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Veto, Bypass or Flip?
How formal education has reacted to the rise of ChatGPT (so far)
By far the most frequently asked question in my inbox and Zoom room over the last couple of weeks is: how should we, as educators, respond in the immediate term to the rise of ChatGPT?
The prevalence of this question is not surprising. In the last month alone, there has been a rollercoaster of emotion in the education community; everything from excitement to trepidation, confusion, fear and - for some - a feeling of “professional liberation”.
Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of AI is the speed of change and the uncertainty this brings. It’s telling that, in January, Australian Universities decided to return to pen and paper exams, only to u-turn their decision soon after and allow the use of ChatGPT under certain conditions.
In short: the rise of ChatGPT means we educators find ourselves in an uncharacteristically uncertain and evolving space. For some, this is exciting. For others, it’s downright scary.
So, to return to my most asked question: how should we, as educators, respond in the immediate term to the rise of ChatGPT?
My short answer is - we have three options:
Option 1: Ban It
The theory: we deter our students from using AI by punishing them for doing so.
It’s worth noting that a cat and mouse game is already underway in this space, with new technologies & methods emerging which enable students to use ChatGPT to generate work, but go undetected.
Option 2: Circumnavigate It
Instead of banning ChatGPT, we might instead follow the precedent set by Australian Universities and return to pen and paper essays and exams, written in the classroom under the watchful eye of the educator.
The theory: we bypass the AI problem by changing when and where our students produce their work.
Option 3: Embrace It
Increasingly, educators are exploring if and how they might use tools like ChatGPT to deliver a better learning experience which results in improved learner outcomes.
Generally speaking, those who have been able and willing to embrace ChatGPT have so far used it as a tool for the delivery of a flipped pedagogical model.
This model is simple and well-established: when our students are working on their own (be that at home or in the classroom), their job is to get to know a concept, process or similar through personalised exploration.
Using tools like YouTube, Khan Academy and now ChatGPT, learners engage in self-led learning to develop an understanding of a core concept, process etc.
Then, in the magic of the connected classroom, we collectively do our “homework” together. Specifically, we:
Challenge our students to discuss what they’ve read or learned.
In real-time, teach them to not only create arguments but to get confident enough to critique and refute them.
Raise important questions about the reliability and bias of our sources.
In this scenario, not only can the teacher ask a student questions, but groups of students can ask each other questions, leading to improved memorisation and deep understanding.
By using this model, students can use ChatGPT and other tools to formulate where we begin, but the actual work - and the highest leverage part of the learning experience - is in figuring out the reliability, meaning, significance and potential application of the content we have sourced and the understanding we have developed.
This approach is potentially good news for the economy. If we want to train people in so-called C21st Skills like initiative, leadership, critical thinking and creativity, perhaps the best way to do that is to have them do that at school.
If you want to learn more about how educators are using ChatGPT, check out a growing list of use cases on my AI for Educators reading list 👇.
Closing Thought: ChatGPT - a New Dawn for Educators?
At first, option 3 may appear to be harder work for the educator. Certainly it requires an appetite and capacity for change.
However, from some initial research, I’ve found that the the biggest hurdle to ChatGPT adoption - aside from it being banned - is one of mindset, rather than capacity.
Those educators who have embraced ChatGPT and the “flipped” pedagogical method report that they spend around the same amount of time preparing lessons as they always did.
In the new model, instead of a focus on content creation, educators focus instead on activity design: on writing research questions and setting challenges & discussion points which drive the development of their students’ initiative, leadership, critical thinking skills, communication skills and creativity.
As one educator I spoke to put it, “This is exactly the role that inspired me to become a teacher in the first place.”