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The Debate Over GenAI and the Future of Education

On the one hand, GenAI can be a way to make information on the internet more digestible and accessible. On the other hand, there is the risk that widely used platforms like ChatGPT will promote biases and inequities either through distorted data used to train them or lack of access to these tools. Policymakers and educators are trying to understand the impact of GenAI and set guidelines, while investors and entrepreneurs are trying to seize this emerging opportunity. 

Let’s look at some of the emerging uses of GenAI in education and the issues being raised.  

How Students are Using AI in School

GenAI offers a variety of ways to alter assignments. These range from simply correcting grammar and spelling mistakes to providing ideas and even producing the entire assignment. Beyond written assignments, students can also ask systems like ChatGPT to summarize readings or help with mathematical equations. 

With these new tools at their disposal, important questions to continue research on that the UK Department of Education has been asking include whether students are missing out on building or strengthening skills like strategic reading. Or is AI eliminating the need for some of these competencies altogether? The answer likely lies somewhere in the middle. Either way, the inevitable rise of AI necessitates dexterity in its use, especially in the academic sphere. 

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Education’s Role in Ensuring Safe Usage of GenAI

Because GenAI is here to stay, students should learn how to safely use it on a systemic and national scale in schools. So, how can education systems leverage the strengths of AI to train people to properly use this technology instead of completely pushing against it? 

At the classroom level, teachers should be embracing this new digital wave to ensure safe usage from their students. According to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, one step to practice this safe learning is teaching the class how to ask questions to get more accurate information – much like learning to write smarter prompts for search engines like Google that will provide websites that better correspond to what we are actually looking for. 

Another, more structural change, is one to the curriculum and what kind of questions the teacher asks in an assignment. These might include questions that require a level of creative thinking that maybe is not (yet) available through ChatGPT, or questions that explicitly involve the use of GenAI. To ensure that teachers are providing safe and accurate techniques to students, it could be helpful (even essential) to create programs that keep teachers up-to-date on new ways to infuse teaching GenAI skills and safety into their curriculum. 

On a broader scale, UNESCO has called for national GenAI regulation in education to promote smarter usages of the technology. An important element in this Guidance report is the need to monitor and evaluate GenAI systems in the academic and educational world while centering justice and pedagogical outcomes. 

It also stressed the urgency of creating appropriate curricula that teaches “the impact of AI on our lives, including the ethical issues it raises” and “age-appropriate understanding of algorithms and data, and skills.” 

This time of building foundational government regulation also leaves room for partnership opportunities with EdTech organizations and startups that are committed to learning and building justice-oriented paths in GenAI and education. 

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

The Importance of Pairing Education with AI

Given the rapid increase in GenAI users, people need to be teaching the next generations how to use these systems in a smart and safe way. Where better to build foundational technological skills than in schools? Not only would students learn about AI in the context of schoolwork and assignments, but the classroom would also provide a comfortable space to teach general knowledge and skills about these complex technologies that are changing and becoming increasingly important every day. 

Of course, this leaves out a number of people who are not currently in school. But other national programs and courses could be provided with the right curricula, resources, and regulation. 

Although facing the power of GenAI might seem daunting, it seems essential to remain optimistic about how AI can ultimately help us solve bigger problems, but only with the right regulation and education.

Tech Events on Education and AI:

  • GenAI Summit San Francisco 2024“Convergence of the brightest minds in Generative AI, encapsulating the spirit of the future”
  • SXSW EDU 2024“Brings together the brightest minds in education to tackle complex issues and drive impact to create a new tomorrow for learners everywhere.”
  • The AI Summit London 2024“Designed to showcase the latest advancements in artificial intelligence and its real-world applications, attracting a blend of technologists and business professionals.”
  • World Summit AI 2024“A global summit in Amsterdam uniting the AI ecosystem to address crucial industry issues and trends.”

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Cover photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

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