The end of education as we know it? Probably not

February 6, 2023 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: writing.

During the past few weeks, artificial intelligence (AI) writing software programs, led by something inharmoniously called ChatGPT, have gained the attention of reporters and editors around the country and thus generated headlines that are scary and puzzling, particularly to those of us deeply invested in teaching writing to young people.

As Hetal Thaker writes on the website:

Stephen Marche tells us “The College Essay Is Dead,” while, in a separate essay for The Atlantic, Daniel Herman considers “The End of High-School English.” Even Google seems concerned about sharing its turf. Google!

The sky isn’t falling, Thaker says, but it is time to consider what these programs mean for the future of writing instruction and how we should adjust our attitudes and methods. (If you are interested in this topic, Thaker’s article is well worth the time.)

So what does it mean?

Honestly, I don’t know, and I have not had the time to consider some of the implications of software that can compose complete and coherent sentences with just a few prompts.

One approach to this new stuff that I’m pretty sure is futile: figuring out ways to prevent students from using it and punishing those who do, branding them as cheaters or some such.

Another of the “don’t panic” signals comes from Pia Ceres, writing in Wired magazine:

But amid the panic, some enterprising teachers see ChatGPT as an opportunity to redesign what learning looks like—and what they invent could shape the future of the classroom. 

In the world of education, software innovations cannot be shunned, denied, or even tamed. Students will use them if they find them useful. It is up to educators to see if they can be useful to teachers as well as students. After some thoughtful and creative questions, they might be surprised at the answers.

If you are concerned about any of these developments, these articles are worth reading.

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