AI & Education Sector

Moa Jamir

Artificial intelligence (AI), Encyclopædia Britannica defines, is the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings. Among other capabilities, AI is endowed with the intellectual processes characteristic of humans, such as the ability to reason, discover meaning, generalize, or learn from past experience.

While Britannica maintained that despite continuing advances in computer processing speed and memory capacity, there are as yet no programmes that can match full human flexibility over wider domains or in tasks requiring much everyday knowledge, some have attained the performance levels of human experts and professionals in performing certain specific tasks.

In the context of education, Generative AI (GenAI), described by UNESCO as AI “technology that automatically generates content in response to prompts written in natural-language conversational interfaces,” has emerged as a game changer in recent years. Rather than simply curating existing webpages, GenAI provides new content and exceptional capabilities beyond textual presentation.

The launch of ChatGPT, a free-to-use AI system in November 2022 by the AI research and deployment company OpenAI, was considered a ‘game changer,’ first introducing the general public to technologies previously limited to research centres and tech companies. According to UNESCO, the launch of ChatGPT (Generative Pre-training Transformer) set off shock waves around the world and quickly led other global tech companies to play catch-up, alongside numerous start-up companies, either by launching their own similar systems or by building new tools on top.

Students and teachers as well as general users of internet are daily flooded with such technologies on various digital platforms since then.  Out of many, OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Gemini have emerged as most recognisable players in the field, with both racing to come out with most capable and enhanced GenAI; the GPT-4o (o stands for Omni) and Gemini 1.5 Pro, being the latest addition respectively. 

As teachers and students venture into changed paradigm and interact with the new technology with both amazement and ethical concerns, it is pertinent for every stakeholder to understand that such advancement is inevitable, but should be embraced cautiously.

While the listing several advantages, both ChatGPT and Gemini themselves commonly listed cost, lack of human touch and data privacy concerns as common challenges, when prompted on major pros and cons of AI.

To this end, apart from UNESCO’s 2019 Beijing Consensus on AI;  2021 Recommendation on the Ethics, and 2022 AI and Education: Guidance for Policy-Makers, the organisation’s ‘Guidance for Generative AI in Education and Research’ (2023) is a useful tool, particularly for teachers and policy makers.

The 2023 Guidance highlighted, among others,  the risks of young learners uncritically accepting GenAI outputs, which could be superficial, inaccurate, or harmful.  It emphasised that researchers, teachers, and learners must recognise that GenAI outputs reflect common or dominant views from its training data, which can be problematic or biased, and should always critically access this information. Users must also learn, it added,  to traverse altered image, audios, videos and other emerging concerns such as ‘deepfakes’ and ‘fake news.’ 

The Guidance also called upon policymakers, educational institutions, and government agencies to build capacity for proper GenAI use, understanding its benefits and risks and underscored the need to reflect their long-term impacts on knowledge creation, teaching, learning, curriculum design, assessment, research, and copyright. The UNESCO also advocated for open and inclusive public and policy dialogues involving government, the private sector, and other partners to ensure the ethical and effective use of AI in education.

The issue of veracity and bias is particularly relevant for communities like the Nagas, with limited resources and literature available online. With such constraints, GenAI outputs can be biased or present inaccurate, one-sided views. Educators and policymakers in Nagaland now have considerable experience with the ubiquity of GenAI. Therefore, state-specific guidance should be developed, incorporating insights from teachers, students, and other stakeholders to productively use GenAI and limit its adverse impacts.

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