ITV News’ Martin Stew explores how artificial intelligence is transforming education across the country
Every school kid’s dream and every teacher’s nightmare is now a reality. Clever computer programmes which can write perfect coursework answers in seconds are now available to anyone, for free.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is so advanced a computer tool called ChatGPT recently passed graduate level legal exams in America. It’s been banned from schools in New York and some Australian states and here the Government and exam boards are in discussions about how to legislate against cheating.
So what is ChatGPT and how does it work? Well, it’s a bit like typing a question into Google but instead of getting search results you get fully formed answers written in fluent English. You can even ask the tool to rewrite the answer in a set number of words or in a more conversational tone. That makes it especially tricky for teachers to detect if pupils have used it.
To find out more I asked the tool itself how it does it:
ChatGPT: “I am not a person. I am a computer programme, also known as a machine learning model. My purpose is to understand what you say and respond to it in a way that makes sense, like a robot that can talk and answer questions. Think of me as a really smart computer that can understand and talk like a human.”
Me: “How do you create your answers?”
ChatGPT: “I create my answers by using the information that has been taught to me by my creators. They have fed me a lot of information from books, websites, and other sources so that I can understand what you say and respond to it.”
And it works. In a small blind test we did at Caterham High School in Illford, teacher Richard Olaneye struggled to tell apart homework answers submitted by his class from some we generated using AI.
Several of his students admitted their friends have already used the tech to pass off work as their own. Simon in Year 11 said: “You can use it to point you in the right direction for things like research but at the same time you can use it to hammer out an essay in about five seconds that’s worthy of an A”.
So will the way work is set and assessed have to change?
“Yeah 100%.” Said Mr Olaneye. “I think we might need to think about using other forms of assessment through presentation so when a child is sat in front of us they’re using different skills of reasoning and rationalisation to present what they understand about a topic.”
For every challenge posed by AI in education there are countless opportunities. Easing the burden on teachers, levelling up access to resources and empowering pupils to expand their knowledge are just three. Professor Rose Luckin from UCL says we should embrace the technology – not fear it.
“Yes there’s a need for radical change and it’s not just to the assessment system, it’s to the education system overall. Because our systems have been designed for a world pre-artificial intelligence and so whilst they are often very well designed they just aren’t very fit for purpose anymore.
“What we have to do is make sure students are ready for the world that will become increasingly augmented with artificial intelligence.”
That approach requires us to trust our children not to cheat and to learn what sources they themselves trust.
If we can’t see where information has come from how do we know tools like ChatGPT are telling us the truth? Here’s its own answer.
Me: “Should we be worried about you, and things like you?”
ChatGPT: “It’s important to remember that I am just a tool, and like any tool, it depends on how it is used. If my creators use me for good, then I can be helpful. But if they use me for bad, then I could be harmful. So, it’s important to make sure that people use me and other tools like me responsibly.”
Artificial intelligence will only get smarter.
Education policy makers now have tough questions to answer themselves.
Do you try and control AI, or change the whole way we teach to embrace it?
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