During a trip to an AI conference in Ghana, I had an unexpected conversation at the immigration office that made me reflect on the fear of innovation prevalent in Africa.
An officer had probed further into my purpose of visit and on mentioning that I was attending an AI conference, another official, listening in, exclaimed, “So you guys are the ones that want to strip people of their jobs!”
The world we live in is undeniably a world of innovation. Looking back through history, we can draw parallels to previous eras of innovation, such as the industrial age where mechanical tools like tractors and mills improved manual labour in farming; and then the emergence of the ongoing Information Age where computers rendered skills like typewriting and shorthand obsolete.
Going to a cybercafé to pay a browsing fee also faded with the emergence of Google. Formerly, we used to be amazed at a walking library (someone who recites a plethora of information offhand-recitations such as the State and Capitals of countries in the world) but now, the effect has lessened because we now have the library itself in our pockets.
Concerns arose about the internet that students would disregard physical libraries and become complacent in their studies. While some of these concerns materialized, it existed side by side with the positive enablement brought by the internet.
Of course, we must do our best to ensure emerging technologies are responsible, ethical, and unbiased, but we cannot shy away from innovation out of fear of losing jobs ready to be replaced or transformed by these advancements. It is akin to a parent who insists their child attends university from home to prevent negative influences.
Admittedly, this approach ignores the fact that one cannot be omnipresent. Instead, the responsibility lies in instilling values in individuals to empower them to make informed decisions and heighten their discretion and discernment. Similarly, we must approach ChatGPT, an emerging technology, with the intention of harnessing its potential rather than fidgeting on unavoidable consequences.
Moving on, we will uncover three (3) ways ChatGPT will transform the status quo of education for African students and how it makes them effective in high-order thinking.
1. Easy access to streamlined information:
While Google Search offers a broad range of search results, it often presents students with an overwhelming number of options. They must sift through numerous web pages, articles, and resources to find the most relevant and reliable information.
This process can be time-consuming and sometimes lead to information overload, making it challenging for students to focus on the specific information they need. In contrast, ChatGPT simplifies the process by retrieving and presenting information directly to the student.
Instead of spending hours browsing through search results, students can ask their queries to ChatGPT, receiving concise and accurate responses. This streamlined approach saves valuable time and allows students to focus on understanding and applying the information.
Moreover, ChatGPT’s ability to fetch information from diverse sources, including academic databases and research papers, expands students’ access to scholarly articles and valuable resources that may not be easily discoverable through conventional search engines.
2. Facilitating personalized learning:
One of the challenges in traditional classrooms is catering to the diverse learning needs of students. While students often turn to Google Search for assistance, its reliance on keywords and algorithms may not always guarantee the most comprehensive or relevant information.
ChatGPT, on the other hand, employs advanced natural language processing and machine learning techniques to understand the context and nuances of students’ queries. It provides tailored and in-depth responses, considering specific requirements, learning goals, and areas of interest.
For example, a Physics student struggling to grasp the law of lift in aerodynamics could seek help from ChatGPT, asking for an explanation to a 5-year-old, using relatable examples.
This personalized nature of ChatGPT ensures that no student is left behind, as explanations, examples, or additional resources can be provided multiple times and in different ways to cater to their pace, learning styles, and level of comprehension.
3. Empowering students for higher-order thinking:
Students can engage in ongoing dialogues with ChatGPT, seeking clarification, asking follow-up questions, and exploring concepts in greater detail. This goes beyond mere memorization of vast amounts of information and places students in a position where they can ask critical questions that elicit valuable responses from ChatGPT.
As the saying goes, ‘garbage in, garbage out,’ the quality of the questions posed to ChatGPT directly influences the quality of the answers received. In traditional classroom settings, when teachers ask, ‘Any questions?’ students often respond with silence or a mumbled ‘no’.
Read also: ChatGPT: The new normal in technology today
However common this may be, this lack of engagement could indicate a gap in the learning process, as students’ minds ought to be piqued after exposure to information. With ChatGPT’s ability to engage students in dialogue, it demands thought-provoking queries from students in order to provide quality response in return.
This demand becomes a catalyst for intellectual growth, unlocking the vital quality of being a scholar: critical thinking. It is through this critical thinking that students can become problem solvers, taking available information as materials to be woven into innovative solutions, rather than an optimum measure of intellectual prowess.
Students, undoubtedly, must seize the existing advantages within ChatGPT to propel their own advancement. Simultaneously, institutions must acknowledge that innovative technologies often yield unintended consequences; however, its potential for empowerment is tremendous.
As universities embrace emerging technologies such as ChatGPT, they pave the way for a transformative educational landscape that fosters active learners, critical thinkers, and innovative problem solvers.