Empowering Students for the Digital Age: A Letter on AI and ChatGPT in Education

Wednesday 15th March


The world is changing at a rapid pace, and at Girton Grammar School, we are committed to keeping up with the latest advancements in technology and integrating them into our curriculum.

AI, and specifically ChatGPT, a language model that uses AI to generate human-like text, has been making waves in various fields, including healthcare, finance, and education. However, there are concerns within the education sector about the potential impact of AI on ethics, credibility, and the future of education.

Girton Principal, Dr Emma O’Rielly, has taken a proactive approach to this issue and is working with the Leadership Team to develop a School Policy for students around the responsible and ethical use of AI.

In the following letter to the Girton community, our Principal shares her thoughts on the potential benefits of AI and ChatGPT in the classroom, as well as the importance of educating students on the responsible use of these technologies.

“I was thrilled to announce to the Girton community last week that our school is set to become the first educational institution in Victoria to introduce a Lumination Learning Lab in the classroom. Equipped with the latest virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology, this state-of-the-art immersive classroom will allow our students to explore complex concepts and ideas in a safe, virtual environment. I am excited about our plans to incorporate immersive learning into Girton’s curriculum and can’t wait to introduce the Lab to our students in Term 3.

“As technology continues to evolve, it is essential that as a school, we keep pace with these changes and embrace new technologies in the classroom. One technology that has gained widespread attention recently is ChatGPT, a language model that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to generate human-like text. While this technology has caused consternation in some areas of the education sector, and for good reason, I believe there are many compelling arguments for schools to embrace it.

“For those unfamiliar with ChatGPT, the platform is essentially a ‘chatbot’ developed by OpenAI; the first organisation to release a user interface that lets the general public use this technology directly and for free. Chatbots rely on sophisticated computing techniques and vast amounts of data to make predictions and string words together in a coherent and meaningful way. By drawing on an extensive vocabulary and contextual understanding of language, ChatGPT has the ability to mimic speech patterns and provide encyclopaedic knowledge on a wide range of topics.

“The potential of AI and ChatGPT is immense, and these technologies are already making a significant impact in various fields. For example, in healthcare, AI can analyse large amounts of patient data to improve diagnosis and treatment, while in finance, AI can help banks and financial institutions detect fraud and make better investment decisions. These technologies also have the ability to automate routine jobs and free up time for employees to focus on more strategic and creative tasks.

“In education, AI and ChatGPT have the potential to transform the way we teach and learn. One practical example of AI’s use in the classroom is personalised learning – teachers will be able to use AI to analyse student data and tailor their lessons to the individual needs of each student. AI could also be used in assessment and evaluation processes, allowing teachers to spend more time providing feedback and individualised support to their students. Additionally, AI could be used to monitor student progress, identifying areas where students may need additional support or intervention. However, while it might be a valuable tool because of its depth of knowledge, many educators have expressed concern about how ChatGPT will affect the ethics, credibility, and overall future of education.

“Since ChatGPT is trained on large amounts of data, one of the main concerns is that it may reflect the biases and prejudices that exist in society, which could have negative consequences for students. There is also a risk that ChatGPT could be used to cheat on assignments, allowing students to generate high-quality essays or other tasks without understanding the material or demonstrating their own creativity. Despite these concerns, however, I believe that AI has the potential to provide significant benefits for education and for our students, and importantly, will never replace the human interaction and guidance that our teachers provide.

“Girton is working to introduce a School Policy for students around the responsible and ethical use of AI. Dr Paul Browning, the Principal of St Paul’s School in Brisbane, wrote an opinion piece for the AFR titled, Why schools shouldn’t be scared of ChatGPT, in which he said, “The reality is, we have entered a new era: the era of AI. And we’re not going to stop students by banning the likes of ChatGPT from school devices or school IT networks. They will access it from home or from their phones. Instead, we should welcome the benefits that AI can bring to education.”

“Dr Browning’s argument aligns with our belief that schools should not be afraid to embrace technologies like ChatGPT, as it is becoming an increasingly prevalent tool in the workforce. As educators, it is our responsibility to teach our students how to use AI responsibly and ethically to harness its full potential for learning and growth. Put simply, students who are familiar with these technologies will be better prepared for the future.

“Technology has evolved education in so many ways over the years, and I am incredibly excited about the possibilities of AI. Microsoft has already announced the integration of ChatGPT into its search engine, Bing, and I am sure it is only a matter of time before ChatGPT or applications like it are integrated into the software platforms that we use at work and school every day. With that in mind, I have made it a priority to fast-track my own knowledge about ChatGPT since its launch in November and have begun experimenting with it myself to gain a full understanding of its functionality. I am currently working with Girton’s Leadership Team to develop a School Policy on the use of AI and ChatGPT, which we will release as soon as we can.

“As we learn more about AI and ChatGPT and the ways it can be used in the classroom, we must focus on educating our students about the potential benefits, risks, and limitations of these rapidly evolving technologies. Importantly, we must teach them how to use it with mindfulness and integrity to prepare them for the technological landscape they will encounter in their futures.”

Dr Emma O’Rielly