ChatGPT in Education: Friend or Foe?

Students can cheat and ignore critical thinking, or they could have an always-on tutor and be freely curious without judgment. Which side will ChatGPT fall on when it comes to education?

ChatGPT in Education: Friend or Foe?
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The newest plague — or partner — of educational systems is ChatGPT. News outlets are scrambling to gather teachers’ opinions on whether this phenomenon should be embraced or discarded because of how much it could change the educational landscape. How are students leveraging this tool for their studies? How are teachers supposed to react to ChatGPT in education?


How Is ChatGPT a Friend?


Part of the beauty is most people can learn how to use ChatGPT with simple experimentation or a YouTube tutorial, unless someone’s looking for more in-depth ways to bank on its resources. That’s its first boon, but several others could make it a valuable educational tool.


There’s More Inclusivity


Nontraditional learners could get more out of tools like ChatGPT than mainstream methods. It could be an audio-visual assistant where students can freely ask as many clarifying questions as necessary without judgment. Teachers juggling countless individualized education plans could also take advantage of ChatGPT by asking how to curate lesson plans for students with disabilities or other learning requirements.


Students Prepare for Workforces


Almost every sector embraces some form of AI and many students will grow up to work alongside AI coworkers or assets. Because the transition is inevitable, schools must embrace AI to prepare children for the real world adequately. It will empower students heading into the workforce if they know how to use chatbots responsibly. Plus, learners going into tech-reliant industries need these skills if they’re going to qualify for work.


Learners Get a Free Tutor


ChatGPT in education could look like students asking to provide examples of covalent bonds or metaphors in literature. It could simplify complex concepts, giving step-by-step instructions when a classroom may not have the attention or time to devote to reiterating every idea in minute detail.

Students can leverage ChatGPT as a tutor or homework supplement, especially if they need to catch up. ChatGPT’s ability to make curated responses is unparalleled, so if a student needs a scientific explanation for a sixth-grade reading level, ChatGPT can adapt.


How Is ChatGPT a Foe?


These benefits do come with combatting drawbacks. Teachers aren’t crying out to ban ChatGPT without cause. These are some of the most pervasive.


Students Are Cheating


ChatGPT could write essays or code with relative accuracy, whether for single assignments or entire classes. It could encourage lazy or uninterested students to coast through courses without effort, much like how foreign language learners exploited Google Translate when it first came out.


Data Privacy Is Up in the Air


This AI is making cybersecurity analysts curious. ChatGPT security isn’t the toughest, but students and teachers input countless data daily into its database. Are educational systems liable if threat actors compromise that information? Is it the educators’ responsibility to teach their subjects and cybersecurity hygiene on top of it, especially if they encourage using AI in the classroom? Cloud-based and public systems like this could have improved cybersecurity and compliance, but how sure can teachers be?


Critical Thinking Is in Jeopardy


Students could use ChatGPT to unleash their creative potential, but it’s just as likely to harm critical thinking abilities in the long run. Why would students need to exercise problem-solving skills if they can ask ChatGPT to decide for them? A want for instant gratification may take over the genuine curiosity to learn that was necessary for students who had to expend more effort to come up with the solutions they needed.


What About Teachers?


ChatGPT in education impacts teachers much differently than students, but they will have just as many — if not more — opportunities and negatives to the experience. Some may argue teachers are responsible for incorporating AI in the classroom to modernize lesson plans and make education relevant to modern job expectations.

Adversely, teachers will spend a lot more time in quality control when grading assignments — even though they could use it to save hours from manual grading. The time-saving possibilities are as creative as the teacher. Lesson plans become more engaging and diverse with a few questions posed to ChatGPT.

Ultimately, banning or allowing ChatGPT in the classroom will set a precedent for teacher-student relationships with technology. Teachers calling for outright bans insinuate they can’t trust children to use ChatGPT for genuine educational purposes. Is it healthy for teachers to distrust students this way? Alternatively, is it beneficial for teachers to constantly question if students abuse their trust? Both sides pose a puzzling ethical question educators don’t have an answer to yet.


What Side Is ChatGPT On?


Determining whether or not ChatGPT in education is a friend or foe will fall onto how teachers instruct with it and set precedents for AI etiquette. Regardless, it’s indisputable that AI will eventually integrate into education.

Is it best to delay that shift or start working on managing student-AI relationships now? Depending on a student’s priorities and character, it has equal potential to be destructive or advantageous. The world will have to see which side of the scale ChatGPT falls toward in time.

Shannon Flynn (@rehackmagazine) is a technology blogger who writes about IT trends, cybersecurity, and business tech news. She's also a staff writer at MakeUseOf and is the Managing Editor at Follow KDnuggets to read more from Shannon and other data science updates. See Shannon's personal website for more info.