The use of artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT and Bard has sparked concerns about plagiarism in high school and college. However, little attention has been given to the potential harm these tools can do to the intellectual development of elementary age children.
During elementary school, children learn fundamental skills, including writing, math, critical thinking, and problem-solving. The introduction of this new technology may hinder their ability to think for themselves and stifle their creativity.
So, what is the solution? Mindy Bingham, best-selling author of the Career Choices series and awardee of the Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for Innovative Approaches to Curricula by the United States Congress and The Breaking Traditions Award from the Equity Council of the national Association for Career and Technical Education, suggests keeping these tools out of the hands of our younger students.
“We don't have time to sleepwalk through this one. The genie is out of the bottle,” said Bingham. “As educators and parents, I recommend caution by not jumping on this newest technology bandwagon, at least until research shows us the positives and negatives.”
Bingham is in a unique place to sound the alarm. Besides being the developer of nationally-acclaimed textbooks and children’s books, Bingham has also developed two proprietary online platforms including the My10yearPlan.com, a tool that thousands of students use each year so they can plan a productive path to self-sufficiency.
“Until a child is literate, can read and comprehend what they are reading, write clearly and convincingly, and compute through basic algebra using only their own brainpower, do not introduce artificial intelligence into the elementary classroom,” Bingham stated.
Problem-solving, critical, creative, and strategic thinking are essential skills required by employers in any field. Writing papers and solving complex word problems are just some examples of how students develop these skills. Yet the use of the chatbots makes this effort no longer necessary.
“Creativity is a fundamental aspect of human expression that distinguishes us from other species,” Bingham reminds us. “From prehistoric cave paintings to modern-day street art, we are driven to express ourselves creatively from an early age. Abdicating this basic human drive to a machine may remove one of the most enjoyable and productive functions of our existence.”
When we adapt a well-known recipe or figure out how to balance our budget, we apply strategic thinking originally practiced in the elementary classroom.
“Imagine what your life would be like if a machine does this for you, and you never get the opportunity to stretch your thinking and apply basic knowledge to common problems,” Bingham cautions. “What would society be like if within one generation we don’t have people with the experience to solve the problems we face.”
Beware the temptation to allow young students to use a chatbot to write their first draft of a paper, justifying they then can do the work to customize it. It is the act of coming up with original ideas and then organizing their thoughts that is the cornerstone to the critical thinking prized in the workforce.
The creators of these artificial intelligence tools have a responsibility to design them in ways that allow their use to be tracked. This could be as simple as incorporating digital watermarks that are traceable to help educators identify original work from machine-generated work. This feature will ensure that students receive appropriate credit for their efforts, and educators can accurately assess their performance.
Here are six things parents can do right now:
- Take a test run and try a chatbot yourself.
- Get this issue on your local school board’s next agenda.
- Talk to your children’s teachers and share this article.
- Create opportunities to enhance your child’s creativity through their own brainpower.
- Lobby congress to make tech companies accountable to the educational process.
- Talk to your children about the downsides of technology.
“A young mind is a precious thing, and it is vital that all necessary precautions are taken to protect it. “Let us prioritize brain power over digital power and use technology only as a means to support and enhance learning, not replace it,” Bingham concludes.