Originally published in Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.
By: Thijs Pepping, trend analyst at the Research Institute for New Technology (VINT) of IT service provider Sogeti
Summarizing a book. Or writing a paper about new consumer behavior. These are examples of work that the student no longer has to plod on himself. With the arrival of the smart text generator ChatGPT last winter, everyone can receive a book summary, thesis or inspiring story from the computer in no time and with just a few clicks. Where mental arithmetic long ago gave way to the calculator, ChatGPT now does that to language. Teachers need not fear. They need to start treating this smart computer tool just like the calculator.
Teachers are panicking. That is understandable because there is a fear that knowledge and language skills will deteriorate if students leave their homework to ChatGPT. The text generator can easily and quickly whip up ready-made sentences or produce complete papers. Learning while processing information via Google into a summary in your own words will be skipped. Teachers widely speak of plagiarism. They even call for a ban on ChatGPT or for a paywall to be used for the use of the text generator.
The big question is whether there will be a ChatGPT ban. Even then, there is work to be done for teachers. After all, the use of artificial intelligence is ubiquitous and will develop faster and further in the coming years. This smart computer tool exists and further development is really unstoppable. Who knows, maybe there should be a watermark or a paywall. Left or right, it is now mainly about how teachers and students learn to relate to ChatGPT. This calls for a revised view of media literacy, reading comprehension and giving and checking homework.
Where the calculator is reliable, that cannot yet be proven for ChatGPT. The current quality is very variable. That does not alter the fact that ChatGPT is already a good tool. Therefore, schools should treat ChatGPT just like handling the calculator. Allow the smart tool for one exercise and not for another. Teachers should also clarify both the strengths and pitfalls of ChatGPT. What’s the point of memorizing the 9 times table if the calculator can do it too? And why should a student write a paper on hamsters when ChatGPT can do it just as easily?
It is important that students understand how a calculator arrives at an answer. The same goes for language. So also for ChatGPT. A student must understand how a text is structured, be able to analyze arguments, and be able to come up with interesting text angles. In this way, time for basic descriptions can be exchanged for more attention to new insights.
These new insights are desperately needed for our society, which is becoming increasingly complex. So if ChatGPT can be used in such a way that it leads to better education because students leave mindless stuff to the computer and can develop further towards new stories and insights, that is better for everything and everyone. The calculator has brought us a lot. Let it be the same with ChatGPT.