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Lincoln Learners Explore the Potential of AI in Education
Three high school students participated in a Panel Discussion about the impact of Artificial Intelligence in the classroom. A reflection of current learning methods, future jobs, and the role of creativity.
“We are exploring a topic through our lenses.” That is how Lincoln Superintendent, Dr. Nada Collins, started off the Panel Discussion about Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education; held last month at school. Besides international educators and members of our community, Emilia, Ian, and Mael, three of our high school students, took an active role in this powerful conversation about the future of learning.
What Is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
Robert Snyder, an employee at Microsoft and parent at Lincoln, shared his input about AI to kick off the discussion. During his video presentation, he explained what AI, such as Chat GPT, is:
This is what's called a large language model. They train the machine in human language. And then through mathematical equations, it does a probability response when you provide input, and then it continues to learn from you. It goes to this kind of algorithm of choosing what's the best response to provide when you give it input.
What Are Chat Gpt’s Flaws?
Chatting with AI may be like talking to a person, but there are limitations once you become an everyday user. During the discussion, Snyder shared how he once asked about a scenario in history and AI could not respond correctly. He then explained: “Sometimes you get AI on a trail of inaccurate responses. They call this AI hallucination. Because it's not like you're talking to someone who has experienced these things and learned about them on their own.”
Emilia had a similar experience in her English class: one of the teachers asked Chat GPT to do the same assignment as our learners. During the Panel Discussion, she explained: “It was not at the same standards: it didn't use evidence, it didn't have clear points or a clear thesis.” Emilia then added: “At the moment it can not produce the same work students can. So this can encourage us to assess critical thinking more.”
Your children could have a conversation with a genius that never stops answering questions. -Robert Snyder
Does AI Facilitate Plagiarism?
This is not only a constant worry for educators but also one of the first things that popped up when Chat GPT gained more popularity. Plagiarism may be a concern, but to Emilia, this current situation might work as a moment for change: “Tools like Chat GPT and AI are exposing flaws in how we assess students. So rather than being a mechanism for plagiarism, it can be an opportunity for adjusting our education system.”
Like coders and developers, the key seems to be the role we give to AI. One possible one, according to Snyder, is AI as a thinking partner for extreme efficiency:
Sometimes I just need somebody really smart on a topic to think with me. AI is not an expert in carrying out abilities, but it can provide expert feedback and then you can decide if that's accurate or not, and challenge it. You can tell it to act as anything you want it to act as. You can say ‘Answer all the following questions as though you're the leading astrophysicist in the world.’ Your children could have a conversation with a genius that never stops answering questions.
It allows our creativity to shift to where perhaps we are not focusing today. -Juan Mora y Araujo
How Can AI Enhance Our Creativity?
For Emilia, it’s all about using a prompt generator and creating instructions to receive certain responses. “Making a prompt is a skill. It's something you improve at, and it's something that requires creativity.” Prompts can also work as tools to achieve more creativity. Juan Mora y Araujo, an alumn and parent at Lincoln, reflected on what triggers inspiration:
In any creative process, inputs are very important because you are not working in isolation. If I try to become better at my craft, and I get better at asking prompts, then I will get feedback and I will get better. The success of the information I receive depends entirely on how good the initial prompt is.
We may see, soon, promptology as another skill taught in school, but there’s also some downside of AI when it comes to creativity, as Ian explained during the Panel Discussion: “I have seen friends use AI to generate names for their artworks or essays just to have a quick fix before the task is due.” Matt Dolmont, a Technology and Innovation Coach at Lincoln, sees some limitations to AI’s capacity: “It has been trained on our creativity. An excellent point was made to me by a student from Grade 8. And it was that if we stop being creative, then the AI stops being creative because they can no longer innovate independently from us.”
Besides its pros and cons, what AI surely does is save time. “It allows our creativity to shift to where perhaps we are not focusing today. As it does things for us, then we will shift our attention to things that we are not doing. So, that way, creativity can expand.” Mora y Araujo added during the conversation.
What Are the Human Skills That We Need to Enhance?
While Dolmont mentions critical thinking and research skills as essential nowadays, Mora y Araujo thinks of discernment as something that resonates with the current situation. To him, it all starts with the amount of information we have on the tip of our fingers: “The shift is not about what we know, but how we know if that information is good quality information. How do we know if all of this is valuable?”
We will continue working with AI in the future. So not preparing students right now doesn't make sense.” - Emilia
What’s Imperative for Schools Now?
For Mael, adaptation is the only way for school systems to catch up with tools like Chat GPT: “AI writes in a very bland and generic way while each student has their specific mark in their writing; something that educators will have to recognize and act upon.” Whether the path is attention to personalized work or the use of AI in the classroom and infrastructure of the school, the need to talk and be informed about AI seems paramount. “Interacting with artificial intelligence makes you better at interacting with artificial intelligence. We will continue working with AI in the future. So not preparing students right now doesn't make sense.” Emilia considered during the discussion.
Martha Langille, an international educator and one of our panelists, shared two words that came up to her when talking about AI in education: transparency and purpose. “We have to be very clear on how we are expecting students, faculty, and staff to use AI. We also need to allow learners to be transparent about how they are using it. And purpose: what are we trying to use it for?”
It’s imperative to have an institution that exposes learners to the technologies that are going to change the world, as Snyder detailed during the event. For Mora y Araujo, the key always lies in the question: “What should we ask of them? If we are asking students to do something the AI can do for them, then we are just simply asking the wrong thing.”
How Will This Impact the Future of Our Work as Educators?
Ian sees no replacement for the presence of current teachers: “I think educators, in general, are not at risk. There is a certain level of human interaction that helps students be more engaged rather than learning from a computer, where you can slack off and it will be ever patient.” And while the magic of teaching eye-to-eye may still hold, there is some change that, for Emilia, is inevitable: “Is not an AI who is going to replace you, rather people who use AI.”
The Impact of AI in Creating a Digital Divide
What happens to learners who don't have access to these kinds of tools? Dolmont sees a possible “numbers game”:
I worry that a lot of highly intelligent, motivated, hardworking people that just never get to have the experience of students who go to schools that embrace AI will get sidelined because of that. A future where the people who have access to technology in school get jobs and the people who don't, don't is pretty bleak.