MARSHALL — Artificial intelligence could have a big impact on education. While it’s not all negative, it’s still worth preparing teachers and students, Marshall Public Schools staff said this week.
During an update on district technology this week, digital learning coach Karen Londgren talked with Marshall school board members on what new computer programs like ChatGPT can do.
“In the past two to three months you’ve probably seen news reports on this artificial intelligence and ChatGPT. It’s a resource that is infiltrating our education environment at a very rapid pace,” Londgren said.
Londgren shared some of the same information on artificial intelligence that she discussed with Marshall middle and high school staff earlier this spring.
“AI is essentially a simulation of human intelligence that’s processed by machines or by computers. We’re asking these machines to think and act like humans, and the information that these machines are getting to provide us, this output is getting put in by humans,” Londgren said. “So they’re constantly getting trained on more and more information all the time, and the output they produce is very lifelike.”
Different forms of artificial intelligence are already used in personal assistants like Alexa or Google Home, for facial recognition on cell phones, and for navigation programs. ChatGPT is a new chatbot program created by the company OpenAI, Londgren said. The “GPT” in ChatGPT stands for “generative pre-trained transformer,” she said. The computer program lets users type in prompts, and then generates a piece of writing based on what the user asks for.
Londgren said she and other MPS staff members tried out ChatGPT, and were able to get it to produce everything from a brief presentation summary, to stories, stew recipes and instructions for building a doghouse.
The first version of ChatGPT came out in November, Londgren said. Version 4 of the program was released in March.
“It’s a very rapid-moving technology, so staying on top of it is going to be a challenge. The main thing is, we want to keep our teachers informed and educated on what this is, and help them navigate this in the classroom,” Londgren said.
There are some downsides and risks to using ChatGPT, she said. “The more people use these artificial intelligence tools, the smarter they will continue to get. However, the information that is provided to artificial intelligence, if the programming is faulty, the output will be just as faulty,” Londgren said.
Programs like ChatGPT can give users answers that have outdated information, or that are false, biased or offensive. The program also collects “massive” amounts of information from users, she said.
“Every prompt I have put into ChatGPT, and every output, it retains that history of everything that I am putting in there,” Londgren said.
“Is that going to stop our students from using it? Probably not, but we are taking the steps that we can in our environment to mitigate that,” she said.
“There are AI detectors that are on the market,” Londgren said. “I know that some of our high school language arts teachers have looked at those. They are not, however, 100%, but they may potentially be a tool that those teachers could use to help.”
The news about Chat GPT is not all negative, Londgren said. The program could help teachers with some tasks, like drafting lesson plans or correspondence like letters of recommendation. However, teachers will need to help prepare students for a world where AI exists, she said.
“We’re going to have to look at maybe redesigning assignments to include critical thinking, or higher-order thinking or learning activities – lessons that can’t be replicated by artificial intelligence,” Londgren said. Teachers will need to be transparent about why it’s important to learn how to write and do research, and emphasize academic integrity, she said.