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Artificial Intelligence – pivoting to prepare our students well for their future

Full disclosure, the first iteration of this blog was generated by artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT. The final draft is entirely different!

In 2022, AI usage in student work was placed on the agenda of the Leaders of Learning meeting. At the time, many of us had no idea what AI was, and we certainly had no idea how it might impact student work. During that session, ChatGPT was demonstrated, showing us how quickly and easily it could craft a response to a question from the 2020 PDHPE HSC paper. We were astounded. The conversation quickly turned to what this meant for education and how we would manage it. We knew this was a watershed moment for schools, and we all left that meeting contemplating the implications. 

As the end of the year rolled around, we experimented with ChatGPT, asking it a plethora of questions to understand just how big the impact of this new development might be. Some thought it would simply be a flash in the pan – how wrong an assumption. It became evident very quickly that AI was going to change the educational landscape inexorably. 

As with other educational organisations, we considered what our response would be. As a school, we were unanimous in our agreement that simply banning the use of such tools was not feasible or desirable. Schools have a responsibility to develop students’ ability to use technology in a safe, ethical and responsible way. Indeed, as a Deep Learning school, leveraging digital is a key aspect of our practice, therefore, working together to look at innovative ways to integrate AI into our practice is a key priority moving forward. 

While the internet has provided this generation of students with unparalleled access to information, they still have to engage in the writing process, synthesising information into a cohesive response. ChatGPT removes the need for this, producing a comprehensive response drawing on sources from across the internet. It has proven to be highly effective in producing high-quality responses in a range of contexts. Would this lead to more plagiarism? Would it skew assessment results? If we continue to assess student learning using traditional modes, probably. Thus, we need to look at how students demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding, adopting new methods that value more than the ability to memorise and recall information. 

Providing students with a model response is one of many high-impact teaching strategies. ChatGPT, whilst ever it remains a free service, provides all students with equitable access to exemplars, assisting with task initiation, reducing stress and frustration and improving performance. This assistance is often only available from the classroom teacher or a tutor. Of course, fundamental to this approach is teaching students about academic integrity – understanding that they are accountable for what they submit. 

ChatGPT provides rich opportunities to engage students in critical thinking by evaluating the quality, accuracy and relevance of AI-generated responses. Whilst ChatGPT can integrate a myriad of sources, it cannot integrate personal nuances of style, nor understand the unique contexts students operate within. 

COVID showed us just how quickly we could adapt to a new way of working. ChatGPT will require schools to pivot again, providing us with the impetus to review our practices, particularly in the area of assessment of and for learning. As a school, we were already on this journey. Our Primary School implements Inquiry Learning, a pedagogical approach specifically designed to develop key learner assets – those skills required for effective, life-long learning. Similarly, our Teaching and Learning Framework in the Secondary School is based on New Pedagogies for Deep Learning and the Quality Teaching Framework, which both emphasise the development of core competencies, including critical thinking, creativity and communication as fundamental outcomes of learning. This requires the use of different approaches to teaching and learning and new assessment modes, placing greater emphasis on the learning process. This is what will ensure our students are best placed to navigate the ever-changing complex world they will encounter after school. 

As a society, we have entered a new era in which AI will continue to impact and influence all aspects of life. As educators, it is our responsibility to respond to this shift to ensure our students are well-placed for the future, that they are agile learners, critical thinkers, creative and innovative, and outstanding communicators. ChatGPT may just be the invention we needed to nudge us towards an approach to education more suited to students who will lead us into the 22nd century.