Principal 24/2/23: Education and the ethical impact of AI

It’s hard to believe but we are rapidly approaching the midpoint of Term 1. It has been a very busy four weeks across the school, however, students are well settled into the routine of school life now.  The following paragraphs look a little different than usual. Each paragraph has a number. Read to the end of this article to find out why.

Events at School

Over the past two weeks the school community have enjoyed a number of opportunities for parents and staff to meet and discuss their children’s learning and wellbeing. The Primary Information Evening saw over 500 parents in attendance, with a similar level of interest for the High School Meet the Teacher evenings. The Kindergarten picnic (indoors due to wet weather) was also a fun and relaxed time for parent and students to get to know one another better and catch up with their teachers. [1]

Such events provide a valuable opportunity for parents and teachers to collaborate and work together for the benefit of their children. They allow parents to gain insight into their child’s progress, academic strengths and weaknesses, and overall behaviour in the classroom. Teachers can provide feedback on ways to support their child’s learning at home and offer suggestions for further academic improvement. Additionally, participating in these events builds a sense of community within the school and encourage parents to become more involved in their child’s education. By building strong relationships between parents and teachers, students are more likely to succeed both academically and socially. [2]

The school is hosting parent seminars this term and next, which I would encourage you to attend. On 6th March we will be exploring how parents can support the Social and Emotional Learning of their children through ‘Emotional Coaching’. While on the 3rd May, a seminar on ‘Sex-Ed in a Cyber World’. Both these evenings promise to be informative and beneficial. Please mark these in your calendar. These events are intended for parents so consider your child minding plans so you can attend. [3]

Artificial Intelligence

The education sector has been quite abuzz, along with many others, thinking about the possible implications of recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI). While much of the initial response has settled, the impact of Chat GPT and other forms of AI is still being understood. This is an area of technology that is moving so rapidly, it is too early to understand quite how it will impact education in the long term, however, many believe it will not be a small one. [4]

The education landscape is one of perpetual change. My teaching career commenced with actual chalk and blackboards (actually they were dark green), then overhead projectors were introduced, which are now redundant to data projectors and interactive screens. Photocopying was limited and most student work was done with handwriting. A research lesson meant walking the class to the library to access encyclopedias. Our whole faculty had one computer. [5]

Over the space of my 30 years of teaching, textbook use has decreased, student now bring laptops or iPads to school with them, handwriting is still important, but a great deal of work is done on screen. Technology has not just enhanced learning but transformed it in many ways. Technology can be incorporated at differing levels in the classrooms. At times technology can act as a substitute (eg as an electronic textbook) or augment lesson activities (introducing functional improvements). Further lesson development with digital technology can result in modification to the design of tasks (enabling students to ‘virtually go places and engage like never before’). In some cases, technology has led to the redefinition of ways learning allowing for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable. [6]

Just as previous forms of technology meant changes to the education landscape, it is essential that schools and teachers think ‘pedagogy first’ (effective learning strategies) and ‘technology second’. While it offers many imagined opportunities for personalised and supportive learning, it also poses challenges in relation to bias and accuracy, literacy development, ownership of work and isolation (to name just a few). I firmly believe that the relational engagement between a teacher and student is still irreplaceable. This was made abundantly clear through the periods of COVID lockdown in the preceding years. [7]

 Through my own interest I have used Chat GPT to see what it can do. I gave it an HSC question from last year’s Biology examination. Its response was well written. When this response was given to an HSC marker, they noted its quality, but it still only scored 2 or 3 marks from a possible 4.  This seems to be a consistent finding from similar trials. [8]

This of course gives rise to the valid concern that AI can be used by students to generate work claiming it to be their own. The strongest students will not benefit from relying on AI, however, those who struggle will be tempted. For schools, it will require redesigning some tasks. However, in most cases, because teachers know their students well, work that is generated by AI will not be characteristic of their normal work. The ongoing informal and formative assessment that occurs as part of daily learning will be the greatest tool for both learning and detecting academic malpractice. [9]

Bigger than the issue of students cheating on assessments are the ethical issues raised by AI tools. I recently attended a webinar hosted by, Steve Brophy, Director of Digital Transformation at Ivanhoe Grammar School in Victoria: 

“AI does not have a moral compass; it inherits the moral compass of the developers. This is why human conversations and conversations around developing moral compass [are important], because the students having the conversations now are the future developers of this.”

The rapid introduction of new AI tools creates a philosophical challenge due the uncertain ethical landscape. How can students use AI in a way that is beneficial to their learning, as the benefits are clear? How will students know when use of AI becomes unethical? This is again an argument in support for the importance of teachers in the lives of young people. I believe that teachers with a sound biblical world view are well-placed to help fill the ethical challenge education now faces, and to lead, as well as participate in dialogue on AI issues, on what it means to be human and on the future of education.   [10]

We face uncertainty because we face change. However, this is yet another change that schools have had to navigate, and it won’t be the last. I hold great confidence in our teaching staff who will continue to prepare our students well for their adult life.


One of the preceding numbered paragraphs was written using Chat GPT. Can you spot it? Submit your answer with this anonymous quiz (emails are not collected). 

Results will be published next newsletter. I also promise this will be the only paragraph of my newsletters that will be written by AI.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6


God Bless, 

Mr Keith McMullen