Banning AI in Schools

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With Generative AI, we now all possess virtual PhDs in every subject. Much of the intellectual labor we once performed can now be done for us, and the results are often better than what most humans could produce. This prompts the question of what education’s role should be.

How to Cheat!

Chat GPT is, of course, at the forefront. While many schools and universities have been attempting to identify or ban “ChatBot cheating,” one of the more commendable approaches I’ve observed was taken by the University of Sydney.

First-year medical students enrolled in the course “Contemporary Medical Challenges” have incorporated ChatGPT into their curriculum.

Students were given a task: to formulate a question on a modern medical challenge of their choosing, prompt ChatGPT to “write” an essay on the topic, and meticulously review and edit the AI’s output. They were required to complete at least four drafts and reviews, edit and re-prompt the AI, and then refine it into a submission-worthy final draft.

The main criterion for success was being able to manipulate the questions for ChatGPT to not only produce an optimal essay but also to observe the process and the thinking they went through while editing the essay and how they re-prompted the AI to delve into the appropriate arenas of knowledge.

“We want to make sure the grads are not just getting ChatGPT to do their work, we want them to have discerning judgment, and a curiosity about the future,” course coordinator Martin Brown said.

“You have to work with it. You can’t ban it – it would be crazy.”

This is truly an enlightened approach.

It’s clear that there are different types of knowledge. We have basic memorization, reproducing information, and collating information – tasks that educational institutions have traded in for centuries. But when AIs like ChatGPT can perform those tasks for anyone, for free, it’s time to reevaluate education.

It might seem like an odd thing to say, but the reason we don’t evaluate students on their ability to lift heavy objects is that machines were invented before the modern K-12 school system was. Even when we do physical education at senior school, it primarily becomes about human energy systems and biomechanics.

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Age Gates and AI

While we’ve had calculators and spell-checking computation for a very long time, no one would argue that those who know how to add, spell, and write have a distinct economic advantage in life. There is a reason we only introduce calculators and computers into education once kids know how to read and write – we need to be able to judge the output.

We need to know what good looks like, even when a tool can elevate what would usually be good into something great. We’ll need to exercise caution when introducing AI in the early years of education and be deliberate about incorporating it at senior and tertiary levels.

AI won’t eliminate the need for deep domain knowledge; in fact, it may intensify it. Those who know more will be able to derive more from the generative AI systems at our disposal. They’ll know what to ask it, how to obtain better revisions, and, most importantly, discern whether what it has generated is acceptable. In some ways, AI will transform much of what we do into curating and conducting possibilities. And, just like in the art world, this requires judgment and even taste.

Keep Thinking,