Several academic institutions have made moves to outright ban the artificial intelligence large language model ChatGPT from the space, but a South Australian regional high school principal is optimistic about its future in education.
- SA’s Education Department is calling for submissions for its purpose statement
- Concepts such as AI and applications such as ChatGPT has seen a mixed institutional response
- There are concerns AI will accelerate the educational divide between those who have it and those that don’t
Loxton High School supports roughly 500 students in South Australia’s Riverland, nearly three hour’s drive from Adelaide.
The school’s principal, Amy Evans, has welcomed the SA Department for Education’s call for public submissions and responses to a survey to inform its new purpose statement — a document that will be used to inform future policy including standards for education moving into the future.
One of the questions the department wants respondents to consider is: What skills and capabilities should public education encourage so students can thrive in the world after they complete school?
“This has been something education has been moving towards for some time, but hearing it phrased by the education department has given a public face to it,” Ms Evans said.
“We want to support young people to develop in a rapidly changing world and we’ve been in this space for a little while with the question of ‘what is a school supposed to do?'”
Ms Evans said her focus has turned towards amplifying fundamental human qualities which artificial intelligence can not reproduce.
“We’re setting up subjects, schools, and the curriculum at the moment so young people are directed towards solving real-world problems,” she said.
“Their creativity, and their ideas, need to be at a much higher level than what we’re currently seeing out of AI, so that those ideas will be valued in the future.”
Those real-world, localised problems include redeveloping a public space and meetings with the council.
“These aren’t issues that can be solved through computation. They require consultation, working on what people want and need,” Ms Evans said.
Opportunity and risk
Professor at the Centre for Change, Complexity and Learning, George Siemens, thinks AI will drastically alter how we interact and respond to information.
“I think schools or universities need to revisit how they teach and how they approach structures of systems,” he said.
“We need to increase our capabilities as parents, as teachers, business owners, and students to be able to have sophisticated conversations about AI, what it means, and understand how it influences us.”
Professor Siemens warns there are dangers inherent with any new technology, but it provides opportunities to students as well.
“Maybe someone needs a bit of guidance and tutoring around writing or self-testing. These are concepts ChatGPT could help with and even remediate,” he said.
“These large language models now have access to fairly impressive, flawless grammar and writing, and you could say this would act to equalise the difference between academic backgrounds.”
But Professor Seimens noted that, in practice, there are a number of problems to be aware of, and it could accelerate a divide.
“While it is a tool which could even-out the cognitive landscape, the reality is there will be a cost associated eventually,” he said.
“Many of them [AI tool developers] have a free version at the moment but eventually they will want to be making money on it.
“So while theoretically it might even it out, I think it may well accelerate inequality in the same way that any new technology can do.”