As soon as stories appeared about new software that could answer complicated questions and even write complete essays, most of the teaching world understandably went into academic overdrive. Called ChatGBT, would this artificial intelligence upgrade be the next educational shortcut and undermine the learning experience?
For those who improperly use it, well, yes, it could.
But as an educator and former Virginia legislator, I am more than a little disappointed with Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s recent comments that this new form of artificial intelligence should be banned in our schools.
Of course, the irony is that AI is used all the time in ways we’ve come to expect, but seem to conveniently overlook.
Use the search engine on Gov. Youngkin’s website, and you’re using AI.
Query a school website about scheduling, and you’re using AI.
So while I applaud the governor’s focus on education and the importance of critical thinking skills, his support of a blanket ban of AI language models in schools is misguided and counterproductive. Unfortunately, it’s happening not just in Virginia but throughout the country.
Instead of limiting educational opportunities, schools should be encouraged to embrace innovative technology and responsibly and ethically integrate it into their curriculums.
First, it’s essential to recognize the potential benefits of AI models in education. ChatGPT and now GPT4, for example, can be used to enhance language learning, improve writing skills and provide valuable feedback to students.
It’s true that AI can provide suggestions or generate text, but it’s ultimately up to the student to use the information in a meaningful way. In fact, the ability to critically evaluate information is a crucial skill that students can develop through the use of AI language models. After all, intelligence — artificial or otherwise — doesn’t equal infallibility.
Furthermore, a blanket ban on AI language models may also be detrimental to students with learning differences or disabilities. Given that these students will probably need more — and certainly not less — support, they may benefit from the assistance provided by AI language models to level the playing field and achieve academic success.
And for the visually impaired, the newest model of AI — GPT4 — has the potential to open a treasure trove of information and knowledge that would not be available except in forms that could be read.
Before pocket calculators became the norm, more than a few teachers insisted that slide rules were essential to learning. Today, they have become educational artifacts.
AI language models in education at any level should not be unregulated. But a blanket ban — while it may be politically appealing — is not the solution. With the rapid development of AI and its increasing integration into our daily lives, it’s essential that students are prepared to navigate and work with this technology. Schools should embrace the potential of AI technology to improve education.
Educators also should be encouraged to use AI in innovative ways, such as creating personalized learning experiences, quickly offering feedback to students and even detecting potential learning disabilities early on. Rather than banning AI, schools should harness its potential to provide students with a more comprehensive and effective education.
This is not the first time innovative technology has been introduced into the classroom.
Before pocket calculators became the norm, more than a few teachers insisted that slide rules were essential to learning. Today, they have become educational artifacts. For years, there were debates about whether word processors or computers should be allowed in schools. Today, a classroom without a computer is an anomaly.
Again and again, history has shown that introducing these tools improved efficiency and led to new and innovative teaching methods. Likewise, AI language models like ChatGPT can help students to better understand complex concepts, learn new languages and even assist with tasks such as essay writing.
Schools should embrace the potential these tools offer and develop guidelines to ensure their responsible use in education.
Ramadan is a former Republican who served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2012 to 2016. He is a professor of practice at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and a scholar at the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia: firstname.lastname@example.org and @DavidIRamadan. He wrote this for The Richmond Times-Dispatch.