Mind Readings: How Should Educators Think About Generative AI?

In this episode, I discuss how educators should approach the use of generative AI in the classroom. While some schools are banning its use, these tools are not going away and are being adopted by businesses for their ability to create content better, faster, and cheaper. The role of education should shift from being a gatekeeper of information to teaching critical thinking skills, such as how to evaluate information and identify misinformation. Generative AI should be used to demonstrate its capabilities, take care of tasks that are not worth doing, and as a foil for exploring student knowledge. Education should focus on developing creativity, the ability to derive insights from data, and critical thinking skills that are highly valued in today’s world. So, educators should ask themselves whether banning an AI tool that speeds up the manufacturing process detracts from education, and if it does, they are not teaching the right things.

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Mind Readings: How Should Educators Think About Generative AI?

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Christopher Penn 0:00

In today’s episode, let’s talk about how educators should be thinking about generative AI.

I got an email from my son’s school saying, we have forbidden the use of gender to AI tools like ChatGPT.

And our anti plagiarism systems will be rigorously looking for uses of generative AI and will, and so on and so forth.

They went on for a bit.

And I’m like, no, they don’t.

I happen to know a decent number, the plagiarism tools, and they are really bad at detecting a, they’re not great at detecting plagiarism and B, they have very little chance of detecting well constructed generated text.

Now, if you just write a one sentence prompt, and you copy and paste from that into a text document, yeah.

But you also don’t need software to detect that that was written by ChatGPT.

Because that always sounds the same out of the box without a lot of tweaking.

So no good try educators.

Here’s the thing that educators need to be thinking about, these tools are not going away.

These This is not a fad, this is not something like a certain cryptocurrency or whatever, these tools are not going away.

And the reason they’re not going away is because they enable better, faster, cheaper, right? You can create content that is better than what some people are capable of faster by a large margin and cheaper.

Anything that creates better, faster, cheaper, is not going away in the world.

That’s just the way the world works, right? Because everybody wants better, faster, cheaper.

Businesses are adopting these tools like crazy, as fast as they can.

Because again, better faster, cheaper.

So education and educators need to have a real hard think about the things that occur within the classroom, the activities that we do the exercises, what we teach students, how we teach students how what learning looks like.

And say what is the value that we provide? A lot of education is still stuck in an in a 20th century mindset that education is the gatekeeper, right? These are the gatekeepers of knowledge and will impart knowledge upon the students.

That hasn’t been the case for a while, but as definitely has not been the case since 2007.

Because these devices, which are in every student’s hands, are the gateways to information now, education, and the classroom is not where you get information.

So telling students Oh, you can’t use this tool that exists that literally the whole planets using and the businesses are desperate to find talent for paying $330,000 a year to find.

We’re not gonna allow that.

And in schools, it’s like those schools that tried to ban the internet.

Yeah, that worked out really well, didn’t it? So what is the role of generative AI? How should educators be thinking about it? Let’s take the 10 standard term paper, right? Take a term paper.

What does writing a term paper teach you? What is it? What is it good for? Synthesizing data, synthesizing information coming up with a perspective? Perhaps.

But ChatGPT, you can write a term paper probably better than you can on any given topic? So what are you really learning? The mindset that education needs to adopt and rapidly is not being a gatekeeper of information.

But teaching the skills of how to critically evaluate information, how to look at information go, that’s wrong, or that requires more research, or that has some nuance to it.

That is not explained clearly here.

And equipping equipping students with those capabilities, and maybe a term papers that tool but probably not if a machine can do it.

What can’t a machine do? What can a machine realistically not do in a classroom setting? Think about things like debate, rhetoric, argument, think about building points of view that are opinion based on data.

Right? Is climate change real? All there’s evidence that there is how would you build a case for or against it? What kind of critical thinking would you adopt? And can you point out the logical flaws in any given positions argument? The the danger that tools like ChatGPT pose are not cheating on on exams and stuff because, again, let’s be honest exams that current format are not really all that effective.

The danger that they pose to the greater society is they speak very authoritative ly even when they are authoritatively wrong, large language models right in such a way that comes across as very authoritative.

And if you don’t think critically, if you can’t think critically, you read the app and go, Oh, that sounds good.

I believe that even if it’s totally wrong, totally wrong.

It is that subject matter expertise and the ability to think critically and look at a piece of information and evaluate, go, is that right? How would I know if that wasn’t right? What would I need to do to prove or disprove that? Those are the skills that 21st century Denmark or Sweden or Tuvalu or Malaysia or America neat? Because we have a lot of people and a lot of outright hostile governments around the world using these tools to create misinformation and disinformation.

How do you teach people to think critically? How do you teach people to look at a post on social media going, you know, a, I think that was written by a machine and be I’m pretty sure that’s wrong.

I’m pretty sure that’s that’s propaganda, not fact.

That’s what education should be teaching.

That’s how educators should be thinking about generative tools.

I had a conversation with Dr.

Nicole Rossi at Framingham State University not too long ago, who was explaining that in the senior level psychology class, they use ChatGPT.

Right in the classroom, they will have it write about a specific topic like you know, abnormal psychology and have it put together a document and then the students role is to critique it, to say, this is what it got wrong.

This is the nuance that wasn’t in there.

This is what the machine didn’t know or the prompt wasn’t good enough to, to explain.

That’s how you use these tools.

Right? Use these tools to demonstrate their capabilities.

You use these tools to take care of tasks that frankly, are not worth doing, like writing term papers.

And most importantly, you use these tools as foils for helping explore students knowledge, you write, you haven’t write a position piece on the importance of recycling.

And then you have students go research that figure, did it write something that was correct, or did write something was factually wrong.

And that process of proving or disproving is the essence of critical thinking.

Think about every political or social issue.

That is a hot button issue.

How many people who are partisans of that issue, have ever thought critically about the opposing point of view? Not many.

How many people could be taught to think that way? If they want to do everyone? How many times have you looked at an issue that you’re passionate about and say, Well, if I was, if I was have the opposing point of view, what proof would I have that that point of view is valid? Sometimes there isn’t.

Right? Someone, someone believing that the world is flat? It’s not.

And there really isn’t any good way to disprove that point of view can look at how people present that argument.

But it’s, you can disprove it with your own homemade weather balloon, a piece of garlic bread and a GoPro, which somebody did something to attach some garlic bread to a GoPro and send it up into space.

It came back down they they tasted the garlic, right, it was pretty frozen.

But the footage very clearly showed that the planet was a big sphere like object, right? Because it went so high up that you could say easily see a good chunk of the planet.

That’s the role of generative AI, not to ban it school from educational institutions.

Because that’s like banning search engines, like bending word processes banning calculators.

The reality is these tools can be sticking around.

And students need to know how to use them sooner, the better teaching students how to use them properly teaching students how to write prompts teaching students to QA the output.

That’s the value and in doing so, you will resurrect a lot of those critical thinking skills that our current education system, particularly in the USA, where I’m based, is lacking.

The USA education system today is a manufacturing system.

It manufactures workers, right? It was built by Carnegie and Mellon and Rockefeller in the 1930s and the 1920s in America to make factory workers.

Think about it.

What are grades of school, the batches of the students? What is standardized testing?

It’s QA testing to make sure that though, the batches of robots that you’re turning out aren’t defective.

That’s what education is.

That’s not what the world needs right now.

Because we have actual robots for that.

Now.

That’s not where A value is created value is created now in today’s world with creativity, for being able to create something that a machine is not created, to be able to look at an enormous amount of data and derive real insights from it, to critically think and find weaknesses and a competitor strategy, all the skills that the world really values are not taught in schools, not in a manufacturing based education system.

So for educators, look at what you’re doing.

Look at the skills that are needed in today’s world.

And ask yourself does betting an AI tool that speeds up the manufacturing process really detract from education? It shouldn’t, and if it does, you’re not teaching the right things.

That’s all for this episode.

Talk to you next time.

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