Dear TIRF Colleagues and Friends:

Nowadays, everyone is talking about Open AI and how ChatGPT is impacting what we do. Our TIRF Vice President, Professor Suzzanne Panferov Reese, asked the following question not long ago using ChatGPT: “What is the future of English teaching in an AI world?” Within a few seconds, the text below was generated (abbreviated):

In an AI-driven world, the future of English language teaching (ELT) is likely to undergo significant transformations. While AI technology can never fully replace human teachers, it has the potential to enhance and revolutionize language learning in several ways:

1. Personalized Learning

2. Intelligent Tutoring

3. Language Assessment

4. Language Practice

5. Translation and Interpretation

6. Global Collaboration

7. Continued Education

However, it is important to note that AI should not replace human teachers entirely. Human interaction, cultural context, and emotional support are crucial aspects of language learning that AI cannot fully replicate. In the AI world, teachers will likely take on new roles as facilitators, mentors, and guides, leveraging AI tools and resources to enhance the language learning experience.

The answers to the question above, though short, show the comprehensibility and logic of ChatGPT.

AI – in particular, generative AI – is evolving rapidly in almost all fields. But how will it shape teaching and learning? English language teachers are trying to figure out how we can use artificial intelligence to our advantage and how we can avoid using it, given numerous ethical, pedagogical, and legal issues involved. AI affects almost all players in education: teachers, students, administrators, parents, and so on.

As you may know, one of the features of generative AI is grading papers. Surely, there are two choices we can make. One is to use AI for grading student papers. The merit is to free up time for over-burdened teachers so that they can devote themselves to research or other professional activities. The disadvantage is, however, is related to individual attention, quality, and ethics. We don’t know whether our students, who might rely on AI to generate essays, will use it appropriately with proper attribution, or will simply over rely on it and plagiarize texts.

Deciding whether to use artificial intelligence in classrooms depends on the type of tool being used, its purpose, and its goals, as well as the discipline involved. For instance, if we allow our students to use ChatGPT when we teach English Academic Writing, doing so may help students write essays, but we would be providing a disservice to our students if their actual writing skills are not enhanced. However, if we teach biology in English, allowing our students to use ChatGPT may be facilitative rather than debilitative.

School English teachers, as far as I know, are concerned about whether students are actually doing their homework, or whether students know how to get inspiration from ChatGPT and yet sill complete their homework. It is our responsibility as educators to find how technologies such as ChatGPT can deliver value – while ensuring integrity – in our classrooms.

Language teachers and researchers need to be aware of the impact of ChatGPT in our profession and be ready to take on challenges that accompany this new, powerful tool. TIRF, as one of its research topics, supports research on technology and is considering ways in which the Foundation can help further our understanding of this area in our field. It is clear that the issues we are currently facing in language education relative to technology are not going away. Rather than avoid the challenges, we must embrace them and leverage the platforms that help our students achieve improved learning outcomes.

Kind regards,

Jun Liu, TIRF President