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AI in Education: 5 Tips to Avoid the 'Snowball Effect׳

Working with large language models like ChatGPT often introduces us to 'confident errors'—these models confidently provide information that seems plausible but is often inaccurate. Take an example from November 2022, when ChatGPT humorously but incorrectly stated that the James Webb Space Telescope captured its first image of a star outside our solar system—a feat actually accomplished by the European VLT in 2004.

Despite the occasional 'hallucinations', these models are built on complex statistical algorithms that strive to generate relevant answers based on the training they've received. When asked about untrained topics, they still make attempts using available data, but accuracy can falter. This is particularly important for us, especially when working in Hebrew, as these models have limited data in Hebrew compared to English.

In educational settings, where accuracy is paramount, it’s crucial to verify these machine-generated answers. Remember Google's Bard? A failure in fact-checking led to significant financial repercussions for the company. This underscores the importance of the 'Human in the Loop' principle, where educators play a critical role in overseeing and validating AI outputs, ensuring they're used responsibly in educational contexts.

For creative endeavors, however, the imaginative errors of AI can be turned to our advantage. By adjusting the response 'temperature', we can encourage more creative, albeit less factual, outputs. Tools like HOT MODE on Dall-E3 software exemplify this, turning simple prompts into playful visual content.

DALL·E  A photo-realistic image of a picturesque mountain landscape with a large snowball rolling down a trail.
DALL·E A photo-realistic image of a picturesque mountain landscape with a large snowball rolling down a trail.

What is the Snowball Phenomenon in AI?

In the realm of artificial intelligence, the snowball phenomenon refers to the compounding of errors. It starts when an AI model's initial response contains incorrect or misleading information, which then serves as the foundation for subsequent responses. As more questions build on these inaccuracies, the errors multiply, drifting further from reality. Imagine an AI mistakenly reporting a historical fact, and then each follow-up question compounds the mistake, creating a far-from-accurate narrative.

5 Tips to Tackle the Snowball Phenomenon in Education

  1. Rigorous Fact-Checking: Always double-check the AI's output. Don’t settle for a single source; cross-reference with verified data, use fact-checking tools, or consult well-known scholarly resources. For instance, ask the model to disclose all sources it used in its responses.

  2. Limit Reliance on AI for Answers: Be cautious not to depend solely on AI for educational content. Encourage a culture of skepticism and critique. For instance, have the AI rate the credibility of its answers on a scale from 1-5 and justify its responses with sources.

  3. Self-Evaluating Models: Promote an interactive learning environment where students challenge the AI to self-assess and correct its mistakes. This approach not only prevents error accumulation but also enhances the reliability of the information provided.

  4. Focused Training: Invest time in training both educators and students on the effective and responsible use of AI. Highlight both the potentials and the limitations of these technologies.

  5. Creative Innovation: While AI’s imaginative capabilities can be harnessed to foster creativity, maintaining a critical stance is vital. Use AI-generated 'hallucinations' judiciously to spur creative thinking and scenario building, enriching the educational experience without compromising factual integrity.

The Bottom Line

Integrating AI into education can yield tremendous benefits if approached with knowledge and critical insight. As educators, it's our duty to discern between content that's useful immediately and content that needs further scrutiny. Teaching our students to question, verify, and think critically is crucial, not just in academic settings but across all aspects of life. This approach ensures that AI tools become valuable allies in the educational journey, enhancing learning while fostering essential critical thinking skills.

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Interested in diving deeper into artificial intelligence? You can book a tailored AI course for your school or explore a range of interactive workshops for faculty development. We also offer exclusive online learning days and educational tours. Learn more about our offerings here.

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Wishing all 21st-century educators great success as you navigate the exciting world of educational technology!

[i] (2023). HaluEval: A Large-Scale Hallucination Evaluation Benchmark for Large Language Models.   doi: 10.48550/arxiv.2305.11747

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