AI as Learning Tool

Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash

Ready or Not the Future is Now

The controversy over students using generative AI rages on. reports that about 90% of the 1000 students they surveyed in January 2023 have used ChatGPT for help on homework. While this sample is drawn from computer-savvy college students and undoubtedly not representative of all high school and college students, it is still an astounding figure. Some school districts, including NYC, Seattle, and LA, have banned it. One professor, Alex Lawrence, is quoted by the Wall Street Journal as calling it “the greatest cheating tool ever.”  Some universities are considering making use of AI an honor code violation and while others caution students to use it wisely. Teachers, students, school districts, and universities are all struggling to come to grips with generative AI and its impacts on our system of schooling. As usual, the future has arrived before we are fully ready.

Is AI the greatest cheating tool ever invented? Or will it make obsolete some all-too-prevalent elements of our educational system, such as fixed, unimaginative curriculums, bell curve assessments of lower-level thinking, and diplomas based on giving conventional answers to conventional questions? Does AI challenge us to re-think what learning is, what education is, and what our certifications of educational achievement mean? What is worth learning?

Many creative and innovative teachers see AI as an opportunity. The survey quotes one anonymous teacher as saying, “’I love that students would have another resource to help answer questions. Do I worry some kids would abuse it? Yes. But they use Google and get answers without an explanation. It’s my understanding that ChatGPT explains answers. That would be more beneficial.” Other teachers point out that in the past, some traditional teachers predicted the decline of math skills when calculators were introduced. Instead, foregoing the drudgery of big calculations allowed students like me to focus on higher-level math and bigger, more interesting ideas than executing the mechanics of long division. Does anyone really feel educationally deprived if they can’t do square roots by hand? The philosopher Socrates argues in Plato’s Phaedrus that writing destroys memory and weakens the mind. Traditionalists view many innovations as dangerous at first.

Our historical progression as humans has been to develop and make use of better and better tools. Sticks replaces hands as digging tools, shovels replaced sticks, and backhoes replaced shovels. Does anyone seriously think we should go back to sticks to maintain some imagined deep value building our homes, our highways, and our skyscrapers? Schools have learned (or are still learning) to accommodate the ubiquity of Google and Wikipedia. Generative AI is the next step.

To explore this idea further I queried an expert in the field of artificial intelligence, ChatGPT.

Me: How might students and teachers best use AI like ChatGPT


Students and teachers can use AI like ChatGPT in several ways to enhance their learning and teaching experiences. Here are some ways:

  1. Research: ChatGPT can help students and teachers to conduct research on any topic of interest. They can ask questions related to their research topic and get relevant answers from ChatGPT.

  2. Homework and assignments: ChatGPT can help students with their homework and assignments by providing them with answers to specific questions. For example, if a student is struggling with a math problem or a grammar rule, they can ask ChatGPT for help.

  3. Essay writing: ChatGPT can help students and teachers to generate ideas for their essays. They can provide a topic, and ChatGPT can generate relevant ideas, supporting facts, and examples.

  4. Language learning: ChatGPT can help students and teachers to learn a new language. Students can ask ChatGPT to translate words or phrases from their native language to the language they are trying to learn.

  5. Teaching: Teachers can use ChatGPT as a teaching tool to explain complex concepts to their students. They can use ChatGPT to provide additional explanations, examples, and definitions to help their students better understand the subject matter.

  6. Test preparation: ChatGPT can help students to prepare for tests by providing them with practice questions and answers. Students can ask ChatGPT to provide them with questions on specific topics, and ChatGPT can provide them with practice questions and answers.

Overall, students and teachers can best use AI like ChatGPT by incorporating it into their daily learning and teaching activities as a supplemental tool to enhance their knowledge and understanding.

This seems like a pretty good list and a good way to think about AI. Though I would go further. Rather than just supplement, AI can challenge us to rise to higher levels of thinking and imagination.

Read more about how innovative teens and new technologies are changing the world in my new book Teen Innovators: Nine Young People Engineering a Better World with Creative Inventions.

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