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  • Writer's pictureBernd Gibson

The Oracle of A.I.

ChatGBT allows the user to ask an open question about almost any given subject, and in a matter of seconds Open A.I. comes up with an answer. No need to do any further research or go to Wikipedia or other sites, or is there?

The main reaction I heard by many in the learning profession was that this is a dangerous development. Students and pupils will be able to cheat, type the question of their home assignment and within seconds, ChatGBT provides them with a perfect essay. For the time being undetectable by plagiarism software.

A first reaction by many learning institutions will be to ban it, and to develop or use tools to prevent students from using any sources other than the software they are writing their essays in (such as WiseFlow). Let us call this policing. The fact is, A.I. can’t be banned, and we’d better get used to the idea.

One of the books I read in the early 2000s was Patricia B. Seybold’s ‘The Customer Revolution: How to Thrive when Customers are in Control’. The book starts with the case of the music industry and predicts that all other industries will follow the same path. Illegal audio file sharing websites threatened the music industry in the 1990s and the industry’s first reaction was to fight back. Then companies realised that the way customers wanted to listen to music was changing, and developed legal streaming platforms, which has become the standard today. You can still buy vinyl records (and I do), or CDs, but the majority of users subscribe to platforms such as Spotify or Deezer.

Now Patricia Seybold’s prediction seems to come true for the learning industry. It will try to fight back, in vain, but ultimately will have to adapt. Why not use the arrival of ChatGBT and make necessary changes to the world of learning, changes that are beneficial and necessary anyway.

ChatGBT can find information in no time, and it gives the impression that all the knowledge of the world is just a click away. But that’s not new. The same critique was used for the internet, Wikipedia, and even before for the computer and the calculator.

You may say the same for navigation systems. The more we use technology to find information, guide us or solve problems, the less independent we are. We may lose all those necessary skills like calculating in our head, writing by hand, speaking a foreign language (why? Google can translate it), finding our way or finding sources for our research.

I don’t think that is the real issue. As mentioned before in this book, technology helps us save time in order to spend or invest it on more important things. If you see it that way, ChatGBT can become a useful tool. Mmh, what’s that name, should I know this person? Let’s ask ChatGBT. What was the name of that book again that raised the question of …? Who was the scientist who came up with …? These kind of search functions would be long and tedious through Wikipedia or classic search engines, but Open A.I. makes it possible. Magic.

Open A.I. can be used as a learning tool. Start anywhere and ask a question about something you want to know. ChatGBT will give you a paragraph. Ask the next question for more detail, specifications or explanations. ChatGBT will answer. Will it replace the teacher?

The answer is YES. The classic teacher who shares information, the stand-up lecturer from the first Chapter, may disappear. But the facilitator, the coach, the learning enabler and LX designer will seize the opportunity to become mainstream.

We no longer need assignments where students find information and recite what they have found. We no longer need learners to accumulate information in their memories that are available on their smartphones anyway. We need learners to think, to wonder, to doubt and question, to criticise and take apart, to rethink and reinvent, to play with assumptions and ideas, to be creative and provocative, to push the boundaries of knowledge, to ask the questions ChatGBT cannot answer and to connect, combine and recombine all the information that is out there.

That’s what young people should learn in schools. That’s what learning is all about in its cognitive stage, the only stage where ChatGBT can interfere.

What Open A.I. cannot do is take action for the learner. Learning experiences are not only about knowing, but they are also about doing things, and doing them well. This is our real mission. Let’s create environments, contexts and scenarios for learning where we can focus on this, and let’s integrate Open A.I. as a tool if needed.

You may argue that that A.I. also replaces the human as far as skills are concerned. Self-driving cars are just one example. Again, not really a new development, as automation has always replaced human activities and freed time to do other things. A.I. may actually help us save time in order to spend and invest it better elsewhere. In learning.

Extract from 'The Immersive Theatre of Learning' by Bernd Gibson

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