Robo-Writers, Translators, Chatbots: Developments in NLP and What it Means for Education

Recently, Getting Smart published an intriguing piece on the likely influence of natural language processors on education. Excerpts from the piece appear below:

Natural language processing is a branch of computer science, specifically artificial intelligence, that enables computers to understand human language, process it, and create language to interact with humans to communicate.

AI, and particularly NLP, is changing the way humans create, consume, and evaluate content. Financial reports, sports news, and legal briefs are increasingly computer drafted. NLP is changing the nature of employment and will increasingly show up in classrooms–welcomed and otherwise. 

What NLP Means for Edu

Students should have an understanding of what AI is, the impact that it has on our lives and how it could shape the future–both good and bad. They should know that they are living through the first decade of widespread human-computer co-created content, art, and music–an amazing opportunity that will challenge historical views on intellectual property. 

Upper elementary school is a good time to teach digital literacy and critical consumption. Middle school is a good time to introduce AI ethics and begin the conversation about what it means to co-author with a machine.

High school should create opportunities for students to use machine learning tools to attack problems and create solutions. This could happen in a computer science course, a social studies and tech block, or an after school program (see AI4All).

And, keep an eye on student writing. Plagiarism detectors will be challenged by new content creation tools. Live performance assessment will remain the best way to determine if it was Robbie or robo-writer.

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