Have you tried one yet? An ‘intelligent virtual assistant’ that engages in what can feel like authentic extended conversations. The Beta version of Chat GPT, developed by the company OpenAI, is available to play with and I’ve come across several articles assessing it’s functionality.
This article from Forbes magazine suggests it can help to brainstorm ideas, understand complex topics, summarise research, act as a writing assistant and translate into 95 different languages. Do all these functions sound useful for a student looking to get help with essay writing? Of course they do!
When McLuhan wrote ‘the medium is the message’ he was referring to the potential for any new technology (the medium) to change the way we perceive what is being communicated (the message). A simple example would be the change from oral to written cultures meaning messages were received through eyes not ears. We can see this happening in language teaching but not necessarily always in a good way. Throughout my teaching career, I’ve used a variety of different technologies such as language labs, tape recorders, video recorders and of course, in the last 20 years, digital online resources. As each new technology was introduced, there was enthusiastic uptake from some practitioners but the technology changed the way we viewed aspects of practice. For example, recordings of a variety of English accents on tape and video enabled a wider range of pronunciations to form models for learning but enabled teachers to question received pronunciation and then native speaker models of language.