The artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT, created by OpenAI, has been grabbing headlines of late, but will it be a good or bad thing for children's education?
ChatGPT, launched in November, is a “seismic, game-changing thing” for education, according to one leading British headteacher. An American university student put it this way on Twitter: “We are witnessing the death of the college essay in real time.”
Within five days of launch, ChatGPT had more than a million users, a fair number of them children and young people. It has caught the popular imagination as it is the first free chatbot able to write convincing essays on any subject you (or your teacher) can dream up.
Oh, and it can also solve maths problems, or science ones, or do your Spanish assignment. Just set up a free account, type your question (elaborate or otherwise) into the box, and sit back and watch your homework assignment be completed with zero effort on your part.
Officially, you must be 18 or over to set up a free account. But in the absence of age verification, ChatGPT seems set to alter children’s relationships with homework and coursework radically. If the correct answer is just a click away, why slog over the hard work yourself?
The end of learning as we know it?
“Whilst AI help with learning has been available in education for a good number of years, the seismic, game-changing thing about this software is both its plausibility (it responds, seamlessly, in natural language, if necessary mirroring the voice of the questioner in the answers it provides) and its scope; it seems able to answer pretty much any query you can throw at it,” wrote Jane Lunnon, headteacher of leading south London private school Alleyn’s, on the school’s blog.
She thinks ChatGPT will radically change the nature of homework: “Increasingly, homework will be less and less about looking back at past learning, and more and more about looking forward.”
Classroom time will alter, too: “I suspect we will see more ‘flipped learning’ in the coming months and years, as diagnostic assessment (what have you understood at what level), moves more frequently into the classroom and preparation for the lesson (read this, assimilate, come with questions) moves into homework.”
In her view, this is no bad thing. And, in many ways, Professor Michael Thomas, psychologist and chartered member of the British Psychological Society, agrees.
“ChatGPT is a big influence and will cause changes in education, but it’s kind of similar to what happened when Google turned up,” says Prof Thomas, who is also director of the Centre for Educational Neuroscience at the University of London.