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At the beginning of the school year, each of my 11th grade teachers stated that they would not tolerate students using AI platforms, such as ChatGPT, to complete assignments. They explained that any use of AI would be considered plagiarism and could result in a failing grade.
Despite these warnings, I regularly hear my classmates laugh about how they used ChatGPT for the prior night’s homework. Their gloats are often accompanied by comments along the lines of “Work smarter, not harder” and “Teachers literally make it so easy to use AI.”
My classmates at the public high school I attend in New York City are not unusual: In a recent survey, 89 percent of students who responded said they had used ChatGPT for homework.
It’s easy for teachers to admonish students not to use ChatGPT and then blame them when they do. But educators must realize that the work they are assigning, which largely relies on rote memorization, is a perfect fit for artificial intelligence.
Rather than browbeat students for using AI, maybe educators should outsmart AI by reimagining education so that it requires more creativity and critical thought, the aspects that separate people from robots.
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Related: ‘We’re going to have to be a little more nimble’: How school districts are responding to AI
Since third grade, I have been taking standardized tests. Now that I’m older, these include Regents exams, New York State tests and Advanced Placement assessments. My teachers say that our scores on these tests are a reflection of our academic proficiency, as well as a predictor of our future academic and professional success.
Yet, in my experience, all standardized tests do is reduce nearly every class, even the most interesting, to regurgitation.
Take AP Psychology. I signed up for this class because I am fascinated by the subject, especially the philosophical and open-ended aspects that require thoughtful discussion and analysis. But rather than encouraging us to engage with psychology’s intellectual premises, the class requires us to memorize roughly 400 terms.
If I can remember each term and its definition, I will have set myself up for success in the class and on the final AP exam.
Sounds fascinating and enlightening, right? Not to me. Unfortunately, this is the current state of education. Exams and teaching to the test have become so ingrained in education that little to no room is left for creative learning, rich discussion, critical thought or the development of emotional intelligence.
These are the very skills and activities that separate people from robots, yet instead of developing them, students are told to act like robots and simply spit back information on exams.
Ironically, AI is, of course, much better at being a robot than a typical student is; systems like ChatGPT can access and spit back large swaths of information better than any person.
Thus, it is no surprise that GPT-4 clocks high scores on the bar exam, SAT and multiple AP exams, including a 5 (the highest possible score) on AP Psychology.
These results show that the modern student is susceptible to AI takeover. If educators wish to effectively prevent AI from entering classrooms, they must reimagine the way students are taught.
Rethinking education in America should include a move away from teaching to the test and a push toward project-based learning, which encourages students to collaborate, examine and analyze real-world issues and apply scientific research to solve problems.
Related: OPINION: Banning tech that will become a critical part of life is the wrong answer for education
This approach might even drive test scores higher. A 2021 study estimated that students whose curricula included KIA, a project-based learning approach, would be 8 percent more likely to earn a passing score on AP exams.
While project-based learning may help lift standardized test scores, its real power lies in improving problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. These skills are vital for current students who are preparing for a world with AI.
According to one report, AI could eventually replace 300 million full-time jobs worldwide. The jobs that AI is currently unlikely to be able to replace are the ones that require problem-solving and critical thinking, as well as those that require complex communication, decision-making, creativity and emotional intelligence.
Education is a means to getting a job and being successful. Simply put, for my generation and future generations to succeed, we are going to need much more than rote memorization skills. The good news is that the skills we need are the ones that make learning fun, challenging and exciting.
We are at a crossroads. Educators, policymakers and everyone with an interest in the future of work has a decision to make: They can either continue supporting an education system that teaches students to think in ways that AI can clearly do better, or they can decide to reform education to prepare students for the not-to-distant world of the future.
Benjamin Weiss is a junior at Midwood High School in Brooklyn, N.Y.
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