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Don't ban AI-powered chatbots

This article, in which Sal argues that AI-powered chatbots will be everywhere, and should be integrated into lessons and curriculum, is a revised version of an interview between Khan Academy founder Sal Khan and Alyson Klein, originally published in EducationWeek on 13 February, 2023.

Sal's view: Don’t ban AI-powered chatbots

We believe many careers will involve working with LLMs

Even if a ban could be truly effective, it might actually put kids at a disadvantage because it would prevent them understanding this transformative technology and developing skills that will help them in the future job market.

Question: How do you navigate a world where all of the students have access to AI?

Option 1: Have students do more writing in class periods, in front of you.
In a traditional model, classes often consist of a lecture and a little bit of discussion. And then students are expected to do all the creation and synthesis work outside of class.
But those take-home writing activities will not be as useful for assessment because teachers won’t know who is using AI and how.
With that in mind, the "writer's workshop" model will continue to be effective pedagogy—where kids are writing all the time. And the teacher and peers are giving each other feedback and saying, ‘Oh, you might want to tweak that, etc.’
Option 2: Embrace the new learning experiences AI can offer
This is the future. We’re now in a time when if you’re doing any form of writing, and you’re not at least considering and exploring how a large language model might assist you, you might be working inefficiently.

Question: Is the five paragraph essay dead?

Not at all. There will soon be effective ways for students to develop their writing skills while using AI as a writing partner and coach. Understanding how to draft a quality argumentative or informative essay will continue to have value—the difference will be the way we go about teaching the skill, and help students drive past basic structural formulas and the derivative text that the AI might generate, and push for original arguments and genuine insight.

Question: How can new experiences improve learning?

The old way of doing writing assignments: “Kids, hey, write your five-paragraph essay by Friday.” You hand it in, the teacher will grade it, maybe by Monday, and it might ruin their weekend. If you’re lucky, you have a teacher who gives you some helpful, actionable, personalized feedback. If you’re really lucky and have a really invested teacher who has the time and passion, they might let you iterate on it. But oftentimes, you just get a grade, and you move on to the next assignment.
With the learning experiences we’re envisioning, every kid is going to get immediate personalized writing coaching.
AI will make it more possible for students to practice reading comprehension and practice writing skills at the same time. Imagine an activity on Khan Academy where there’s a reference passage, maybe an article of the Constitution or a famous speech, and the student works with the AI to construct a quality argument anchored in that primary source.
Like a great Socratic tutor, the AI could ask the student questions like
  • “What argument is this author making?”
  • “What would be some thesis statements related to this argument that you could make?”
  • “How would you support this claim if you only had three sentences to convince someone?”
  • “Okay, now, back up each of those sentences. What kinds of support should we add?”
In this case, the AI wouldn’t write it for the student—this is a new learning experience where the student does the work while the AI helps them to develop their critical thinking skills.
Human judgment, discernment and reason remain out of the reach of AI. Humanity needs to develop these skills as much as ever—arguably more than ever.

Want to join the conversation?

  • cacteye green style avatar for user Sniper
    I do see the possible benefits of AI, but how are children supposed to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills if every time they hit a bump in the road they just turn to AI?
    (12 votes)
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    • leafers ultimate style avatar for user Velociraptor105
      I think that the technology is currently too limited to take the place of problem solving and critical thinking skills. The AI makes errors and hallucinations, which have to be fact-checked, and it doesn't always answer questions with a factual or sufficient answer. For example, ask chatGPT to write an epic poem about Mr. Potato head, or to list possible alternatives to rocket power in space travel, or to draw a duck with asci characters. The answers to these questions seem to define its limits rather well. ChatGPT also has low test scores in the SAT ACT, and other academic tests, so it is probably unlikely it could, at its current level, replace human abilities.
      (3 votes)
  • starky ultimate style avatar for user Cheeze Cake
    Does this mean Khan will eventually add WRITING courses? like you have to write a short story, a chapter, an essay, etc. and then an ai will be able to grade/help you with it basically being a teacher? If so, I WOULD ABSOLUTELY LOVE THAT! I'm a HUGE writer!
    (10 votes)
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  • starky ultimate style avatar for user AB
    Sal's view: Don’t ban AI-powered chat bots what does that mean?
    (6 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user slizarazo
    Schools mostly chose to ban cellphones, resulting in policies that were unenforceable. By allowing phones for physics only, I had much better results (calculator, camera to take pictures of notes & compare to the their own, calendar to record assignments, video of lab, phone number of teammates,etc) in limiting students off-task use of phones.
    How do we create similar policies for AI that are proactive, incorporating AI responsibly, so that students understand the expectations and constructive ways to use it?
    (6 votes)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user jhill
    Why don't we just create an AI with limited abilities for education?
    (5 votes)
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  • mr pink green style avatar for user 2045687
    Are there any videos in AI for education?
    (3 votes)
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  • piceratops seedling style avatar for user cadbel26
    (3 votes)
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  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Chuyao Wang
    Instead of banning AI, teachers can encourage students to work with it and learn from its feedback. For example, give your essay to chatgpt for its suggestions on how to improve it. Why do you think it made those suggestions? Do you like it or not and why?
    (2 votes)
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  • winston default style avatar for user Aon Daqdouq
    Why do they ban them when they can reuse them?
    (1 vote)
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  • winston default style avatar for user Jason Detrand
    wait they ban ai chatbots? thats so stupid. espiecially bing ai, its basically the entire internet in a nutshell.
    (1 vote)
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