After a very good impromptu explanation of how ChatGPT works and will affect the future of research and education by ELS colleague Auke Westerterp in a homemade videoclip (have a look here), a lively discussion started among colleagues about the pro´s and cons of ChatGPT.
I found myself on the side of being skeptical and, indeed, worried. But there were also colleagues who see AI and chatbots as inevitable and potentially beneficial. In fact, it turned out they were already using it in both research and education, and, upon asking around a bit, I found out that many students are using it to (re)write their papers and to save the time of reading (which apparently is seen as an inefficient activity).
I then tried it out myself and was perplexed by what ChatGPT can create in seconds. I out in key words we use in our RiverCommons project which focuses on things like ´rights to nature´, ´water justice,´ ´decolonization´ and sustainable development, social learning, etc. I put in these words and asked ChatGPT to write a 300-word paper, with references APA style. To convince the project leader – Prof Rutgerd Boelens of Wageningen University´s Water Resource Management Group, I also asked to refer to the work of Boelens in the. article. The result was impressive and could have easily fooled the reviewers of a bunch of journals. To top things off, I asked ChatGTP to include a 100 biography of Rutgerd Boelens.
In fact, a good colleague of mine, also active in sustainability in higher education, Debby Cotton based at the University of Plymouth, submitted a paper to a journal, together with colleagues, to a journal which had been written by ChatGTP. They told the editor beforehand. The editor was in for an experiment and the paper went through a proper review process and… was accepted and then published with a discussion of what happened and what might be possible implications of this. The paper – have a look here – got featured in major newspapers like the Guardian and the Washington Post.
In the meantime, my colleagues working on ICT-supported learning had already started working on a SWOT of the use of ChatGPT in education. When I showed my interest in the debate, they asked me to join. Given the magnitude of the phenomenon, I could not resist and agreed to join. The paper just got published in Innovations in Teaching International and can be downloaded here. Have a look and see what you think. One of my concerns, not highlighted in the paper, is that these technologies will only expand our screen time (videophilia) and further disconnect us from places and people and the relations between them. As such they serve Nasdaq-listed companies and their shareholders most, while further eroding life on this Earth (biophilia). Perhaps, now that the AI is becoming so powerful, it will lead to a new discussion about the purpose of education and people´s motivations to learn. That, in the end, might be the best outcome.
Farrokhnia, M., Seyyed Kazem Banihashem, Omid Noroozi & Arjen Wals (2023) A SWOT analysis of ChatGPT: Implications for educational practice and research, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, DOI: 10.1080/14703297.2023.2195846