Written by Samantha Phillips
Happy (or disgruntled) almost-anniversary, ChatGPT!
On November 30th, 2022 Open AI released an early demo of ChatGPT. By Spring of 2023, it had infiltrated the educational scene like a virus. And generating a gamut of emotions among teachers ranging from trepidation to terror, with eager adaptors embracing the novelty. The undergrads in my "Relationships in the Digital Age" writing class were abuzz with opinions. These range from "AI is the way of the future, so use it like a calculator!" to "No, it’s cheating!" to predictions that we’ll still need to write and think critically with our human brains forevermore.
What will the future hold?
And how might AI be effectively used across the curriculum? Scotney Evans, Associate Professor in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Miami, acknowledges that the future is difficult to predict. “Many of us in education didn't expect the rapid development and availability of AI. There's likely something else already in development coming down the pike." As a devoted educator, Scotney suggests teaching students to remain flexible and maintain a critical stance as a consumer. He hopes that the importance of human connection, engagement, and empathy remain intact.
As does Brian Herrera, Associate Professor of Theater at Princeton University. He believes that there will always be value in analog and in-person encounters. Especially in the arts, "there will continue to be a constant tension between AI and lived experiences. AI can make art, but the pleasure of listening to another human performing live music or speaking poetry hasn’t gone away."
The only sure prediction about the Wild West of AI? The future is full of surprises.
In the meantime, everyone’s speculating. . .
A former student writes about her vision of the classroom of 2050: "I don't think that much in the classroom will change. But I think what's popular now will be retro in the future—what vinyls and polaroids are to now will be what TikTok and Shein are to 2050."
Other futuristic musings from former students include:
* "Humans will work in conjunction with AI. The end result will be a point of singularity and symbiosis."
* "2050 Classrooms will be more like offices. Every desk will have a desktop, and students will work independently. Human discussion and interaction will become irrelevant and tasks, assignments, and busy work will take over everyday activities."
* "You could be video transported into the classroom like VR."
* "By 2050, adapting to AI will be already made. There will be some classes that go paperless, with no whiteboard. Some will stick to pen and paper to combat cheating. These next few years will be interesting!"
If these Zoomers know one thing about the future, it's this: the merger with tech in the classroom has already begun. My students agree that they could not function in college without the use of technology. They’re also keenly aware of the potentially detrimental impact of social media on mental health.
During the pandemic, many of these students sought solace in breaks from tech that included baking, knitting, learning guitar, and time outside. Check out the self-liberating Luddite Teens Of New York, aka The Luddite Club who are off social media and back on their flip phones!
Even with the value of low-tech time, none of them consider a broad backlash against tech use in the future as likely.
As for the teachers, some have wholeheartedly embraced AI opportunities, encouraging students to use it to brainstorm topics or generate outlines. Others are far less sanguine about AI’s effect on both students and educators. However, I’d posit that hope lies not in the marketplace as we know it today, but in the valuation of our learning, creativity, adaptability, and interconnection as a species.
In the classroom of 2050, students currently at university may be at the podium — grappling with their own predictions:
Will we download Spanish Vocab lists directly to our brains via microchip? — Muy Rapido!
Will there be one simple pill that — when swallowed — magically gives you a four-year degree?
Will we greet the classroom of the future with cool fountain pens and library books?
Or with something we can't yet fathom? It remains a mystery. But answers are coming — and soon . . .