ChatGPT and Education: The Benefits & Dangers Explained

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How can ChatGPT and education work together? What are the potential benefits or dangers of AI tools to education?

When it comes to ChatGPT and education, the biggest fear of educators is that it will kill critical thinking. While some believe AI software will jeopardize the thinking and writing skills of students, others are more optimistic, arguing that ChatGPT could be used in education as a learning tool.

Read on to learn about the pros and cons of ChatGPT in education, based on the educators’ perspective.

ChatGPT and Education: A Blessing or Curse?

With the acceleration of artificial intelligence tools, many educators are raising alarms about their potential to sabotage student learning. In terms of ChatGPT and education, the immediate concern is that students will abuse the tool, leading to lower critical thinking and writing skills in schools. ChatGPT is what’s known as a “large-language model”—an artificial intelligence program designed to process and summarize text. Users can enter any question or prompt, and ChatGPT will collate information on a topic into an essay that reads as if it were written by a human—or close enough to it. 

The potential for abuse of this technology for cheating worries educators. Students could request and receive a computer-generated essay in seconds. Beyond this, experts have raised bigger-picture concerns about increased dependence on technology, reducing the human component of learning, and the potential for undermining writing and critical-thinking skills.

But others believe the worry about AI technology is misguided and overblown. Temple University President Jason Wingard asserts: “I can say with certainty that ChatGPT is more hype than harm—and it might even offer some help.” 

In this article, we’ll outline the potential benefits of AI tools like ChatGPT for education. Then we’ll discuss the fears and concerns as well as what the future may hold. 

The Potential Benefits of AI Technology

Although there’s widespread concern, some educators argue that AI tools could provide real benefits for both teachers and students. Research on technology use in higher education suggests that if used effectively, ChatGPT and similar programs could have the following benefits:

  • Improving access to information: Using AI programs, students could ask questions and get instant feedback. This might be most beneficial in online learning environments where students don’t have constant access to the instructor.
  • Streamlining of the research process: Use of programs like ChatGPT for research projects could save students time by helping them create a foundation or structure for their project or essay. ChatGPT currently only generates relatively short essays, so students could use it to get basic information that they could expand on for a more substantial project.
  • Assisting instructors: Instructors could use AI software to generate automated responses to simple, repetitive questions from students, thereby freeing up their time for more valuable tasks. Again, this could be particularly helpful in online learning environments.

The Potential Dangers of AI Technology

On the problematic side, AI tools could be abused or used in ways that undermine education. These harmful effects may be particularly profound in the already imperiled humanities disciplines, since these rely on students’ ability to think critically, as evaluated by written material. Some of these problems with ChatGPT (and other AI tools) in education include:

  • Increased likelihood of plagiarism: ChatGPT can generate responses to questions, and students may be tempted to use these responses in their essays without properly referencing the source. This would violate academic integrity, as well as have potential consequences such as failing the assignment or course, suspension, or expulsion. But, perhaps more importantly, if the student’s plagiarism goes undetected, they’d receive credit for work they didn’t do and wouldn’t learn anything, leading to the next point. 
  • Decreased critical thinking and writing skills: By relying on AI-generated responses, students miss out on the opportunity to engage with the material, form their own arguments and ideas, and practice their writing and analytical skills. They may then struggle long term with developing their own ideas and arguments. This can be particularly problematic when it comes to subjects that require analysis and critical thinking, such as philosophy, literature, or social sciences. The widespread use of ChatGPT to produce essays may result in students not developing the skills to succeed academically and professionally and ultimately being at a disadvantage in many career fields.
  • Inaccuracy of information: ChatGPT often includes erroneous or misleading information. This may be because it misinterprets the information or takes it out of context. In some cases, the chatbot even invents information as well as sources. In one example, a professor asked for an essay on learning styles, and ChatGPT generated an essay that looked polished and professional, including a reference to a credible-looking academic source. But the source was fabricated. So, reliance on this technology may undermine real learning if the user assumes the information it provides is accurate.
  • Increased dependence on technology: With ChatGPT, students may spend even more time interacting with technology rather than engaging with other people, which is a crucial part of the learning and socialization process. This could erode skills in collaboration, group work, and face-to-face communication.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Educational professionals and institutions are scrambling to address some of the problems presented by ChatGPT to education before they become unmanageable. Meanwhile, software is being developed to detect AI-generated material, including embedding electronic “watermarks” in the text. A program called ZeroGPT can scan text and tell you the likelihood that it was generated by AI as opposed to a human.

The effects of ChatGPT and other AI tools on education may depend on how instructors approach them. With creativity, educators could use it as effectively to teach critical thinking and writing as to avoid them. 

ChatGPT and Education: The Benefits & Dangers Explained

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Emily Kitazawa

Emily found her love of reading and writing at a young age, learning to enjoy these activities thanks to being taught them by her mom—Goodnight Moon will forever be a favorite. As a young adult, Emily graduated with her English degree, specializing in Creative Writing and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), from the University of Central Florida. She later earned her master’s degree in Higher Education from Pennsylvania State University. Emily loves reading fiction, especially modern Japanese, historical, crime, and philosophical fiction. Her personal writing is inspired by observations of people and nature.

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