So far, there have been about a million columns written on ChatGPT, the AI chatbot that was launched a couple months ago. About half a million of these columns have been devoted to predictions on ChatGPT’s implications for education, both in schools and universities. Many of the columns have been fearful, but a few are bright-eyed, talking up the Brave New Possibilities that ChatGPT will offer, and will demand.
A notable entry in the latter category is a recent SMH opinion piece, with the pithy title Schools right now face a choice – fight the wave of ChatGPT, or surf it. We’re not sure how one might fight a wave, but you get the idea. The piece was written by Adam Voigt, who is a former principal of somewhere, is CEO of something called Real Schools, and is “education expert for The Project, 2GB, 3AW & The Age”. We do not know where and how Voigt developed his expertise. He smiles a lot.
At the outset, Voigt reassures the reader that “ChatGPT … is no storm” (presumably because ChatGPT is a wave), and is not “an existential threat to teachers”. But/And Voigt assures us that ChatGPT can bring great and good change:
[ChatGPT] emerges at a time when literacy and numeracy results are deteriorating in Australian schools despite increased funding and teachers working longer hours. And it could be the greatest opportunity to land at our feet in recent history if we can emerge from below the decks and adjust the sails of our schools accordingly. ChatGPT will not be ignored. It’s not a technological fad …
It would seem a little tricky to adjust the sails for surfing a wave that has landed at our feet, but let’s continue:
[ChatGPT] will fundamentally change the way we educate, and its first impost will be on the way we assess … Any assessment that a student completes independently at home is now going to be compromised.
But wasn’t this always true? Well,
Of course, it always was.
Huh. OK, so then what’s the big deal?
But finally, we may have crossed a point of no return, unable to justify trudging the tired path of delivering a lecture at school, setting a task, collecting the task, marking the task and returning a grade that has so slowed our educational progress.
It is a good time to stop, take a breath, and ask what the hell Voigt is talking about.
Nothing indicates what must now be fundamentally different for school assessment, why the post-ChatGPT “point of no return” might be inaccessibly far from the pre-ChatGPT point. It seems not to have occurred to Voigt that the setting of too few tasks may have “slowed our educational progress”. As for the “tired path” that begins with “delivering a lecture”, it is not a school path with which we are familiar (nor to which we would necessarily object).
What does any of this have to do with addressing “literacy and numeracy results”? Voigt never says. Voigt imagines ChatGPT will build upon current “innovative models for learning”, but there is nothing of substance beyond a reference to the Khan Academy, which apparently gave birth to “flipped learning”. Well, Voigt acknowledges there are “valid criticisms” of Khan, but he imagines that ChatGPT will result in super-duper versions of an imagined Khan-done-right. Lennon would be pleased with all this imagining.
Voigt is unwaveringly positive, and he makes clear that we have no choice:
ChatGPT won’t permit the same return to these fabled good old days.
As opposed to a different return.
As scary as it may sound, our schools should resist any urge to merely weather the ChatGPT storm and instead embrace its immense possibilities.
Ah. So ChatGPT turns out to be a storm after all, which should be embraced. Let’s review …
God knows how ChatGPT will change education, and certainly we don’t. Such programs appear to be a genuine issue for assessment in universities, but it is unclear to us how or why ChatGPT and his mates must or should change the fundamental nature of university teaching.
As for school education, will ChatGPT change things? Probably, since the educational world is forever leaping from one techno-saviour to the next. But what good might ChatGPT bring to school assessment or, more critically, school teaching? We don’t see it. Articles such as Voigt’s do nothing but suggest to us we’re in for a fresh educational hell.