Khan Academy founder Salman Khan told attendees of a Harvard Graduate School of Education webinar that banning artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT in schools is the “wrong approach,” calling the service “transformative” for the future of education.
The HGSE hosted Khan Wednesday afternoon as part of its Education Now webinar series, which aims to address the evolving state of education following changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. The webinar was hosted by Uche B. Amaechi ’99, an education lecturer at HGSE.
“I think there’s a huge artificial elephant in the room,” Khan said of ChatGPT. “This is going to be transformative for potentially what platforms like Khan Academy can do, but also transformative for what education becomes.”
Khan referenced a recent decision by the New York City Department of Education to ban the chatbot — which provides detailed AI-generated responses to user-inputted text prompts — over academic dishonesty concerns, calling the move a “knee-jerk reaction” to the new tool.
“Should we be banning it for schools where this might be one of the hottest jobs of the future?” Khan said, referencing the growing AI industry.
Khan cited six-figure salary offerings from AI companies for prompt engineers, who help train language models like ChatGPT to better assist users.
“The jobs of the future are going to be dramatically transformed by this,” Khan said. “People should not hide from it. They should play with it, they should embrace it, and see how we can navigate the future with it.”
Khan compared the emergence of ChatGPT in schools to the launch of Khan Academy’s own service in 2008, explaining that new education technologies can support rather than threaten the traditional classroom experience.
“There’s all sorts of things that you as a human being in the classroom can do that Khan Academy at that time does not do,” Khan said. “It helped instill in the teachers’ minds, ‘Well, I’ve got even more value as an educator. I don’t have to give the same canned lecture.’”
Khan also recommended schools continue to offer remote or hybrid learning options following the lifting of pandemic restrictions, though he added that the educational experience is “generally better in-person.”
“We have refugees from Ukraine, from Syria, using Khan Academy as they go from refugee camp to refugee camp. It’s able to stay with them, they don’t lose their progress,” Khan said. “There’s a lot of benefits for having, what I would call, this almost safety net of online.”
Khan said AI could open up a “whole new zone of opportunity” for students, referencing experiences his son and daughter had creating stories using ChatGPT.
“It was an incredible experience for my eight-year-old son. He felt empowered. He felt like a writer. He felt like an editor,” Khan said. “That’s the really exciting opportunity that as educators, we have to be exploring.”