I’m no expert when it comes to technology, so I count myself lucky to work at a School where digital proficiency is wide-spread and celebrated. We offer a range of subjects that tap meaningfully into the digital universe, some of which we were able to create from scratch as part of our growing elective program. Beyond this, we were recently commissioned by the government to leverage the expertise of our teaching staff and industry partners to design and deliver SACE Cyber curriculum for the entire State. This should make us all proud.
In terms of resourcing and support, I remain impressed that we have our own, in-house software development team. This is not a common thing to find at schools. Students can find these staff members in the room under Miller library, doing important and difficult things I do not fully understand.
Our commitment to a meaningful engagement with the digital world is particularly appropriate given the latest developments in artificial intelligence, especially with respect to ChatGPT. You may have read that ChatGPT 4 is on the horizon, if it has not already arrived; rumours are flying that it can turn hand-drawn notebook sketches into operational websites within microseconds and create deepfake videos of imagined scenarios at the click of a button. All of this both terrifies and excites me, raising ever-more significant questions about the meaning and importance of authenticity and originality in the twenty-first century.
With this in mind, St Peter’s College, like any educational institution, needs to continue to address two challenges:
- How can we embrace the astonishing opportunities this kind of technology represents to help us create, analyse and organise?
- When it comes to assessment, how can we ensure that we are measuring and developing young men’s understand of the universe, not their robot slaves’?
There is movement around both these challenges (I can confirm the first one is more fun to grapple with!), but you may be curious about what our on-campus community has been discussing. Since the start of this term, we have convened a number of student and staff ‘think-tanks’ about these issues, where we have begun our journey to answer the questions above in meaningful and positive ways.
Out of these think-tanks, there are four things so far that have really piqued my interest:
- Both staff and students seem to be generally positive about the exciting things AI can do. At the very least, our community appears to be resigned to the fact that we will be living with and working alongside artificial intelligence, whether we like it or not. I think this position is appropriate and realistic; it is helpful to remember how the internet was once touted as the end of knowledge, and recall how ancient Egyptian stories speak to historical fears that writing would cause our brains to atrophy because we would no longer need to remember anything!
- Faculties and other academic teams continue to determine the best ways to exploit and mitigate the risks of AI within their various learning contexts (like all things in education, one size never fits all) but, generally, students are saying transparency is becoming more and more important to them in the age of artificial intelligence. This means that, if we are using AI at some point in our learning (which is surely inevitable), we believe we should acknowledge our use of it.
- Both staff and students recognise that these developments in artificial intelligence remind us of the importance of approaching assessment as a process, not a product. To ensure we are not simply outsourcing our intellectual endeavour to algorithms, learners should recommit themselves to speaking to their teachers about ideas and planning before task submission and then reflecting meaningfully on their output after the fact. Really good assessment, we need to keep reminding ourselves, should be an ongoing, formative conversation as well as a summative stamp of ability. It should be a series of medical check-ups, not just a post-mortem.
- Our assessments (where possible and appropriate) need to keep allowing for personal responses – the kind of output that allows teachers to see students for who they really are and to make visible everything our boys’ beautiful, unique intellects have to offer.
This is, perhaps, a good note to end on. My challenge to all St Peter’s students – on this day and every day – is to try your hardest in class to show off your uniquely human, intellectual qualities, and to celebrate your classmates when they do the same. This is an act of both strength and love, to paraphrase our beautiful School prayer.
Beyond this, please let me know if you have any feedback about where we fit, or you think we should fit, in the larger artificial intelligence journey that we find ourselves part of!