I am enrolled in my second semester internship requirement for New York State School Building Leader Certification. Last week, I had the following assignment:
Prompt: In this week’s discussion post, please select one quote, then make one comment on how you believe this technology may impact education. Please respond to at least one of your classmates posts. Do not create a new thread, simply respond to my post and to classmate’s posts.
I invite you to read my response below:
ChatGPT, the one and only AI platform, was a topic for discussion for the ELA department during the fall months of the 2022-2023. The New York Times was the first mainstream publication I came across with the stark reporting of its omnipresence. Then came the subsequent perspective of a high school English teacher in an op-ed piece for The Atlantic. Both articles generated a similar thematic response from their respective targeted audience: it’s the end of the world, there goes humanity, teachers are insignificant, blah-blah-blah. There was no avoiding it, the preverbal alarms were blaring, as if preparing for a nuclear catastrophe, and you cannot ignore those warning sounds.
ChatGPT was a topic of conversation within my PLN of educators. I had a conversation with one school leader, not affiliated with HCSD, who held the perspective that there was a need for educators to be concerned. I listened. Then the conversation switched to an unforeseen thread altogether, and the question was raised, “Do students need to learn how to write? Why do students need to learn how to write? If there are computers that can do it for them, do they need it? Now what?” Clearly, ChatGPT and the doomsday dystopian scenarios attached to the AI platform had people reeling, and they are still reeling.
So, I keep reading articles, forums, tweets, and listening to fellow educators and non-educators alike, with an empathic lens. Yet, the more I read, and the more I listen, the more convinced I am there is something worth discussing, and ChatGPT is the catalyst to make the conversation happen.
I’ve been in education for 18 years. ChatGPT is no different than the tutor, the Google search of something a student might deem unrecognizable by their content area teacher ::highlight, click-copy-paste:::, the older sibling/neighbor/cousin who was assigned the same exact essay 5 years prior, etc. Wait, but we cannot have an opinion piece without acknowledging the AI tool afforded to teachers! The a-ha!, we gotcha AI platform to determine a submissions level of authenticity, like turnitin.com. Full disclosure, I use turnitin.com, but I didn’t get into teaching to complete a crime scene investigation on work submitted, and turnitin.com is so much more than a plagiarism “checker.” Wait, does that mean ChatGPT is more than AI doing the work for America’s students?
I continuously create authentic opportunities for student learning from the lessons to assessments. Nothing comes from a handout, or a book, or Teachers Pay Teachers. Assessments, yes formative and summative, are not the same from year-to-year, not the same from class period to class period, not the same within the class period. I am always fine tuning lessons, assessments, differentiating and giving autonomy to the students (it is their learning after all).
I am reflective, constantly wondering if I am being culturally responsive to the ever changing needs of my students, and ask for their feedback. I value my students. I make sure to value each and every student, and every written and spoken word/creation with their name attached to it. I want students to know they are valued, not just by any person, they are valued by me. I value their thoughts and ideas and their role in the learning process– students feel seen, valued, heard, and that trifecta is an integral part of the ChatGPT conversation.
Today ChatGPT, tomorrow robots. No, I don’t believe robots are going take over the world, or America’s classrooms. Do I think there is a concern for the well-being of humanity? Maybe, but my concern for the well-being of humanity is not because of this AI platform. Humanity’s well-being can really teeter if today’s students, become the adults of tomorrow, the ones who will one day be responsible for humanity’s survival, lack confidence, believe their words and the words of others don’t matter, believe their thoughts and the thoughts of others aren’t good enough, believe they aren’t good enough, believe there’s no need to write or communicate, embrace apathy because… why bother with any other mindset?
To protect humanity, we don’t need to destroy or bastardize innovation. We must illuminate the illusive apathetic mindset hiding behind the letters, C-H-A-T-G-P-T. To do so, we need to first ask some questions that may or may not start with the word, Why. Why was the ChatGPT platform generated in the first place (think about Stone’s concepts of welfare and security)? Why would a student opt to submit anything other than a product representative of their authentic voice? Why would a student resort to a sterile computer response, a response that could hold serious inaccuracies intertwined with “big SAT words,” rather than their own? Why does the student value the “thoughts” of AI over their own thoughts? Why would a student think their teacher would prefer the submission of AI generated “work,” over age and skill appropriate submissions reflective of who they are as a person and learner?
ChatGPT is here because students received messages; messages of who are of value, why they are of value, and how to be considered valuable. But who would send a message like that? Schools, towns, stakeholders (educators, school building and district leaders, parents, state and national figures), external curriculums like AP and IB, state standards, national standards, SAT, ACT, societal norms and expectations, all send messages. Why are these messages being sent to students and how if at all does the intended message differ from the message students receive? What role do parents and/or guardians play in disseminating messages that when interpreted have students turn to AI platforms like Chat GPT, rather than their own thoughts and ideas? How does a prescribed curriculum like IB, which places value on students’ social emotional competency skill development equivalent to knowledge, yet quantify their effort to document whether a student met a benchmark of a predetermined criteria of excellence?
Good educators will keep asking good questions, and by good questions, I mean challenging questions like those I stated above. Good educators will keep creating a good curriculum, and a good curriculum is differentiated, student centered, authentic, inquiry based, rooted in student choice, values the student…. Technology is good and good educators will keep incorporating purposeful tech use into the classroom.
See, technology and innovation is not the enemy here. Even Elon Musk, the creator of ChatGPT is not the antagonist of this dystopian novel. We cannot run away from technological advancements– just think if we took a defensive stance against the printing press, or “the calculator, which was decried as the death of math” (Rosenblatt, 2023)! We cannot get caught up in trying to catch or prevent the use of technological advancements and innovation. Instead, embrace it! Incorporate it! We must be on the offensive. It is now time to reflect on our responsibility, as educators and emerging school leaders, to reflect upon the individual and collective messages we send, the messages students receive, recognize and own our (and there are a lot of people, places, and things falling under the word our) contribution to the inception of this new need, and strategically dismantle any bit of apathy establishing roots in the hearts and minds of the 21st century k-12 learner.