Skittles can serve as a powerful symbol in the context of “Pride and Prejudice,” representing the diversity and excitement of love, as well as its fleeting nature. By using Skittles as a metaphor, Jane Austen may have intended to illustrate the complexities of love and the importance of overcoming one’s pride and prejudice in order to experience it fully.*
The above potential thesis for an English essay is fairly well-written. It’s also obviously complete nonsense! And it was written by ChatGPT, the new artificial intelligence (AI) chat program released to the public by OpenAI in November 2022.
The ChatGPT bot feels like a new level of AI sophistication. It specializes in generating human-like written text, and it is greatly superior to any “chatbot” that came before. Educators are greatly worried about how this new free tool may impact education.
In our Eastern Christian School technology classes, we learn the skills needed to create and use the latest technology, but we also think through how technology will affect our lives and world. Technology isn’t really a “value neutral” tool. Artificial intelligence and other new tech will have many consequences, some intentional but many unintentional. Our goal is to train Christian future leaders to use the technology intentionally to transform the world for Christ. Christ’s transforming agents should be on the forefront of technological changes, making sure we are Christ’s redeemers and ensuring technology is not a modern day tower of Babel being built for human desires of greatness.
Before discussing the implications of artificial intelligence on education, though, as the technology teacher I feel like I should explain it a little more! Maybe you’ve heard about this ChatGPT but don’t really understand what it is. It helps to learn what the “GPT” stands for.
- The “G” is Generative. This means that the text is being created on the fly — it is not pre-written. It writes by computing what the next logical word would be based on what it has already written.
- The “P” is Pre-trained. The bot was fed over 500 gigabytes of text, all from before the end of 2021.
- The “T” is Transformer, which is a technical model of artificial intelligence. (It’s not as easily understood as the first two letters are, but it is what makes this particular AI very powerful!)
These letters give us some important information about how ChatGPT works. When you use Google to search information, it searches for current information that was written by others. ChatGPT is the opposite: it creates its own text, but it does so from a fixed database that uses old information. Its writing ability allows it to appear to be very intelligent and confident, but it can easily get basic information wrong.
Many people in the educational field are alarmed at this new tool, especially as we’ve seen students begin to hand in work that was written by AI. The Chatbot can write grammatically correct sentences and produce entire essays in a similar form to what teachers may often require in high school or even college. Will students have the patience to learn writing if a computer can do it for them? If students do use this tool, will they have the critical thinking necessary to question a confidently-written but factually wrong answer?
At EC, the faculty is experimenting with AI tools and considering how best to use them in the classroom. There are definitely 2 immediate ramifications for the high school:
- School-issued Chromebooks have blocked access to websites where AI can write realistic text.
- Our Academic Integrity Policy is being updated to disallow the use of AI-assisted writing being handed in as a student’s own work.
But AI certainly has some legitimate uses for learning, and you and your student may be interested in exploring those uses. ChatGPT works great as a personal tutor, allowing you to ask it to explain concepts and words. You can even ask the AI to write these explanations at a certain reading level, or to give examples. The AI is also a decent place to begin brainstorming by asking it to generate lists of ideas about any given topic.
The popularity and demand for ChatGPT in just a few months of existence proves that AI is a technology that will change our everyday lives, at work, play and school. It is not going away. We know it is another technological tool that our students will need to learn. Finally, we know with full confidence, and will continue to teach our students, that God is in control. He is not surprised about artificial intelligence — he gave us the tools to create it! Now we need to learn it and find out how to use it to best serve Him and His kingdom!
*this writing by ChatGPT is no longer possible after recent updates this winter. It is now better at detecting factually incorrect prompts such as the one used here: “write an essay about the symbolism of Skittles in the novel Pride and Prejudice.” Artificial intelligence apps will continue to improve their abilities to write accurate and nuanced human-like writing.
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