- Lutheran Education Association
- SECnet: Artificial Intelligence (AI): Its Growing Connection to Education
SECnet: Artificial Intelligence (AI): Its Growing Connection to Education
Artificial Intelligence (AI):
Its Growing Connection to Education
By David Black
Through the years, I have crafted hundreds of articles, book chapters, and blog posts. I am accustomed to writing on a variety of education, faith, and technology issues. But when LEA asked me to write about artificial intelligence (AI) services and their impact on secondary education, I identified a challenge like few I have faced. How does one effectively create an article that does not become obsolete prior to its publication? (See ChatGPT, Change in Education and Ministry, and the Unchanging—LEAven Blog.) Given the accelerated emergence of AI tools, it is impossible to guarantee that information and analysis provided in this composition will age well. What should my writing approach be?
As I considered this challenge, it seemed important to define artificial intelligence and briefly describe its growing connection to education. In essence, AI is the process of using computers to complete tasks that traditionally require human intelligence. This means that programmers must program in such a way that computers identify patterns and make decisions in a human-like manner. Programmers must program in such a way that computers identify patterns and make decisions in a human-like manner. Because of the incredible capabilities of the human brain endowed by our Creator, this is an extremely difficult technological challenge.Because of the incredible capabilities of the human brain endowed by our Creator, this is an extremely difficult technological challenge. However, events of recent months have publicized both the promise and peril of artificial intelligence in education and other areas of life.
The current focus on AI commenced in November of 2022, when a company named OpenAI released a service known as ChatGPT 3 to the general public in a test format. ChatGPT is essentially a language processing tool that simulates human responses to a wide variety of queries. While this is the most familiar AI tool at this time, developers have already created many other language and artistic AI applications. However, the greatest AI focus for educators thus far relates to ChatGPT’s emergence.
Because of the natural language processing of ChatGPT, many educators were immediately concerned about its use by students. Students quickly used ChatGPT to create essays and other homework for submission. Questions arose about the accuracy of generated information, especially since the scope of the information scraped from the Internet was only through 2021. Some educators raised concerns about bias and propaganda. Faculties revisited policies for plagiarism and, in some cases, quickly pivoted their writing and research assignments to ones that AI could not easily complete.
Yet there are also educators who are taking advantage of what ChatGPT has to offer. Teachers rapidly learned to create prompts for building lesson plans, crafting emails, researching effective classroom strategies, saving time in the process. It was possible to start basic historical research with prompts of a few words. While there were concerns about the use of AI, some educators embraced this emerging technology.
Then, at the time this article was submitted, OpenAI announced the release of a new version of ChatGPT, one that the company claims will be “more creative and collaborative than ever before” and “can solve difficult problems with greater accuracy,” analyzing text even more efficiently than the previous version. What this means for education and life at this point is entirely speculative.
As I ponder all these advances and how I should approach this article, I came to some preliminary conclusions—focus on guiding ideas that might help all of us think more deeply about the changes and challenges educators face with AI technologies. To that end, here are my initial thoughts about AI and education. The risk, of course, is that these thoughts will prove to be wildly inaccurate in a few months. Yet I believe that these ideas about the future of AI and education can serve to guide the conversations with your colleagues and students about AI. Here are these initial thoughts:
- Repeatedly returning to the objective truth of Holy Scripture is essential. In an age when truth is distorted in so many ways, recognizing and living by the objective truth of the Bible is imperative. As we might feel increasingly ungrounded with the dizzying pace of worldly change, our minds and souls crave solid foundation. We find these only in God’s saving message through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. We need this, our families need this, and our students need this. This era enhances the need for Christian education.
- Determining truth and analyzing sources takes on even greater importance with the development of AI tools. While most of us already think we provide these strategies, the emergence of AI demands that we significantly intensify our efforts in this area.Building tools and strategies for analyzing information must be accelerated across the grades. In addition, our own strategies need to be honed. Determining truth and analyzing sources take on even greater importance with the development of AI tools. While most of us already think we provide these strategies, the emergence of AI demands that we significantly intensify our efforts in this area.
- More intentionality is required to review the differences between knowledge and understanding. ChatGPT and other tools open the door to knowledge in new ways but do not necessarily lead to greater understanding on their own. Students might believe that because they know more, they understand more, but our job is to guide their knowledge so that it ultimately produces understanding and wisdom.
- One predication with which I am fairly comfortable is that online search will be revolutionized. Already Microsoft Bing is testing a new version of its search tool that incorporates ChatGPT. In addition, this service takes a step forward by providing sources for its output, the lack of which is a significant criticism of the current ChatGPT version. Learning to more proficiently search the Internet and helping our students do the same is a significant type of literacy necessary for success.
- There is a temptation to focus solely on the current forms of AI and their impact. Yet from what I see, emerging AI tools will be far more powerful and impactful than those we have right now. Focusing too much on the present without addressing the future will be counterproductive.
- Ongoing and repeated questions about the nature of writing, human creativity, plagiarism, and student preparation for their futures will raise ongoing faculty conversations. Conclusions will likely be dynamic rather than static, changing quickly as the larger implications of AI on education emerge over time. We must consider that the decisions or standards we make today might need to be adapted quickly.
- The most effective educators will embrace the uncertainty of living and teaching in this era. Continued learning, experimentation, flexibility, and conversations with other educators are essential in effectively navigating this emerging era.
- Does the thought of AI shake you or free you? Why?
- What are your school’s plans and policies for AI?
- What do you need to support those plans?
I probably could have written another 5,000 words on this topic, but the more I write, the less likely it is that the words will be relevant when this article is published. Instead, it is my hope that the seven guiding ideas listed above will help and guide you in your work as an educator of any type and encourage you to engage in the challenge of making sense of artificial intelligence, life, education, and faith. May God bless each of us as we seek to better serve Him during this exciting and challenging era.
Dave Black is the director of Lights Academy and teacher at Lutheran High School in Parker, Colorado, as well as an adjunct professor at Concordia University Wisconsin. He has written extensively and consulted on issues of faith, education, and technology on behalf of Lutheran schools.
Photo © iStock/Devrimb