Despite the significant benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) tools, lingering concerns persist. Many worry that tools like ChatGPT are here to take their jobs.

By Ashley Bruyns, head of engineering at Altron Systems Integration 

In addition to professional anxieties, lies concerns about the consequences of critical thinking for our youth. Major concerns include students now taking the easy road as a means to “copy and paste” instead of implementing the thinking work required for assignments.

Even though this might cause uncertainty among teachers, the big question remains, with these tools available to everyone, how can we embrace rather than exclude them from the education system?

Instead of avoiding or banning AI tools, schools need to introduce lessons on how to use these tools responsibly, as part of an educational tool.

Similar to what happened with calculators when they were introduced in schools; many viewed them as controversial pieces of technology, with teachers sanctioning their use because of the fear that students would become too reliant on them.

As with calculators, technological disruption and AI within the education space is inevitable, and has its place, as long as students are taught how these tools can add value.

However, with the digital divide that exists in South Africa, the use of AI tools in the education system might take time to surface due to the fact that not all students have equal access to technology, which can lead to even wider disparities.

The need to close the gap between the haves and have-nots when it comes to technology is well recognised. The youth of South Africa need to be able to benefit from AI-driven educational tools in order to set them up correctly for their future.

The good news is that there are many forward-thinking schools and institutions in South Africa that are adopting AI as a learning tool, with an emphasis on teaching learners how to use it appropriately.

For instance, learners doing programming can prompt ChatGPT to generate small snippets of code. The student then needs to apply critical thinking and evaluation to complete the code.  Far from blindly copying what the AI tool provides, they can leverage its expertise and learn more efficiently.

Another challenge is the reliability of the information provided. It is vital to teach the importance of not taking everything at face value, and the need to verify sources and fact-check is an imperative when using AI, a necessity across all modern communications platforms too.

With the youth of today already so adept in navigating smart technology, the use of AI is the inevitable next step. These tools are not going away, so everyone needs to be part of the AI journey, to increase access to it, grow with it, and learn to use it ethically and responsibly.