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Banning ChatGPT in Schools Hurts Our Kids
As new technologies emerge, educators have an opportunity to help students think about the best practical and ethical uses of these tools, or hide their heads in the sand and hope it’ll be someone else’s problem.
It’s incredibly disappointing to see the Western Australian Department of Education forcing every state teacher to join the heads in the sand camp, banning ChatGPT in state schools.
Generative AI is here to stay. By the time they graduate, our kids will be in jobs where these will be important creative and productive tools in the workplace and in creative spaces.
Education should be arming our kids with the critical skills to use, evaluate and extend the uses and outputs of generative AI in an ethical way. Not be forced to try them out behind closed doors at home because our education system is paranoid that every student will somehow want to use these to cheat.
For many students, using these tools to cheat probably never occurred to them until they saw headlines about it in the wake of WA joining a number of other states in this reactionary ban.
Young people deserve to be part of the conversation about generative AI tools, and to help think about and design the best practical and ethical uses for the future.
Schools should be places where those conversations can flourish. Having access to the early versions of tomorrow’s tools today is vital to helping those conversations start.
Sure, getting around a school firewall takes one kid with a smartphone using it as a hotspot, or simply using a VPN. But they shouldn’t need to resort to that. Nor should students from more affluent backgrounds be more able to circumvent these bans than others.
Digital and technological literacies are part of the literacy every young person will need to flourish tomorrow. Education should be the bastion equipping young people for the world they’re going to be living in. Not trying to prevent them thinking about it at all.
[Image: “Learning with technology” generated by Lexica, 1 February 2023]
Update: Here’s an audio file of an AI speech synthesis tool by Eleven Labs reading this blog post:
Learning Futures: Day Two Insights
Insight #3: If ePortfolios and other forms of electronic presence are going to be (or are) a core part of the way graduates ‘sell’ themselves to employers, then identity management needs to be taught at all levels of education. Identity management includes those aspects of identity which we intend employers to see, and those we don’t want seen. If a basic search online for someone’s full name reveals drunken party pictures on Flickr or YouTube clips of bullying antics in their youth, then that is just as likely to be viewed by employers as the intended ePortfolios or other material. Identity management clearly is something of a challenge, especially as many educators aren’t fully aware of how much students can put online (or how to temper that), but the Internet never forgets and we need students to be able to understand that for all sorts of reasons, and future employability is clearly one of them.
Insight #4:The unconference model only works when all the participants have a strong sense of what they are intending to pull apart or critique in advance. If half of a conference is populated by people trying to get a basic understanding of something – in this case Web 2.0 – then the unconference model of primarily relying on informed participants leading all the conference sessions themselves, directed by their conversations and thinking, to the exclusion of traditional papers or presentations, is doomed to disappoint a lot of people attending that form of conference. (This, incidentally, is not a personal gripe, but a clearly articulated sense from a number of my fellow conference delegates).
Learning Futures: Day One Insights
I’m at the Learning Futures Symposium today and tomorrow. I’m not blogging summaries of sessions because, to be fair, that’s often quite dull. However, I thought I’d take the opportunity to take the conference discussions to springboard some observations or thoughts that occurred during these interactions…
Insight #1: There is a reasonable amount of critical distance in terms of the ‘digital natives/digital immigrants’ rhetoric, but the same critical perspective doesn’t stretch to critiquing the idea of ‘web 2.0’. Whereas ideas which supposedly encompass an entire generation are easy enough to pull apart, many educators seem wary of software and claims made about software as they acutely feel that this is one of the few areas in which students know more about this area than they do. I suspect that if the same educators were dipping their toes in a little more they’d realise something commonsensical which seems to have entirely escaped these kind of conversations: that while there are many types of web 2.0 software, there are generic skills to be found in using these tools and platforms. The reason that people can move from Friendster to MySpace to Facebook so easily, for example, is that at a basic level there is a lot of similarity between the way these platforms operate and the skills needed to use them. Sure, the rate of new names of software can be overwhelming, but if we remember that a large section of the skills learnt using one social software platform are viable for the next, super-duper, upcoming must-have web 2.0 tool are transferable, that makes taking the time to learn and teach them a whole lot more important and palatable. And social software platforms are just one example; skills in blogging, using wikis and many other forms of ‘web 2.0’ tools are similarly transferable and, at some level, generic. Perhaps we should be focusing more on what those skills are.
Insight #2: Often the people in the driving position for educational policy aren’t confident to make decisions about ICT – nor should they be!