In recent months, talk about the spread of generative AI in our lives seems to have dramatically increased. The launch of ChatGPT, the natural language processing tool driven by AI technology, in November 2022, has led to huge debate about the use and value that generative AI can have, alongside the clear ethical issues around the generation, as opposed to creation, of content.
Generative AI is already pervasive in our lives. Recently a German magazine was heavily criticised for publishing a fake “interview” with Formula One champion Michael Schumacher, supposedly his first interview since the skiing accident that left him with severe head injuries in December 2013. The article had been produced using an AI programme called character.ai. The editor of the magazine has since left her post, and the article was branded as “tasteless.”
In April 2023 Reuters reported that Britain announced £100 million, “in initial funding for a taskforce to help develop foundation models – a type of artificial intelligence used by chatbots like ChatGPT – for use in fields like health and education.” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said, “Harnessing the potential of AI provides enormous opportunities to grow our economy, create better-paid jobs, and build a better future through advances in healthcare and security.”
However, what precisely may those benefits in education be? The honest answer is that we do not really know for certain. So much so that some tech experts are calling for a pause on the development of generative AI so that we have time to catch up, not least with regards to the ethics of AI.
We clearly need to have a profession-wide response to the ways in which generative AI may be used in education. The completion of assignments and assessment is an obvious place to start but there is also the possibility of planning and workload management, too. Mike Sharples, Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University, recently tweeted about how generative AI can support teaching, learning and assessment. For example, as a “guide on the side”, as a personal tutor, as an exploratorium, as a study buddy, as a motivator, as a Socratic opponent, as a collaboration coach and so on. The possibilities are impressive.
Yet the concerns are real. The recent UNESCO quick start guide, “ChatGPT and Artificial Intelligence in Higher Education” points to academic integrity (the increased risk of plagiarism, and whether AI has been used in writing), the lack of regulation, privacy concerns, cognitive bias, gender and diversity, accessibility, and commercialisation as issues that may need our attention in the foreseeable future.
Regarding ethics, it is fair to say we are way behind having a clear understanding of the long-term consequences of welcoming generative AI into our educational spaces, and therefore do not have a shared ethical framework in which to operate within the global education profession. In a world in which trust is already in crisis, there are clearly going to be challenges when it comes to generative AI and education. While the possibilities are many, and the potential could be incredibly positive, we must ensure that the baby is not thrown out with the murky, muddy bathwaters of malpractice.
The bottom line is that we should all be thinking about the impact of generative AI in our schools and in our lives. Is it what we want? Will it improve teaching and learning? Can we shape it? Can we become expert in it, or at least an element of it? And are we up to debating the considerable ethical issues that are part and parcel of having AI in our lives? Because AI is moving at a fast pace, and as educational establishments, responding after the event is probably not going to cut it in the long run. There are pros and there are cons and many feel that the need to consider both is urgent.
Find out more…
Without wishing to add in any way to your workload, generative AI is not going away, so it is important to engage with it. These documents will be a good place to start…
- ChatGPT-and-Artificial-Intelligence-in-higher-education-Quick-Start-guide_EN_FINAL.pdf (unesco.org)
- Generative artificial intelligence in education - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) – a must read for key messages for the education sector, not least about personal and sensitive data.
- Google Scholar offers much breadth of research on generative AI and education – try a search and see what comes up – staying up to date with the latest developments is key for schools
- Edtech Podcast — The Edtech Podcast
- Office for Artificial Intelligence - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Keeping children safe in education - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- ChatGPT and LLMs: what's the risk - NCSC.GOV.UK
- Meeting digital and technology standards in schools and colleges - Guidance - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Generative AI was NOT used in the creation of this article!
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world. Elizabeth has also taught on education courses in HE and presented at national and international conferences.