February, 20 2023

Some UAE students now using ChatGPT; here’s what teachers, experts think of this viral AI tech

Generative AI has the potential to be one of the biggest drivers of human productivity, say experts

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While artificial intelligence (AI) is making inroads into the education sector, education experts in the UAE say students are already collaborating with ChatGPT.

ChatGPT, the latest AI-based chatbot that has taken the education sector by storm since its release in November, seems like a ‘bitter pill’ that must be accepted, they added. They admitted, however, that it offers “many benefits”, if used discreetly.

“The solution isn’t to block or ban these tools. That would be far too narrow-minded and short-sighted. Instead, what we’ve got to do is to incorporate these tools into education and elevate the teaching and learning process to make it more relevant and fit for purpose,” said Rohan Roberts, director of Innovation and Future Learning, GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail.

He explained while AI will undoubtedly play a huge role in developing personalised learning for students, “the role of the teacher is fairly safe and will be one of the last to be automated”.

Pedagogical intelligence is unique

Howard Gardner, famous cognitive psychologist and proponent of the Multiple Intelligences Theory, includes Pedagogical Intelligence as one of the discreet types of intelligence.

“This is the ability of humans to model the mind of the other person and tailor learning instructions according to the unique educational needs of that person. We’re still a long way away from doing that with AI. Yes, the role of the teacher will evolve and change — as it always has — but teachers will still be very relevant in the education process. We just need to get over our short-term anxiety about it. It is here, and I imagine it will be used to some level in many Dubai schools, depending on its longevity and whether it becomes a paid-for service,” said Roberts.

Top colleges in the US, France, Australia and certain universities in India have already banned ChatGPT but educationists here feel following a similar route may not be a prudent solution.

They highlight generative AI has the potential to be one of the biggest drivers of human productivity since the steam engine, so it’s imperative that we teach the students about both its implications and its limitations.

“Educators in Dubai are already using ChatGPT to support lesson planning, generate model answers, and design policies. It is here, and I imagine it will be used to some level in many Dubai schools, depending on its longevity and whether it becomes a paid-for service,” said Neal Oates, principal, Star International School, Mirdif.

Experts said the limitations of these technologies are well documented and they don’t always produce truthful content.

Going beyond the worry of ‘cheating’, they feel that the use of these AI tools could more importantly stunt critical thinking.

“These limitations need to be taught to students. Finally, it is important that these technologies do not replace learning to write. So much of writing is actually thinking about how to structure an argument or communicate an idea. In the same way that schools teach division even though everyone has access to calculators, schools need to continue to teach the fundamentals, while still using these technologies in appropriate contexts,” said Kurt Muehmel, Everyday AI Strategic Advisor at Dataiku.

Professor Stephen Clark Wilhite, senior vice-president for Academic Affairs and Student Success/Provost American University of Ras Al Khaimah, said: “The widespread use of these AI tools will fundamentally change assignments and assessments being employed in the classroom. The completion of many assignments and all assessments (tests) will need to take place during class time to minimise threats to academic integrity. That is, the completion of assignments and assessments will need to take place in an environment in which we can be confident that the work produced truly reflects the intellectual efforts of the students and is not simply the work of an AI app.”

But it’s said that the use of some other tools like the Zero GPT can also detect if something has been written by a human or by AI.

Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO – Coursera said: “As a tool, ChatGPT has the potential to revolutionise students’ writing and thinking, providing a fantastic writing assistant and thought partner. However, students should not outsource their entire thinking process to ChatGPT. Students should use ChatGPT as a supplement to their own thinking and a tool to improve the quality of their content and ideas.”

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