The Education Revolution

Posted by Paul Wilkinson on 12/11/2022

This week's plan is to start to learn about Alexander Hamilton’s national bank on Monday, build our understanding of it in our next class, and to use the remaining time in each class’s two block periods, Tuesday-Thursday, to organize and review our notes, practice our recall of information by testing ourselves, and enhance our mastery of the critical foundational concepts of Units 2 and 3, which are essential to fully understand the drive for national expansion, the causes of the Civil War, the war itself, and post-war economic and political developments we will master during our second semester. Our open-binder, open-note multiple choice test is Friday.

As we conclude the semester, we will use our final class days next week to enhance historical mastery and financial literacy by continuing to play the Stock Market Game. Teachers sometimes (at least I do) get nervous when lessons call for “games.” Many will tell you that calling the stock market a “game” promotes views contrary to best investment practices. But the entire economy is based on competition—market competition to supply goods and services at the best prices and quantities to give consumers more of what they want for lower prices than competitors can achieve. In other words, the economy itself can be called a “game,” at least to the extent that competition is an essential part of it.

We learn a lot from playing. In recent days, I’ve been playing with the latest shiny object on the internet, an artificial intelligence chatbot that some say may displace Google’s search engine domination. Have you tried ChatGPT? If so, I’d love to read your reactions in the comments. (ChatGPT's enormous surge in popularity is resulting in error messages on Sunday; the creators advise patience. There’s a more complex "Playground" here, which has more robust functionality and seems to be more available.)

How do we help students learn when they can ask any question on the internet and almost instantly get a plausible answer in return? This is the new form of the perennial question, “why do I have to learn it if I can just Google it?”

Here’s what ChatGPT gave me in response to the first essential question in our course, modified to focus on our first three units. My question was: “How did the Revolutionary era, the creation of the Constitution, and early expansion shape American identity?”

AI’s response:

The Revolutionary era, the creation of the Constitution, and early expansion were all important events in American history that helped to shape American identity. The Revolutionary era, which included the American Revolution and the establishment of the United States as an independent nation, was a time of great change and upheaval. It was a time when Americans began to see themselves as a distinct people with their own unique identity, separate from the British Empire. This sense of identity was further strengthened by the creation of the Constitution, which established a new system of government and a set of principles that would guide the nation's development.

The early expansion of the United States also played a role in shaping American identity. As the country grew and expanded westward, Americans came into contact with a variety of different cultures and people. This experience helped to create a sense of unity and common purpose among Americans, as they worked together to settle the new lands and build a new nation.

Overall, the Revolutionary era, the creation of the Constitution, and early expansion all contributed to the development of a unique American identity, one that is still evident today. This identity is characterized by a commitment to liberty and democracy, as well as a belief in the importance of individual rights and the rule of law.

(Grammarly and Microsoft Word's Editor had a few suggestions to improve AI’s response, but I declined them.)

My real brain, as opposed to artificial intelligence, suggests a few follow-up questions to supplement the machine's thinking with biological thinking:

  1. During the War of 1812, Federalists met at the Hartford Convention, where some expressed nostalgia for British rule. What were the public reactions, what effect did this have on the Federalist Party, and what might have been the consequences for further national expansion?
  2. What is the phrase used to describe one of the motivations behind westward expansion? (Hint: It's the first content term for Unit 4.) Why do you think the ChatGPT algorithm results omit the use of that phrase?
  3. Is “democracy” the best word to describe the system of government to which ChatGPT says the American identity is committed? Why or why not? What alternative names can you suggest?
  4. What aspects of identity are overlooked by AI’s response?

For obvious reasons, there’s considerable fear that students will use artificial intelligence to outsource their own thinking about important ideas necessary to maintain and improve self-governance. There are other fears, too. Remember “open the pod bay doors, HAL?” If not, asking ChatGPT returns a solid answer. That answer, too, however, benefits from the application of genuine intelligence.

So, back to the headline of this post: Will AI revolutionize education? The ChatGPT client exercises the 5th Amendment right not to testify against itself and refuses to answer, but when asked about OpenAI in general, it gives a measured response:

Will OpenAI revolutionize education?

OpenAI is a leading research institute in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and has made significant contributions to the development of AI technology. However, it is difficult to predict the exact impact that OpenAI will have on education.

AI technology has the potential to revolutionize education by making it more personalized, efficient, and effective. For example, AI-powered tutoring systems can provide individualized instruction and feedback to students, and AI-powered assessment tools can help teachers to more accurately and efficiently evaluate student performance. Additionally, AI can be used to analyze large amounts of educational data and identify patterns and trends that can inform educational policy and practice.

However, it is important to note that the impact of AI on education will depend on how it is used and implemented. There are also potential risks and challenges associated with the use of AI in education, such as concerns about fairness, bias, and the displacement of human educators. Therefore, it is important for educational institutions, policymakers, and researchers to carefully consider the potential benefits and risks of using AI in education and to develop strategies for responsible and effective implementation.

In conclusion, while OpenAI has made significant contributions to the field of AI, it is difficult to predict the exact impact that it will have on education. AI has the potential to revolutionize education, but its impact will depend on how it is used and implemented.

The Playground is not afraid to talk about ChatGPT. Its response to the same question:

ChatGPT could potentially revolutionize education by making it easier for students to access information and receive answers to their questions. Chatbots can be used to provide personalized learning experiences and can help students learn more effectively. Additionally, ChatGPT could be used to provide 24/7 access to educational resources, which could help students stay on top of their studies more easily.

When asked “How will ChatGPT revolutionize education,” it adds that “ChatGPT (can) allow[] teachers to quickly assign and grade assignments or tests in a fraction of the time… (and) provide personalized recommendations for students based on their performance and interests.” It also suggests that “an AI-powered assistant…will (let teachers) spend more time teaching and interacting with students, rather than grading or assigning tasks.” Finally, it predicts that “ChatGPT can provide students with personalized learning paths and give them the ability to engage in real-time dialogue with the AI assistant for help with any topic.

And we have now demonstrated another element of AI-generated text: It encourages both the benefits and the dangers of being able to quickly create large amounts of text. This post has become much too long, so I’ll leave it with a recommendation to look back at the November 13 post on the new Paper App, which uses human instead of artificial intelligence to help students. Paper is reality; AI? We shall see. I hope you and your learner are looking forward to a week of human learning as much as I am!