Chances are you’ve had at least one conversation in recent months on the subject of artificial intelligence. With the release of image generators like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, and chatbots like ChatGPT and Bard, AI has exploded in popularity.
We recently asked our Facebook followers: “Do you use ChatGPT in your homeschool? If so, how?” We received more than 300 responses with a range of opinions. We then interviewed some of the respondents to get a deeper look at their view of ChatGPT.
AI is an umbrella term for computer programs that automate complex tasks. However, when most people talk about AI, they are referring to AI generators like ChatGPT, a language model that generates text using an algorithm to predict what word should come next in each sentence.
Read more about AI here.
The design is very user-friendly, resembling an online chat window like Facebook Messenger. Posing questions or providing writing prompts will immediately generate text, and listing more specific prompts for ChatGPT’s responses gives users more precise outputs.
What Parents Had to Say
About 30 percent of the parents who responded to our post said they use ChatGPT in their homeschool, while about 70 percent said they don’t. Those who do use AI mainly use it to build lesson or meal plans, manage schedules, create worksheets, or for help presenting a difficult concept.
Several moms said they use it to aid them in teaching their children with unique learning needs. One mom, Nikki Nichole, has used it “to develop an adaptive PE curriculum for my child with special needs and an art curriculum focused on fine motor skills.”
Similarly, Molly Laxton wrote, “It helps with creating lesson plans and gives suggestions to help with behaviors based on my child’s disability.”
Another mom, Kathy Eggers, uses it for speech pathology exercises with her son: “We utilize it to help him simplify words and phrases he might not understand,” she said. “It’s a powerful tool and can definitely be used with supervision.”
Other parents consider AI an important tool to understand because they see it as inevitable and commonplace in the future. Mom Jessica Berkely said that she will add prompt engineering—how to craft an effective prompt for AI—to her curriculum. “I feel it is my responsibility to prepare my kiddos for the future.”
Even so, many parents don’t allow their children to use it, and most of those who responded said they don’t use it at all. Many expressed unease about AI because of concerns about academic laziness and dishonesty.
“I like to think for myself. I’d like my kids to do the same,” said Kate Marino, adding “AI will remove the ability to think for yourself.”
Adesola Agbongiague echoed her view. “I would appreciate if this is not encouraged,” she said. “Our kids need to think critically for themselves.”
Other moms like Isabelle Perkins are wary of how much information AI programs can glean from users and are concerned about continual changes to the user agreement.
We followed up with a few of the respondents for a more in-depth conversation.
‘It’s like skipping to the end’
Joshua Lockair, a homeschool dad and computer science professor at Concordia University, said “We should look at AI with a critical eye.” Joshua goes on to say that AI is limited by those who develop and “train” it, so it contains an inevitable level of bias. These biases shape its responses, but most people, especially kids, might not realize these biases exist or know how to discern them.
Lockair urges his college students to evaluate AI responses and to seriously consider their accuracy before accepting the answer as valid just because it came from a computer.
At home, Lockair teaches his children that computers aren’t supernatural and that it’s important to develop their own learning processes. He wants his children to develop critical thinking patterns that equip them to evaluate information before calling it true.
According to Lockair, if students don’t understand how AI works, they can’t evaluate whether it’s giving the right answer. Even if it does give the right answer, he says, they’re not developing the process or skills to understand the concept. “It’s like skipping to the end.”
Lockair sees a place for AI as a tool, but he urges users to take time to understand the nature of the tool. “What it gives you may be true, may not be true, may be accurate or may not be accurate,” he said.
‘Playing with fire’
Cristina Mugilia, a homeschool mom who works at the Department of Veterans Affairs, said using AI is like “playing with fire.”
She believes students must learn how to discern the usefulness and accuracy of information and said that an overreliance on technology can hinder the development of critical thinking. “A machine that just has lots of facts and data is going to spit out whatever you give it,” she said. “Use your mind. Put your thoughts together. Make an argument.”
She also said that she is concerned about the collection of personal information, which could threaten user privacy, and she’s worried that normalization of AI among students could keep kids from understanding those risks.
A machine that just has lots of facts and data is going to spit out whatever you give it. Use your mind. Put your thoughts together. Make an argument. Cristina Mugilia
She and her sons use Canva—a popular graphic design platform—to edit photos, and her sons discovered an AI feature on it. She allows her son to use the feature but urges them not to offer any personal information to the software.
She concedes AI has its uses but advises we should be cautious “until we know what we're doing with it.” For her, AI’s purpose remains broad and unclear. “I stay away from it, because it's not controlled, and we don't understand it.”
‘Another tool in their toolbox’
We also talked to Jennifer Wolverton, an engineer and homeschool mom, who offers a different perspective. “AI is going to enhance creativity, because I think it's going to come up with things that will make kids go and explore new realms,” she said.
She also sees AI as an ongoing development that is going to continue to evolve over the next several years. “We should all be a part of this historical event and not hide from it.”
She uses AI almost every day, especially for creating quizzes for the math classes she teaches. She also allows her son to use it in their homeschool for all subjects except English.
We should all be a part of this historical event and not hide from it.
Wolverton developed a curriculum to teach others how to use AI to generate story outlines, plot or chapter ideas, and to create fictional worlds. “AI is another tool in their toolbox,” she said.
But she stressed that the tool is powerful and that anyone who uses it should exercise care. Students must understand the ethics of AI in order to use it well—especially homeschoolers. In her view, homeschoolers, of all people, shouldn’t shy away from AI. Instead they should learn to use it ethically and responsibly.
Ultimately, deciding whether to allow AI in the home for educational or recreational purposes is a personal choice. As these parents have illustrated, there’s a range of well-intentioned perspectives on the matter.
Some parents use it to build specialized curriculum tailored to their children’s educational needs. Others aren’t comfortable with some of the security concerns or information biases. Some see it as a threat to education and learning, while others find it a helpful tool if used correctly and responsibly. All recognize the significance of AI and its potential for harm or good.
HSLDA does not hold a particular stance on AI, but we are here to provide you with information and perspectives that can aid you in making an informed choice for your family.
If you are a member and have any questions, HSLDA’s consultants are here to offer guidance as you navigate educational options and tools in this technological age.
HSLDA recently hosted a webinar series on AI. For more information, you can watch the recordings here: AI and Your Homeschool: What You Need to Know! Part 1 and Harnessing the Influence of AI in your Homeschool: Part 2.