For most of the last year, the world has witnessed unprecedented growth in the development and use of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) tools. This technology has only just begun to shape various aspects of our lives. Obviously, as people who work in legal technology, we are mostly focused on how it will impact the processes involved in the practice of law. Another area that is likely to see profound transformation is education—and that includes legal education.
GenAI, powered by models like Open AI’s Chat GPT, Google’s Bard, and others, has the potential to revolutionize the way we teach and the way that students learn. Let’s explore a few of the ways that GenAI might impact education and how it may reshape the future of learning.
One of the first realizations has to be that using GenAI in education provides a sort of personalized learning experience. True, one could read a book, reflect on the content, and have a personal learning experience, but with GenAI, it is like having the entire Library of Congress at your fingertips. With good prompting of a GenAI tool, a student could learn about almost anything anytime they want (assuming of course the model has data on the subject). Think of it as a personal tutor of sorts.
Traditional classroom settings often struggle to meet the diverse learning needs of a wide variety of individual students. GenAI platforms have the potential to create adaptive learning platforms that tailor content and challenge each student’s learning needs, interests, and learning style. This not only improves engagement but also has the potential to enhance overall learning outcomes. It will be interesting to watch as educators and technologists come together to innovate in this area to explore learning tools that improve education.
GenAI tools are good at creating content. After all, these large language models are enormous collections of text, words, and phrases. For anyone who does not know, a large language model like Chat GPT is a statistical model of word-use patterns. GenAI tools arrange and reiterate words in a statistically predictable manner based on a prompt, question, or query from a user. The question of course is whether the content produced is accurate. It should be clear by now that GenAI tools can “hallucinate” and provide inaccurate information, particularly when not trained in the subject matter being queried. That is why it is imperative that content creators review and fact-check content created by a GenAI tool. But undeniably, for a student struggling to start a paper – or frankly, anyone struggling with writer’s block—GenAI can be a useful starting point. To them, “trust by verify” should have a particularly significant meaning.
Educators have been quick to condemn or in some cases ban the use of GenAI by students because it is viewed as cheating. Meanwhile, educators are probably also using GenAI to assist in content creation by automating the generation of textbooks, learning plans, lecture notes, and other learning materials. Using GenAI, teachers will be able to focus more on teaching and less on preparing materials, resulting in more dynamic and up-to-date educational resources.
And to those educators opposed to students using GenAI to create content, a recent news report illustrated a perfect solution: Allow students to use GenAI to create content (with appropriate fact-checking of course), but instead of asking the student to turn in an auto-generated paper, have the student commit the material to memory and give a speech or presentation to other students and the teacher on the material. Repetition is a fundamental didactic tool that plays a critical role in education. It reinforces concepts, improves memory retention and skills development, and enables students to master complex topics. In addition, speaking and presenting to an audience builds confidence and prepares students for the real world where the ability to articulate, persuade, and “show your work” are critical skills in business and the working world.
Tutoring and Assistance
Chatbots and virtual tutors should become increasingly common in educational settings. We already see them resolving customer service questions on websites. GenAI tools can provide instant feedback, answer questions, and assist students with their studies. With the right prompting, GenAI tools can even be used to prepare practice questions and quizzes. These real-time support tools not only help students grasp concepts more quickly and effectively but also reduce the burden on educators, enabling them to provide more individualized attention to students who may be struggling.
Other Learning Advancements
Learning a new language can be challenging, but GenAI tools are making significant strides in language education. AI-powered language apps and chatbots can engage learners in real conversations, provide pronunciation feedback, and even generate culturally relevant content to immerse learners in the language. This will make learning another language more interactive and accessible.
And lastly, GenAI is absolutely going to disrupt education for individuals with disabilities. Transcription services can automatically convert spoken words into text, making lectures and educational videos accessible to individuals with hearing impairments. Text is easily converted to audio, too. And content can be converted into various formats, such as Braille or tactile graphics, to cater to the needs of visually impaired learners.
There can be little doubt that GenAI is going to play a crucial role in enabling people to acquire new skills and knowledge. There is almost no limit to the possibilities. It has the potential to transform education in ways we could not envision just a few years ago. From individualized learning experiences to producing content, GenAI has the potential to make education more engaging, accessible, and effective for learners of all ages.
However, it is essential to remember that while AI can be a powerful tool, the role of educators in guiding and shaping the learning process remains irreplaceable. As we embrace the opportunities presented by GenAI in education, let us also ensure that the human element of teaching and mentorship continues to thrive alongside these technological innovations. And, in the same way that GenAI is not going to replace the reasoning and expertise of lawyers and legal professionals, teachers should also not be concerned. As a society, we will always need teachers.
To paraphrase a recent quote, artificial intelligence is not going to replace teachers –or lawyers—but teachers who use AI will replace teachers who do not use AI.