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Educator encourages teachers, students to embrace AI

Published:Friday | June 9, 2023 | 12:44 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer


MEMBERS OF the teaching profession are being urged by academics at Sam Sharpe Teachers College (SSTC) in Montego Bay to adopt chatbots like ChatGPT and other forms of artificial intelligence (AI) in order to deliver lessons more effectively.

Although AI has been available for a long time, ChatGPT was just released seven months ago and has since caused concern among individuals in Jamaica and around the world, including its developers, because of its effects on knowledge generation.

Head of the college’s mathematics department, Konor Peters, outlined artificial intelligence’s history, explained its use, and forecast how it will evolve in Jamaica while speaking at a symposium titled ‘ChatGPT and AI: The Sharpe Argument’, where more than 150 online participants, including teachers and students, gathered to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of these technological tools.

“AI will be like a psychic for humanity, where it does much of the heavy lifting of mundane tasks, such as writing reports, producing speeches and facts,” Peters told participants.

He, however, admits AI will disrupt some businesses locally, but will not completely paralyse them; thus, there might be some paradigm shifts in education, entertainment, tourism, design, and engineering.

According to Peters, in education, students might have better access to personalised curricula, an increase in people with technical skills, a change in how students are assessed, and the introduction of new policies.

“In entertainment, there will be a boost in created content such as songwriting, voice acting, book publication, movies, animation, theatre arts, and photography,” he explained.

Kerry-Ann Kerr-Williams, a research officer at SSTC, who presented on whether AI is good or bad, claimed that it could affect the brain if it is heavily relied on.

“Overuse of artificial intelligence tools can interfere with the development of your brain cells,” Kerr-Williams warned.

She proposed that in the classroom, there should be guidelines for both students and instructors on the use of artificial intelligence, the usage of information from a range of sources, and the requirement for students to defend their papers.

Leroy Fearon, a lecturer in social studies, demonstrated how ChatGPT is used in content creation and advised educators that the platform “can be utilised to brainstorm because you’ve been teaching the same topic for years and using the same methodologies and expecting to get different results. It doesn’t work like that, but ChatGPT is here to help us brainstorm new ways of disseminating content.”

Fearon pleaded with educators not to avoid the technology, but rather to “see how best you can apply ChatGPT to make your work easier, and more efficient and effective”.

For his part, Ricardo Bennett, principal at SSTC, said the Webinar was the first of many conversations that were envisaged surrounding the very topical matter of artificial intelligence.

“We cannot turn back the hands of time, so what we want to do is see how we can use the technology that is available to ensure that we better serve and train our teachers,” stated Bennett.

“Here, at Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College, we are moving with technology, not shunning it, but embracing it and moving forward,” he added. “As a tertiary institution, we believe it’s important that we begin to talk about what the future of education will look like and what impact this technology will have on the way we assess and the way we teach.”