Artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT are among the newest technologies to become relevant in the world of education. Education experts are unsure how user-friendly artificial intelligence systems like ChatGPT will change teaching and learning. That concern extends to how AI may affect disabled students.
On the one hand, these devices can act as personal assistants: ChatGPT can build a study program, explain a complex concept, or suggest themes for a research paper. This could be beneficial for students who have difficulty managing their time, retaining information, or organizing their ideas.
Fears of cheating, on the other hand, may encourage instructors to adopt adjustments in testing and evaluation that hurt students who are unable to perform well on, an oral exam or in-class test. Students who lack confidence in their capacity to learn may enable the results of AI technologies to substitute their own voices or thoughts. Unfortunately, this means students won’t use it as a simple study aid.
Students with disabilities have long experienced difficulties in the classroom. Receiving accommodations that can help them is sometimes a challenge. These accommodations include having note-taking assistance or more time to take tests, or being allowed to type instead of writing by hand.
To discourage students from utilizing ChatGPT, some teachers have switched from take-home writing assignments to timed writing tasks in class, according to Casey Boyle, who is the director of the Digital Writing and Research Lab at the University of Texas in Austin. Students struggling with cognitive challenges, dyslexia, or ADHD will struggle in those settings.
While educators are rightfully worried that students may use AI tools inappropriately, some teaching experts advise against outright barring their use because AI tools may be able to help students with disabilities. Students with mobility issues may find it simpler to use generative AI tools like ChatGPT or Elicit to help them conduct research if it means avoiding a trip to the library.
Others say they could benefit autistic students. Students who have difficulty navigating conversations, such as those on the could benefit from these tools for “social scripting.” In that case, they may ask ChatGPT to provide them with three ways to initiate a chat with peers regarding a group project.
Advocates for disability rights have long encouraged teachers to employ a method known as universal design for learning, or UDL. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a teaching and learning approach that allows all students an equal chance to succeed. The purpose of UDL is to remove any barriers to learning by utilizing a range of instructional approaches. It involves incorporating flexibility that may be changed to accommodate each person’s individual demands and skills. Adding captions to videos is a common example.
Another option is to provide text-based explanations for graphics. Advocates remark that these practices can help all learners, resulting in more inclusive classrooms. A more subtle difficulty, according to teaching experts, is that students with disabilities may be more likely than others to substitute their own words and thoughts with AI output rather than use it as a tool.
Artificial intelligence is here to stay. Disabled people may benefit from it in certain situations. When exploring artificial intelligence, educators should include disabled students.
McMurtrie, Beth. “How ChatGPT Could Help or Hurt Students With Disabilities.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 26 May 2023, http://www.chronicle.com/article/how-chatgpt-could-help-or-hurt-students-with-disabilities?cid=gen_sign_in.
Morin, Amanda. “What Is Universal Design for Learning?” Understood, 15 Sept. 2022, http://www.understood.org/en/articles/universal-design-for-learning-what-it-is-and-how-it-works.