Redefining pedagogy in the times of AI

Reading and writing are alive in new ways in the era of ChatGPT. What we require is a new pedagogy to deal with it

Updated - April 23, 2023 04:47 pm IST

Published - April 22, 2023 09:20 pm IST

Learning AI need not be overwhelming. Instead, the possibility of AI could empower all of us.

Learning AI need not be overwhelming. Instead, the possibility of AI could empower all of us. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockPhoto

It is a relationship of love, hate and fear. Everyone is currently in a debate over the implications of ChatGPT. On one side, Bill Gates calls ChatGPT the most revolutionary technology in the last 40 years. Teachers marvel at the capacity of the AI chatbot to develop essays, craft poetry, write like Hemingway, create computer code, provide translations, do research assistance, simulate dialogues, and make art, to name a few. On the other side, many educators fret over the possibility of academic cheating. Italy briefly banned ChatGPT over privacy concerns. Notable Artificial Intelligence specialists and tech entrepreneurs including Elon Musk urged all AI labs to immediately pause training of AI systems more capable than GPT-4 for at least six months!

Meanwhile, last month, many ed-tech companies in India started courses on ChatGPT that targeted job seekers and professionals. An online course on ChatGPT for beginners from an individual teacher garnered revenue of Rs.28 lakhs and drew thousands of subscribers in three months. Nothing surprising in the demand for learning Chat GPT in non-tech ways. But, as generative AI has far-reaching implications on our daily life in multiple ways, why not create an all-age curriculum for AI starting with Chat GPT?

What it can do

While Chat GPT can enable learning in many areas, such as generating ideas, it may be tricky in other areas like teaching the basics of grammar. It can hinder or help based on how we use it. So, let us understand what ChatGPT can and cannot do. There is a clear difference between learning how to think like a scientist and knowing everything a scientist knows. While the latter is accessible through search engines and other AI tools, the former poses a pedagogical challenge and necessitates distinct approaches. This applies not just to science and scientist, but to all domains and professions.

Asking the right questions elicits the right answers from ChatGPT. It appears to know everything about everything, though it is not so. Therefore, at an introductory level, an AI curriculum from kindergarten to Master’s may start with simple conversations by asking questions. In hours, it can step up to refining questions. The module may also include critical prompts with follow-up questions. One needs to get a grip on grey areas such as copyright and the scope of detection tools.

This is beyond mere upskilling. Why? AI feeds a lot of solutionism in a society rooted in the delusion that technology can solve all problems. Understanding AI concepts, its ethics, and knowing its biases will interrogate many techno-deceptions. Being conscious of them is important to develop a new form of soft skill: human-technology relations.

At the next level, focus on small practical projects. Automate language translation, create social media posts, break down complex topics, summarise books of your choice, and seek help on a problem that you encounter. Slowly one can learn to integrate Chat GPT into other tools, do sentiment analysis, set up a database and do anything that interests you.

We know the uses of ChatGPT in education range from tutoring with individualised attention to customised explanations. But what the education community urgently requires is an all-age AI curriculum or a self-designed syllabus for teachers. If you need a reference point, MIT introduced one last month. Learning AI need not be overwhelming. Instead, the possibility of AI could empower all of us. If not, it may lead to an AI-inequity.

I was showing a friend how to converse with a long unread document using the AI tool, ChatDOC. He exclaimed, “Reading is dead!” Similarly, in the first week of ChatGPT’s launch, a teacher exclaimed, “Essay writing is dead!” In fact, nothing is dead. It is just that the ways have changed. Reading and writing are alive in new ways. There is a new pedAIgogy. We need to design a curriculum for ourselves to make sense of these changes.

Views expressed are personal

The writer is a Deputy Secretary, University Grants Commission.

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