ChatGPT became a global sensation and anyone who has tried it knows how effective and efficient it is in terms of solving basic-to-professional level problems. ChatGPT can produce texts that are several paragraphs long and are accurate, complete, and highly precise, as well as adapted to the user’s request.
ChatGPT’s sudden appearance shook the world’s educational systems once again. The query that remains is what consequences this new technology will have for teachers’ working practices and students’ knowledge acquisition.
As is the case whenever technologies related to knowledge and know-how appear, concerns about their use in schools quickly arose: from those who celebrated their potential to those who feared for survival, as well as those who observed these innovations almost indifferently.
On the one hand, optimists praise the tool because it will support teaching. On the other hand, skeptics see a clear difficulty regarding the possibility for students to easily complete their assignments by relaying their teachers’ questions. Lastly, people who are indifferent wonder if search engines (such as AltaVista, Yahoo, and Google, among others) have changed school work.
But there is more, much more. These are the questions that arise every time new technologies appear in education. First, it was the radio, then television, then the internet, and now it is artificial intelligence. Will school assignments still make sense? Will teachers have to become authenticity inspectors, trying to detect whether human or artificial intelligence carried out a task? Should they come up with a different way of defining instructions? These are legitimate queries that add to the long list of questions that technological innovations pose about schools at any given time. But, as usual, these concerns should be considered within a more general framework of reflection on the (past, present, and future) relationship between technologies and schools.
However, suppose school is a technology that, like many of its kind, is in turn nurtured by other technologies, far from ChatGPT being a rupture. In that case, it could be a new turning point in a long continuum of changes (although there are still those who believe that because there are buildings and classrooms, the school remains the same as it has been for centuries).
Its ability to answer questions, the visible face of ChatGPT, raises some red flags about teaching and/or school assignments and their validity. One of the most widespread fears these days is that students will use ChatGPT to complete school assignments and then copy and paste the answers without teachers being able to control this.
However, this is based on certain assumptions, such as that teaching is limited to teachers repeating content and students learning to replicate it. If this were the case, ChatGPT would be the best of teachers and, at the same time, the best of students.
On the other hand, like any resource, neither ChatGPT in particular nor artificial intelligence, in general, will magically solve the sector’s problems on their own. Just as they are not a threat, neither are they a solution. They are tools with the potential to be used in education. And, like any others, with their own scope and limitations.
Cathelin, who teaches French in secondary school, decided to integrate ChatGPT into her lessons in January. ChatGPT provides a first draft of a given assignment, which the students then have to enrich with their personal knowledge, in small groups.
She says ChatGPT also presents an opportunity to learn in a different way for children whose mother tongue is not French, or who have a disability.
For example, it can also produce a text with different language levels. It also has the advantage of generating recurrent syntactic structures. In fact, this is one of the distinguishing features that could help identify text generated by ChatGPT.
She says an “educational pact” discussed with her students on how to work with these tools allows her to use them in class in a constructive way and in a trusting environment.