An Artificial Intelligence at School - Dialogue or Duel?


Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Arthur C. Clarke

"I want to do this myself, Hal," he said. "Please give me control."

"Look, Dave, you've got a lot of things to do. I suggest you leave this to me."

"Hal, switch to manual hibernation control."

"I can tell from your voice harmonics, Dave, that you're badly upset. Why don't you take a stress pill and get some rest?"

"Hal, I am in command of this ship. I order you to release the manual hibernation control."

"I'm sorry, Dave, but in accordance with special subroutine C1435-dash-4, quote, When the crew are dead or incapacitated, the onboard computer must assume control, unquote. I must, therefore, overrule your authority, since you are not in any condition to exercise it intelligently."

"Hal," said Bowman, now speaking with an icy calm. "I am not incapacitated. Unless you obey my instructions, I shall be forced to disconnect you."

Krishnan Guru-Murthy, a presenter on Britain's public broadcaster Channel 4, is sitting in the broadcast studio. His show about extraordinary people striving to make the world a better place is popular. Krishnan is used to asking good questions of knowledgeable experts on topical issues. This is a routine journalistic practice. On 8 December 2022, he welcomed viewers without a guest waiting in the studio or connected by teleconference anywhere in the world. In his opening entry, he announced that he typically converses with people, but today he would be talking to a thing - the artificially intelligent GPT chatbot. The presenter's conversation with the talking screen is ongoing, with answers interspersed with questions. The chatbot, in a female voice, points out that it only offers answers it has learned. She adds that she does not have the answers to all the questions. She emphasises that she cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information offered. He considers it important for Krishnan to use his judgment and critical thinking when receiving information, or to use other sources of information if necessary.

It was mentioned in the previous blog that education in the form of traditional teacher explication has long faced significant competition in the form of explication by other scholars - scientists and professors who work at specialised science centres and prestigious universities around the world. They are more insightful and have more up-to-date answers to specific professional questions than the master's graduates who teach at Slovak schools. This has always been the case, but what is different is that knowledge - in the form lectures, written texts or interviews with respected scientific personalities - is accessible to pupils at virtually any time and can be taken in at school, at home, on the bus, in the tearoom or on a walk with a pet. In what ways is the educational situation changing and will it have to change if we consider the emergence of artificial intelligence in learning processes?

The emergence of artificial intelligence in our lives is nothing new. We have probably all come across artificial intelligence - in a science fiction story as a reader, viewer, or listener, but also in communication with a bank or an online retailer as a consumer. In the consumer situation, we are already used to asking questions and getting automated answers. In an educational situation, as teachers, we are used to both asking and receiving questions, thinking about them, and answering them within the limits of our educational capacity and the ability of the questioners to understand the answer - as the American physicist Richard Feynman once did when answering a layman's question about the magnetic force.

The idea that children and young people will have a partner from whom they may hear almost anything, anytime, anywhere, raises many queries. The risk of a curious child learning something before it is developmentally appropriate will certainly remain a chronic one. Will a programmed and information-saturated intellect be able to respond in a way that considers the emotional immaturity or current knowledge of a nine-year-old Martin or a fourteen-year-old Christina? What advantages or disadvantages will be in play if the young learner is able to determine, in his/her native language, the level of responses that the artificial intelligence will respond with? What will we do if this young curious learner demands more challenging responses? Will the more complex answers spark further interest in him/her? Could it be that knowledge-hungry third graders will answer a question about the magnetic force in a way that we normally expect third graders at secondary school to do? Could this potentially mean that, for example, a physics class will bring together pupils who may not be immediate peers, but whose physics knowledge and understanding will be at a comparable level? Will these circumstances give rise to a demand to rethink the organisational structure of education, over and above the current debate on the division of education into cycles? How will or will the teacher's work change if oral explanations and answers to pupils' questions can be handled playfully by the reader? Will the assessment of pupils' work fall out of their workload if it is handled swiftly and accurately by the intelligent OpenAI programme? What communication and learning opportunities will the fourth, fifth or tenth generation of artificial Intelligentsia provide?

The layering of questions could go on for a long time, but the repertoire of ambiguities in the context of the educational potential of contemporary AI does not stop at direct dialogic interaction. The fact that a third generation of computer intelligence can produce written discourse in Slovak, English, or other languages, including instructions, explanations, poems or computer programmes, on the basis of a simple assignment, is a separate question-maker. Which learning activities will be necessitated by the fact that there will be girls and boys sitting in classrooms for whom an intelligent computer apparatus can write an entire essay - in their mother tongue or in a foreign language? What competences should teacher-readers possess to be sure of the authorship of the work and to be able to assess the pupil rather than a computer algorithm? What learning pathways will need to be created in an effort to build an awareness of academic integrity among secondary and undergraduate students as a prevention against plagiarism, falsification, or stolen authorship? A central and burning question in the current present might thus go something like this: How will artificial intelligence affect the learning process that is supposed to develop the cognitive and communicative competences of children and young people?

The whole situation may seem like a teacher's version of a science fiction thriller. Whatever it appears to be, the confrontational drama as portrayed by Arthur C. Clarke in Commander Dave's conversation with the on-board computer Hale, does not threaten. Even the most information-laden programmes are not robust enough - capable of coping with unexpected situations and their own mistakes - to count on a powerful artificial intelligence capable of reacting to the vicissitudes of reality, of understanding it, of planning or making decisions within its shifting boundaries, and thus of replacing in its entirety the living intelligence in branch offices and cabinets. There is therefore no battle of intelligences at school or elsewhere. That is - at least not for the time being.

It is a matter of days before the digital natives in our primary, secondary and higher education institutions discover the cognitive and creative potential of the chatbot Krishnan Guru-Marthy conversed with on the British television screen. The forthcoming education reform in Slovakia cannot be expected to include in its conception the development of artificial intelligence, which is just emerging from the ocean surface of Hans Moravec. Rather, it can be expected that the teachers in the schools will make the most concerted efforts and that their educational efforts will require original and challenging thinking. They face the task of avoiding the situation of a soldier fighting on the wrong side, and at the same time the task of establishing themselves as quickly as possible in the role of the reconnaissance officer who, with prudent curiosity, enters the territory of an unknown country.

Karel Dvořák PhD. - DaCoSiDe expert tasked with the creation of A2/B1-level methodological guidelines and certification tools


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