I was very impressed by the clarity and accuracy of its response to my question about the difference between Sunni and Shia and current events. The response began with ‘Sunni and Shia are the two largest branches of Islam, and the differences between the two stem from political, theological, and cultural disputes that arose after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 CE.’ After expanding on those points the response explained how the Sunni-Shia divide is a major factor in conflicts in the Middle East and South Asia.
In response to my question, ‘Is it possible to walk the Copeland Pass?’ ChatGPT replied: ‘The Copeland Pass is a popular trail in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California’. The response went on to describe the rough terrain, importance of having the correct equipment, checking the weather and following the Leave No Trace principles.
I had asked the question because I was curious to find out if it is still possible to cross the Copeland Pass in New Zealand: something I did in the 1980s. Recently I read it is no longer practical to cross the Copeland Pass because glacier melt and erosion has made the area dangerously unstable.
Imagine my surprise when I refined my question to specify the Copeland Pass in New Zealand and ChatGPT replied: ‘I apologize for the mistake in my previous answer. There is no Copeland Pass in California.’
Despite ChatGPT’s authoritative statement that the Copeland Pass in California is approximately 11 miles long, I needed to consult more widely to determine there is a Copland, California, but no Copeland Pass in California.
While the Sunni Shia response highlights challenges ChatGPT poses to some traditional forms of assessment, my experiences also highlight the importance of checking information and thinking critically. Being able to think critically and analyse different and multiple types of information is and will continue to be relevant to many aspects of our lives and forms of work.
As some academic articles describe, ChatGPT can be used to help foster critical thinking and other skills including developing perspective, refining and exploring different styles of writing. The speed of responses, ability to engage with the program and to refine questions after considering its responses (and the possibility of finding mistakes) can facilitate an engaging and productive environment to support learning.
Notwithstanding its challenges, there will be multiple ways ChatGPT and other AI technologies support and enhance our learning in meaningful and engaging ways.
Deputy Head of Senior School – Student Learning
Feature image: ‘How an AI ChatBot Passed An MBA Exam: The ChatBot Threat To Business Schools’, MBA News, 23 January 2023