Why We Need to Ban ChatGPT in Elementary Schools

Why We Need to Ban ChatGPT in Elementary Schools

Why We Need to Ban ChatGPT in Elementary Schools

An Interview with Mindy Bingham: author of the Career Choices Series, Founder & CEO of Academic Innovations

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:

1. Educate yourself about these A.I. tools and try them for yourself.
The best way to decide what role any technology should play in your children’s lives is to learn as much as you can about it. Find your trusted sources of news and information and review their recent coverage on the topic of artificial intelligence. Look at what the technology industry is saying about these tools, but focus on the serious critiques, not just the hype. Spend some time using one of the chatbots yourself so you understand what it can and cannot do. Approach your own use of these tools with the same level of skepticism you exercise when researching anything online. Is the information accurate? Is it based in fact or opinion?

2. Contact your local school board and get this issue on their next agenda.
Until research shows that the positive impact outweighs the negative, every school district should be cautious about introducing chatbots into the elementary classroom. Large districts such as New York City Schools have already banned classroom use of these tools. Does your school board already have a policy about the use of ChatGPT, Bard, or similar tools? If so, find out what that policy is. If not, ask that the school board form a policy that restricts the use of these tools in the classroom. If you have concerns about an existing policy or a lack of policy, talk with other parents and form a parent action group. What is your school board doing to cultivate creativity, build resilience, develop critical thinking skills, and provide opportunities for early career exploration.

3. Talk to your children’s teachers.
Find out what your children’s teachers know about ChatGPT and Bard. Teachers have a lot on their plate, so they may not have had a chance to explore this technology at a deep level yet—but they may know as much or more about it than you do. Talk about where your children are in their development—academically, emotionally, and socially—and be open with their teachers about any concerns you may have about the negative impact these tools can have on their growth. Find out what plans they have for its use in the classroom. Share this article with them. Advocate for activities and curriculum that build social-emotional skills like growth mindset, self-efficacy, and grit.

4. Create opportunities to enhance your child’s creativity through their own brainpower.
Give your child chances to explore and exercise their own creativity—through storytelling, writing, games, drawing, painting, music, dance, whatever they love. Engage with them in ways that challenge their creativity, such as a storyline round robin where you start a fictional story and pass the storytelling to each child, and they pick up the storyline where the last person left off. Feed their curiosity. If something interests them, help them find a book, podcast, class, or experience where they can learn more. Look for ways your child can work with others and share their ideas and perspectives. Collaboration helps build creative problem solvers with solid communication skills. Foster a growth mindset by praising their effort and what they accomplish through hard work. Encourage them to keep trying when they encounter difficulties so develop a growth mindset and learn to “fail forward”—seeing setbacks as an opportunity to learn and improve.

5. Lobby congress to make tech companies accountable to the educational process.
Congress must move quickly to ensure that the technology companies creating these types of artificial intelligence tools act responsibly and get ahead of any negative impacts to children’s learning. Contact your Representatives and your Senators, and ask them to make this a legislative priority.

6. Talk to your children about the downsides of technology. Once you feel you have done your own self-study, have an age-appropriate conversation with your children. Find out what they may have heard about ChatGPT or Bard. Talk about the pros and cons, the risks and benefits, and limits that your family is going to put on the use of this technology in your home. Explain why it’s important to their future that they develop self-efficacy and build confidence in their own abilities. Explore the technology together. Let your child ask questions and, depending on their age, either answer their questions or help them to find the answer using trusted sources. Help them understand the process you use to vet information online or in the media.

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.

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