Can you plan a trip to Iceland for me? Can you plan a vegetarian meal for a dinner party at my house tonight? How can I productively engage my six-year-old who likes art and craft. Can you explain to me Einstein’s theory of relativity?
In the real world, no one person can answer such a diverse set of questions? But in the cyberworld, there is a new entity which can. It goes by the unusual name of Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer or ChatGPT with its unique ability to generate human like responses in record time.
This new entity, unveiled in November last year, can find objective, well-crafted and quick answers to these questions. And any other you might choose to put to it. Especially to any assignment given to you by your school or college teacher. Raising serious questions of what this entity will mean for the education sector as a whole, and to the quality of learning by students.
“It is a first such tool that people have had a chance to look at,” says a respected academician in the education sector.
What does CHATGPT do?
Unlike the conventional search engine, which essentially throws up an array of web links for the user to sift through and collate the information relevant to his query, ChatGPT generates a summarised file of information. One compact text form based on relevant data and information available on the Internet on a given topic.
This Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled ‘virtual companion’ is these days answering user questions ranging across diverse subjects. It has the ability to hold a meaningful dialogue with humans by providing scope for follow up questions and clarifications.
However it does, at times, ask to be excused. “ChatGPT is at capacity right now,” is the message it flashes on your computer screen. “Get notified when we are back.”
This was the recurring message on my screen each time I tried to gain access to ChatGPT via its developer’s website – OpenAI, a San Francisco-based startup which developed this “game-changing” technology.
In a continuation of the status update, the website said, in what appeared to be in a lighter vein, that the user needs to write two truths and a lie about its status, presenting three options – ChatGPT is experiencing high traffic at the moment, the developers were working hard to accommodate all users and lastly, that ChatGPT can predict the future with 100% accuracy.
I couldn’t engage with the sought-after chatbot at Microsoft’s search platform Bing, which has successfully integrated ChatGPT into its answer engine. “Everyday you search with Bing helps you climb the waitlist,” answered Bing, when I tried to use its chat feature.
I finally gave up my desire to fruitfully engage with this chat tool. But the long user waitlist to use this chatbot indicates its popularity among users across all age groups.
Especially students, young and old.
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This story focuses on ChatGPT’s potential impact on our education ecosystem. Children form the youngest target group of this technology and thus the most ‘vulnerable’ section too. Raising widespread apprehensions pertaining to its use in the education sector.
Let’s look at them one by one.:
It is feared that ChatGPT will make things too easy and lead to complacency and ignorance among school children
Crucial stakeholders in our country’s education sector believe that owing to ChatGPT’s incredible ability of producing ready-made answers, the efficacy of our education will be adversely impacted as everyone would look at harnessing this technology to find easy answers.
Neelu Singh, an independent economist and parent of a fourth grader aptly captures the common sentiment.
“Children may become its first victims,” worries Neelu. “It should be used for higher education in offices but if it happens in schools then children would not want to use their own brains or their own thinking skills…because there is something easily available so why would anyone want to put in any kind of an effort”.
Shubha Das (name changed), an academician with a leading school in Delhi echoes the above concern. “Technology is great power and with great power comes great responsibility,” says Shubha. “Today’s generation yearns for instant fame,” says Shubha. “They have short-lived goals. For example, scoring well in an upcoming periodic test, by any means, is a goal they harbour. They don’t look beyond it. They don’t attach value to learning”.
Shubha, while rooting for ChatGPT’s fair use, sums up her concern with the iconic adage popularised by Spiderman, With great power comes great responsibility. Shoba used the adage to suggest caution in using the tech chatbot.
However, not everyone thinks alike. Professor Bijendra Nath Jain, Honorary Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, thinks prevention or putting a bar on ChatGPT would not be the correct thing to do.
“It will show up in schools soon and children need to be taught as to how to use this fruitfully which, in turn, can take time,” sas Prof Jain. “There are issues that students will use it to answer questions that professors will ask. But ultimately, I think, one has to learn to live with it and figure out how to take maximum value out of it”.
But most parents I spoke to gave a thumbs down for its use in schools. The guiding thought behind it is that children are naïve and too young to responsibly use this technology.
ChatGPT’s responses lack credibility which will reflect in the form of a weak foundation for the future generation
It is widely argued that since the premise of ChatGPT’s search responses is the information available on the internet, it is susceptible of generating incorrect and unreliable information. Another pitfall is that it does not cite sources and thus heightens the risk of plagiarism.
Tarun Jain, Associate Professor at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad, agrees that information reliability is a challenge and suggests teaching media literacy along with AI literacy to students to off-set this weakness.
“This will help students develop a sense for when to use these tools, and when they yield useful answers,” says Tarun Jain. “For sensitive topics, students should learn how to corroborate the learning. Students should also be taught how to appropriately cite ChatGPT if they use it for their work”.
Sector experts find ‘merit’ in ChatGPT but recommend asking the right questions to be able to get the right answers. “The point is that one has to engage with the chat tool in a fashion that he uses the responses to craft whatever design or strategy he wants to use,” opines IIT’ Professor Jain of IIT.
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Besides, he thinks that education should be looked upon as an attempt to discover things, not so much as to collect, absorb and and recall information. “Are we well equipped to be able to ask the right question. If yes, then I think ChatGPT will be very helpful”.
- Chatbot does not give up-to-date information
This is a definite shortcoming of the new technology as admitted on OpenAI’s website too, that “ChatGPT has limited knowledge of the world and events after 2021 and may also occasionally produce harmful instructions or biased content”. So, one has to be mindful of this downside if it is used in the education system.
- It is capable of replacing humans and thus can trigger job losses in the education sector.
Experts believe that it is premature to arrive at that conclusion. But yes, “it will definitely crush the average minds,” according to Neelu Singh who thinks that the chatbot will eat into simple jobs which don’t require any specialised skill set or expertise.
One school of thought says the chatbot has its upside. For one, students might use it to access information more efficiently — something that would be a boon to students in remote areas where libraries are difficult to access, as suggested by Associate Professor Jain. According to him, ChatGPT can also be used to simplify complex ideas.
Amidst its susceptibility to making errors and occasional lack of credibility, he puts forth a noteworthy suggestion: “AI is only as good as the input data (what is called the “training set” or “language learning models or LLMs”).
A good way to improve ChatGPT’s value in education is to develop LLMs that are specific to school or college education, and largely contain verified, high quality lessons. It is also important that the LLM is in open domain so that anyone can verify the information contained therein.
To sum up, ChatGPT has set everyone in the the education sector talking about whether it will enhance or deplete the education ecosystem. Amidst several apprehensions, all experts however agree on one thing – that it has the potential of changing the way we do things.
And this is the right time to understand the chat tool well and how to use it fruitfully. “Over time, one will have to figure out how to make best use of this technology and not be overwhelmed by it, “suggests IIT Delhi’s Professor Jain.
To sum it up, ChatGPT has set everyone talking in the industry including the education sector. Now whether it enhances or depletes the education ecosystem remains to be seen. Amidst several apprehensions, all experts agree on one thing – that it has the potential of changing the way we do things. And this is the right time to understand the chat tool well and use it fruitfully.
“Over a period of time, one will have to figure out as to how to make best use of this technology and not be over-ridden or overwhelmed by it, “suggests IIT Delhi’s Professor Jain.