“The thing that we possess, that machines don’t…”

“The thing that we possess, that machines don’t, is the ability to exhibit wisdom.”

Herbie Hancock

One sign of a successful education is that a young person has developed the ability to express their thoughts and ideas in a rational and constructive manner. There is little need to analyse the woeful start of current public discourse and I regularly am frustrated by the examples set by those in power who resort to dead cat, dog whistle or other forms of base political rhetoric. It was therefore a pleasure to have been invited to Year 12’s recent debates. The debate teams had been given a wide variety of subjects to argue over and the standard of discourse was very high indeed. Those who have been in The Hague this week at the Model United Nations have been similarly eloquent and have expressed their views with wit and rigour. Proper debate requires a good deal of research, thought and consideration. All of which are approaches we value here at the BSP.

Our young people should and do think for themselves. Over the last few weeks, the idea that we should be engaging with such ancient and antiquated notions as rhetoric and research have been called into question. The rise of accessible AI driven research tools such as ChatGPT have been the source of much media interest. Once again, the death of the teacher has been predicted and academic work as we know it pronounced revolutionised. Schools out… and not just for summer? Mike Sharples the Emeritus Professor of Educational Technology at The Open University believes that university students are already using ChatGPT to write their essays, and scientific journals are considering banning the use of AI in their research papers. There is a degree of panic.

I suspect that some of our pupils will have had a look at the services, to satisfy curiosity as much as to use the facility in earnest. I thought that I’d ask it to write the rest of this column and so posed it the simple question Will ChatGPT make teachers redundant? The answer was… well I’ll let you decide:

ChatGPT, as a language model AI, is a tool that can assist teachers in various tasks such as answering students’ questions, providing feedback, and even creating lesson plans. However, it is important to note that ChatGPT is not a substitute for human teachers. Teachers play a vital role in providing guidance, mentorship, and personal interaction to students. Furthermore, they are responsible for creating a positive learning environment, fostering critical thinking, and developing students’ social and emotional skills.

AI-powered tools such as ChatGPT can help teachers to improve their effectiveness and efficiency by automating some of their tasks and providing them with valuable data and insights. However, it is important to use these tools in a complementary way, not as a replacement for human teachers. AI-based tools can never replace the human touch, understanding, compassion and motivation that a teacher can provide.

Well, that’s good news… if the machine says it, it must be true. Have a great weekend.

Nicholas Hammond