democratize the use of tutoring, which research shows can empower students to do more than four times better than those that learn through lessons alone.
- Students can use Chat GPT to learn how to ask better questions and be more intentional when assessing the quality of information since misinformation is a reality, with or without AI technology.
While the opportunities are inspiring, it is also important to keep potential risks in mind, which could include:
- Creativity requires personal experience and input. If students bypass the process of brainstorming, they could lose the ability to catalyze new concepts and discover new ways of thinking.
- Given that AI lacks emotional intelligence, it cannot be a substitute for teachers, who are uniquely able to balance academic teaching with emotional support, which is crucial for young people.
- Dependance on Chat GPT could create a false sense of learning that would be especially detrimental for kinesthetic learners, about 45% of students, who need to go through the action in order to learn.
Interestingly, both teams heralded the opportunity to utilize a best-of-both-worlds form of Chat GPT in educational settings that pairs a chatbot with a lesson-driven curriculum, similar to Khanmigo, which is a hybrid approach currently being piloted by the Khan Academy.
Their shared alignment reminds us of the words from Cleobulus, one of the seven Greek sages from the 6th century BC, still rings true, μέτρον ἄριστον, put otherwise, “moderation is best.”