ChatGPT: Making inclusive education possible
ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot also known as a large language model (LLM) app. It was released by OpenAI in November last year. Most people are still unaware of its existence, but that will not be the case for long. This tool will revolutionize the way the world will be educated. While universities have begun to debate the pros and cons of this tool, the greatest impact will be on the uneducated or miseducated in society, like those 10-year-olds in the Philippines who cannot read or write at the level expected of their age. LLMs may dramatically boost the educational sector more effectively, efficiently, and expansively provide educational services among the poor, marginalized, and disadvantaged.
LLMs are designed to be meaningfully predictive purveyors of the world’s accumulated recorded data, thus promising to narrow the gap between “private ignorance” and “public ignorance.” Public ignorance refers to questions the world does not yet have the answers to, despite the efforts of scientists and researchers who keep pushing the envelope of public knowledge. Private ignorance afflicts those who are poorly informed and educated, involuntarily marinated in fake news, propaganda, superstition, and disinformation. The world is awash with knowledge, information, and data, but many of our people are untouched by these resources because the educational system is decrepit—not enough teachers, not enough classrooms, not enough learning resource materials, not enough systems to achieve educational goals, and not enough political imagination and political will to enable real and effective problem-solving in education. LLMs would be a critical boost for teachers and educational institutions. It will enable them to dramatically level up the content of their courses and the way they deliver these to the students. They will also enable them to engage their students in a more participative way.
As an educator, I have been testing ChatGPT for a week now and I am terribly impressed by its capabilities. I asked the app, “Write me a problem scenario where the people in a poor community adjacent to a nickel mine are divided into those who advocate the mine to be closed for its damage to the environment and those who advocate that it remains for the jobs that it provides. What kind of process might enable them to arrive at a workable community decision?” The app produced a realistic and well-documented scenario and process that could be role-played in a political science, environmental science, or development studies class.
I decided to probe further. I recently designed a problem-based learning course on “urban concepts for inclusive and sustainable development” for civil engineering undergraduates. For kicks, I checked how ChatGPT would design the course. I wrote, “Write me a syllabus for an undergraduate civil engineering course to introduce the students to urban concepts for inclusive and sustainable development, focusing on promoting mixed-use, compact neighborhoods in the design of urban buildings, especially in brownfield areas.”
Instantaneously, ChatGPT responded with a syllabus complete with a course description, learning objectives, schedule, session topics, and references. The output had remarkable balance and sophistication, which seemed to reflect the enormous database it must have drawn on. In the next 30 minutes, with follow-up prompts, I also got a set of 18 five-minute lecture scripts (keyed to the syllabus), instructions and program for a problem scenario workshop, and instructions and program for a mock project presentation of student projects to local government officials and neighborhood residents. Altogether, I had 25 pages of impressive content that I could use to enrich my initial design. ChatGPT is not perfect—I have received erroneous responses—but I have learned that the quality of the response also depends on the specificity and context of the question.
As a university professor with over 50 years of teaching experience at the elementary, high school, college, and professional levels, as well as a former dean of a graduate school, I am fully aware of the need to ensure that ChatGPT and other LLMs will be used ethically by both students and teachers. This should not discourage our vast army of educators from using this tool to design learning courses and experiences to enable underserved learners across the archipelago to be better educated and have the chance at a better quality of life.
Serendipitously, my niece Josephine Romero sent me this link to an excellent video—“ChatGPT: A Boom or Our Doom?” (https://bit.ly/3ZYli3L). Watch it!
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