One of the most common news stories in recent months has been the meteoric rise in prominence and associated impact of chatbots like ChatGPT and Bard. So, it was fitting that the meeting of the Gilman Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) on Wednesday, April 5 focused its conversation on generative artificial intelligence (AI) and education. The panelists leading included Tye Campbell, Director of Strategic Information and Innovation at Gilman, Jonathan Koch '07, Assistant Professor of English at Pepperdine University, Haftan Eckholdt '83, data scientist, and Joseph Keller '03, Visiting Fellow for Global Tech & AI Policy at The Brookings Institution.
Keller began by explaining the differences between AI and machine learning, detailing the various levels of specificity within the broad umbrella of artificial intelligence and emphasizing the fact that machine learning is actually a subset of artificial intelligence.
Eckholdt then shared an analysis of the latest iterations of generative AI software, and suggested that the growth in popularity of generative AI was as much a byproduct of improved access as it was of technological advancements. He shared a widely held belief that jobs that do a lot of writing will ultimately be replaced by AI, but did caution the group that “artificial intelligence is a misnomer; there is nothing intelligent about it.”
As a professor of English, Koch provided unique insight from the “front lines” of generative AI. While ChatGPT and comparable services appeared relatively recently, he was quick to point out the historical context of learners finding ways to save time and cited several examples across generations. “Students have always found shortcuts!” he said. Educators, he suggested, need to consider pedagogy when approaching these new technologies. “Educators must teach students how to understand and use these tools…[they] need to think more carefully about how they design and deliver assignments.”
As Gilman became the focus of the conversation, Campbell pointed out that the “fire has died down since the winter.” He relayed the School’s experience with adapting to new learning tools throughout its history and cited the advent of Grammarly as a recent example. “This technology is here,” he said. “Just like your calculator is here, or autocorrect is here. They all become part of the educational process. We must recognize that they’re here and accepted, and teach students how to use them to reflect their real, actual learning.” Like Koch, Campbell put the impetus on teachers to think critically about assessment, and to steer them away from a place of fear with regards to generative AI. Ultimately, both were united in emphasizing that teachers at all levels of education must instill confidence in students so they don’t rely too much on AI.
Before signing off, each panelist offered a brief concluding statement in which one consistent theme seemed to emerge — AI is here to stay. It's up to us to figure out how best to use it.