ChatGTP: the end of schooling?

Sent to our school’s staff in the wake of the buzz created by ChatGTP’s release

December 15, 2022

Dear colleagues:

On some mornings, I wake up with a racing mind and feel the overwhelming urge to write. Today was such a morning. For a while now, I’ve been keenly interested in artificial intelligence (AI) and its implications on schooling (keeping in mind how Skynet from The Terminator unnerved so many of us in 1984). AI has been around for many years (influencing our consumption habits in both conscious and unconscious ways), but it has sprung onto our doorstep in recent weeks due to the emergence and publicity of the beta version of OpenAI, a breakthrough some have placed on par with the invention of electricity.

So what exactly is OpenAI and ChatGTP? If you’re not entirely sure, consider reading this brief chat I had on the topic with ChatGTP, where you can see the utility (and limitations) of the technology at this moment in time. It took me about 60 seconds to put it together as I composed this email.

How else am I getting to know OpenAI? You can see a sample in this week’s Friday Flash message, where I used to create a brief holiday message at an 8th grade reading level (don’t worry, I cited my help).

My entire professional career has taken place in the era of computer technology. As such, I’ve tried to adapt rather than resist each breakthrough, whether it was desktop computing, Google searching, smartphone applications, and now OpenAI. It is my belief that everything a school does (and by extension, teachers) should be oriented toward thinking. That’s our value-added, to produce thinkers. And even though AI is already “thinking” on a level that experts predicted couldn’t be done for years to come, I believe we still have a role in the growth of young people. But only if we adapt our practices and modus operandi, and only if we upskill.

How might this look? What if we could employ AI to help our assessment of student learning? For example, AI does the assessing of spelling, grammar, syntax, citations, and other structural elements of writing, and the teacher focuses their attention on the student’s ability to meet higher-level reading and writing standards, such as analysis, persuasion, and points of view. Another example: AI does the assessing of the appropriate steps taken to solve a problem, allowing the math teacher to gauge the conceptual understanding of the student. With only so much time in our day, becoming more efficient, and thus conserving cognitive load, is a worthwhile endeavor to a teacher.

Rather than putting energies into devising ways to catch or limit the use of OpenAI in student work (reality check: Turnitin is not yet able to detect the influence of AI), isn’t it time-better-spent to rework what gets our attention in class, building on our unique strengths and contributions as humans? While AI offers the temptation to do more and more of our thinking for us, it doesn’t mean that we have to surrender completely to it. We simply need to redesign the learning environment, leveraging AI to promote thinking. This is an exciting opportunity!

There is so much I still don’t know or understand about this new technology, but I’m committed to getting up to speed the best I can, and to building my PLC around this topic (here’s a padlet resource facilitated by our own Mario Fishery in his keynote last week at a conference). Derek Thompson’s writing and podcasting has been a big help, and I’m happy to share this resource (without endorsing all of his conclusions).

Fear of the unknown (or what could become) is a perfectly valid emotion in this matter; I feel some of this, too. Yet I invite you embrace this uncertainty and ambiguity, to look for the opportunities, and to turn to advice provided four centuries ago by The Bard himself:

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;” (see King Henry’s full speech here from Shakespeare’s Henry V)

Be well,



Having some fun blogging, taking the writing seriously, but not myself.

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Paul Richards

Having some fun blogging, taking the writing seriously, but not myself.