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AI in Education- Friend or Foe?

The development of AI is as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the Internet, and the mobile phone. It will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care and communicate with each other- Bill Gates. 

The development of super computers made it possible to perform trillions of calculations in nano seconds but their access and use is limited by their size and scale. It can work in huge research laboratories or universities and help in the advancement of space science, technology, basic sciences and mathematics. 

The advent of AI powered search engines such as Google, Yahoo or Bing made it easier for people to search for data or information at the click of a mouse. 

Super computers, search engine technology and use of AI powered social media were not seen as a threat to society as much as AI powered ChatGPT. Soon after the initial awe and euphoria over ChatGPT many countries started putting a ban on use of chatbots based on large language models. Some of the countries that banned ChatGPT for various reasons include Italy, China, Cuba, North Korea and Russia. China is developing its own chatbot Ernie and therefore banned ChatGPT.  

AI Ban in Education

USA and Australia have been the first to restrict or ban the use of ChatGPT in Schools prohibiting its use on school servers or even in aid of activities outside of school grounds. Authorities fear that students may use AI-powered chatbots to submit assignments or projects in their names. 

Plagiarism software may not be able to crack down or detect AI-powered content as easily as Google search powered information.

University Research

Even as educational institutions are worried over the rapid advancements in AI, some researchers have used it as an opportunity to study its impact on society. Professor John Tasioulas, Director of the Institute for Ethics in AI at Oxford University and Professor Helene Landemore, Professor of Political Science at Yale University have undertaken a three-year project to explore three key questions:

1. Has the age of AI created the need for new human rights?
2. Can AI-based tools be developed to facilitate more authentically participatory forms of democracy?
3. Should there be a right to decisions being taken by humans in certain domains?

The researchers hope that the development of a humanistic ethic will hopefully serve as a counterweight to the dominance of data-driven and quantitative conceptions of ethics in AI field. Both researchers are experts in the theory of human rights and democracy. The ulitmate goal of the research is to improve societal understanding of how the emergence of AI-driven technology can be integrated within a culture of democracy and human rights, making AI a servant rather than a threat to human dignity and well-being. 

Professor Tasioulas said, " Developments in AI technology raise urgent and profound ethical questions about what it is to respect and advance human dignity in an era in which many complex human tasks are increasingly capable of being performed by machines.

AI Possibilities in Education

Even as knee jerk reactions such as banning ChatGPT on campuses may happen in many countries, the advancement of AI large language model also raise important and profound questions about how it can be deployed to make learning tailor made to the needs of each student respecting his or her uniqueness.  It will be a useful supplement for educators who follow the Howard Gardner's multiple intelligence philosophy in their teaching-learning practices. This may take help schools and colleges to do away with content centred learning which helps only to fill young minds with information and data. AI powered tools can be used to generate tasks or challenges that develop creativity, critical thinking skills, entrepreneurial skills and innovation in students. This tool can be a powerful aid for teachers whose role had already transformed in the knowledge era from information dispensers in the classroom to facilitators in learning. 

Recently, a leading Indian business daily, Livemint, carried a news about a student who had completed 12 weeks of study in just 2-3 hours, resulting in a score of 94 for the semester examination. ChatGPT helped the student understand the major topics for the exam and helped him focus on specific topics. All the important points from all the lectures and discussions conducted throughout the semester was compiled in 4-5 hours by ChatGPT.

Concerns have been raised about how AI may increase the existing gap between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ – students with access to AI chatbots and those unable to access it. Even as education authorities may find Chatbot powered AI tools as a threat to learning and it is too early to visualise the impact it will have on industry and the society, they need to assess how it can be a powerful tool in the hands of teachers and school leadership to transform education by making it more relevant for the AI age. 

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