ChatGPT entered my house on the wings of a confusing and quite lengthy quadratic equation courtesy of my college-age son. I could hear his frustration through his bedroom door in the form of expletives.
Later he emerged and admitted that, in desperation, he tried putting the equation into ChatGPT. He was able to discover a piece of the equation that he had missed. He has since used artificial intelligence (AI) as a tool when he is unable to get support from professors or other resources. Through his random use of the app, he also found that ChatGPT does not always get the answer correct and that part of consulting this resource is to also check its work, not assuming that it is always right.
It has become clear to me this year that AI is here. It’s not if we are to engage in this tool, but rather how. Instead of being afraid of it, or banning it altogether, we must learn about what this resource can and cannot do.
Chris Dede, a senior research fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, noted that we need to change what we’re educating people for. If you educate people solely for what AI does well, you’re preparing them to lose to AI. In a February 2023 Harvard Graduate School of Education article, he defined the best way to use this resource as artificial augmentation, meaning to augment or extend our research to include information from AI, as opposed to expecting AI to do and know everything.
Forms of AI have been around for years. Many functions on the internet, like Google’s search engine or the way that Amazon magically assumes what you want to buy next, are examples. Dede asserted that AI is best at predicting. This is done through data analysis and pattern identification.
“Yeah, don’t be scared,” Dede added. “AI is not smart. It really isn’t. People would be appalled if they knew how little AI understands what it’s telling you, especially given how much people seem to be relying on it. But it is capable of taking over parts of what you do that are routine and predictable and, in turn, freeing up the creative and the innovative and the human parts that are really the rewarding parts of both work and life.”
As a former teacher and mom, that is how I want to view AI, solely as a resource, a tool, certainly not as something that would write an entire paper or give advice on how to solve relationship problems! When I hear about it being used in those ways I laugh a little, but then I cock my head in confusion as well. Expecting an artificial intelligence to create a project or solve a social emotional problem is concerning. As Dede suggests, let the AI do some of the grunt work, but let’s all continue to be the creativity and ingenuity that makes the world function.
When it comes to your child engaging with this resource it is important to understand how the prediction skills of AI can turn into a potentially harmful profiling tool. UNICEF’s 2021 AI Guide for Parents states: “AI-driven recommendations for news stories, online community groups, friends and more are based on profiling – they feed people content based on their preferences, and search history, creating thought filter bubbles. AI can also be used to amplify disinformation and bias, endangering children’s ability to develop and to express themselves freely.”
All the above considered, it is vital that supportive adults do their own research about AI tools, and then have thoughtful, inclusive discussions with our youth on awareness and best practices while engaging with them.
Jill Carstens taught for 30 years and now enjoys writing for this publication. You can view more of her writing on Instagram @lettersfrommissjill. Email her with comments or story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.