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March 7, 2023

Sarah Mathias

The Impact of AI in Education: Insights from ChatGPT, Education Leaders, and Students

10 minutes

By now you’ve probably heard of ChatGPT. Launched in November 2022, this general purpose chatbot prototype has been dominating the internet ever since. And it’s easy to see why—ChatGPT interacts with users in a conversational way, answering follow-up questions, admitting mistakes, challenging incorrect premises, and rejecting inappropriate requests.

Exciting? Yes. Unsettling? Also, yes! Especially for education leaders.

In January, New York City Public Schools announced it had banned access to the AI technology ChatGPT on its school wireless networks and devices. In other districts, administrators and teachers are debating whether or not to use ChatGPT in teaching—and what message it sends to their students.

The integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI), specifically ChatGPT, into education has the potential to revolutionize the way we teach and learn. And at ThoughtExchange, we wanted to find out how.

So we hosted a webinar for education leaders; launched Exchanges to gather insights from education leaders and students; and even co-authored a blog post with ChatGPT, reviewed by education leaders.

Our collaborative deep dive revealed that it’s crucial to approach ChatGPT’s integration with education with caution and care, taking into consideration the following: safety and security, teacher support, curriculum and instruction, student learning outcomes, professional development, community involvement, and the ethical implications of using AI in education.

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In this Article

How ChatGPT works

One essential way to understand what ChatGPT means for education is to talk about it. That’s why we put on a webinar called The Impact of AI and ChatGPT in Education. Hosted by our CEO, Dave MacLeod, and attended by a group of high-profile education leaders, we dug deep.

Here’s how ChatGPT works. Users ask questions like: Explain quantum computing in simple terms; Got any creative ideas for a 10 year old’s birthday party?; or, How do I make an HTTP request in Javascript?

And ChatGPT generates a response. The program remembers what the user said earlier in the conversation, allows users to provide follow-up corrections, and is trained to reject inappropriate requests. However, ChatGPT may also generate incorrect information and produce harmful instructions or biased content. It also has limited knowledge of world events after 2021.

When Dave asked ChatGPT what it is and how it can be used in schools, here’s what happened:

Collaborating with ChatGPT, education leaders, and students for insights

Education leaders need to do what’s best for their communities and students. And that starts with navigating ChatGPT’s potential impact and assessing implementation for optimal student outcomes. Below are insights from our webinar, our student Exchange, and our collaboration with ChatGPT.

Discovering the possibilities

At our webinar, The Impact of AI and ChatGPT in Education, we spent an hour with innovative education leaders from across North America talking about the cutting edge of education and technology. We launched two Exchanges, asking them:

What is a quick story about AI or ChatGPT as a learning tool that you have experienced or heard of that this group would like to learn about?

And:

What are your thoughts currently about ChatGPT and AI as a learning tool for students and teachers?

Based on the insights we gathered in the Exchanges, here are five interesting ways leaders are already using ChatGPT in their districts:

  • As an assistant to draft up speeches, letters and job descriptions.
  • To accelerate crafting similar messages but in various different ways (ex: writing 80 birthday card messages).
  • As a learning tool to analyze and deconstruct essays to help students understand important aspects of the writing process.
  • To increase learning engagement by incorporating sports/anecdotes into teaching subjects like math.
  • To write dad jokes.

Most importantly, many leaders are calling this their “calculator moment.” While it may take some time to get a better understanding of the tool’s capabilities, it’s their responsibility to find a balance between the value it brings and the systems that need to be put in place to ensure that student learning is only improved by it.

Elevating student voice brings nuanced insights

While it’s important to hear from education leaders, it’s equally important to listen to what students have to say. That’s why we used ThoughtExchange to hear their thoughts on ChatGPT, gather nuanced insights, and find out what they really think.

The platform’s unique features allow students to share their thoughts in a safe, anonymous environment. Anti-bias technology ensures leaders get an accurate view of the discussion, and patented analytics help them understand the discussion from all angles, in real time.

We asked:

What are some important perspectives and ideas you want school superintendents to consider about AI tools such as OpenAI's ChatGPT for teaching and learning?

While some students didn’t know what ChatGPT was, those who did provided the following insights:

  • “Schools should teach students how to work with technology such as ChatGPT, Photomath and Grammarly. This will prepare us for real life.”
  • “Teachers could have essays for the students to use as reference. Teachers won't have as much work, and the students have good, solid writing.”
  • “It helps students know how to start an essay. It's important to students that are struggling to start.”
  • “We can use ChatGPT to learn about a topic we missed in school due to absence or didn’t understand.”

Elevating student voice is essential for understanding the full picture. While students can see the potential benefits of using ChatGPT in the classroom, it’s up to education leaders to ensure it’s done right.

Collaborating with ChatGPT and superintendents surfaces concerns and solutions

What better way to understand the implications of AI and ChatGPT in education than to collaborate with it? We leveraged ThoughtExchange to gather a group of superintendents’ thoughts, questions, concerns, and solutions and worked with ChatGPT to write an essay. Through this process, several key themes emerged, which we explored further in small group deep dive discussions.

Here are some of the concerns superintendents shared, and their potential solutions:

Concerns

Top Thoughts

Solutions

ChatGPT’s potential for malicious purposes.
"The voice (VALL-E voice replicating AI) is concerning. The ability to be taken advantage of and scammed. What security exists in it? Do schools need security on who can access it?"
  • Implement clear guidelines/security measures to ensure responsible use
  • Train teachers and students to spot and report abuse
  • Implement strict access controls
Strategies to support teachers who feel threatened or take a closed approach to AI technology.
“Much energy will be consumed in that narrative, which will not be productive for our students and will delay the process of adapting and thriving."
  • Provide teachers with examples of ChatGPT in the classroom
  • Provide professional development on effectively integrating into instruction.
  • Connect ChatGPT to familiar technologies
Use AI to develop critical thinking and curiosity in students.
"We say we want students to be curious, but they wouldn’t know it because we never assess it or give them feedback about their curiosity."
  • Base assessment more on conversation, observation, and critical thinking
  • Encourage students to engage in research, inquiry, and other forms of critical thinking.
Professional development opportunities for educators.
"Professional development will be vital. Get the early adopters to lead the way."
  • Provide educators with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively use ChatGPT in instruction
Involving students, parents, and staff in the process of integrating AI into education.
"It’s important to have the conversation in our own communities around this topic."
  • Involve community in integrating ChatGPT into education
  • Provide information about ChatGPT’s benefits and limitations
Ethical and moral implications
"The morality parameters of this AI - what values will be established? How will those values be established, and by whom?"
  • Consider bias when integrating AI into education.
  • Develop guidelines and policies for unbiased use.
Want to learn more about our collaboration? Check out the complete essay.

Gathering timely input from community members

ChatGPT is happening now. And as education leaders, you need insights from your community now. Using ThoughtExchange as your engagement and survey platform, you can:

  • gather feedback more efficiently
  • implement more effective strategies, and
  • build a more equitable culture for your district

ThoughtExchange lets participants give quality, open-ended input, and then consider and react to each other’s thoughts, without limiting participation or representation. Unlike a standard survey with pre-filled answers, an Exchange lets your participants present you with the best options. We bring efficiency to your community engagement processes, so you can hear more feedback in far less time.

“The power of ThoughtExchange is its ability to open up people's thinking. Traditional surveys guide people to the answers that you want. An Exchange allows you to expand the thinking in the room, as opposed to limiting it. It makes you a better leader, builds better trust, and helps your community grow—whatever your community is.”

Kevin Case, Superintendent, Douglas SD 51-1

Education leaders want to equitably serve all learners, but overcoming language barriers, biases, and political divisions can be overwhelming. Our anti-bias platform offers simultaneous translation in 133+ languages, so everyone can easily weigh in on the decisions that affect them. Plus, with our Differences tool, you can identify areas of common ground across polarized groups.

“My job has two sides to it—I'm leading a community, but I'm also serving a community. In order to serve, I need to know what they value, and what direction they would like our schools to go in. I feel like I can hit the mark of reflecting our community’s values much more accurately using ThoughtExchange.”

Dr. Marie Wiles, Superintendent, Guilderland CSD

Getting everyone on the same page with district projects and goals can take months of town halls, meetings, and surveys—but it doesn’t have to be that way. ThoughtExchange helps education leaders gather feedback and get alignment from tens, hundreds, or even thousands of people in just days. Our platform facilitates the kind of candid, collaborative community conversations that tell your district’s whole story.

“The ThoughtExchange tool is incredible. It allows me to leverage the possibilities and capabilities of this place not only from a financial and human resources standpoint. To leverage the power and innovation of people and their ideas is incredible.”

Dr. Rui Dionisio, Superintendent, Ramapo Indian Hills

ThoughtExchange helps education leaders integrate ChatGPT safely and effectively

Use ThoughtExchange to hear from the people who matter most as you figure out how to work with ChatGPT and other AI technologies in your district. Your community—parents, teachers, students, and staff—hold the key to successful integration and use.

Approach this integration with caution and care, taking into consideration your staff and students’ safety and security, teacher support, curriculum and instruction, student learning outcomes, professional development, community involvement, and ethical implications of using AI in education.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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Sarah Mathias
Sarah discovered her love of words when she penned her first journal in grade 4—she hasn’t stopped writing since. With a BA in Sociology and an MPC in International/Intercultural Communication, Sarah honed her corporate writing skills in the travel insurance and fashion industries before working with ThoughtExchange. She brings her collaborative spirit and commitment to antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion, along with her penchant for grammar jokes.

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