The Recorder – Chalk Talk: An AI Earthquake in Education

I typed in, “How will ChatGPT change the way teachers teach writing in the classroom?” and clicked the submit button. Within seconds, words from ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chat tool, rolled across the screen:

“ChatbotGPT is a variant of the GPT (Generative Pre-training Transformer) language model developed by OpenAI. It is designed to generate human-like text based on a command prompt. It is not intended to be used as a teaching tool, but as a text generation tool for a variety of purposes including content generation and language translation.

“However, it is possible that ChatbotGPT or other speech generation models could be used as teaching tools in the future. For example, a teacher could use ChatbotGPT to generate sample texts for students to analyze and rate, or to generate assignment writing prompts.

“In general, the use of chatbots and other artificial intelligence (AI) tools in education is an area of ​​active research and development, and it is likely that we will see more and more AI-powered tools used in educational institutions in the future. However, it is important to note that these tools are only as effective as how they are used, and it is up to teachers and educators to decide how best to incorporate them into their classroom practice.”

If you’ve spent even a few minutes tinkering with the latest chatbot version from OpenAI, a company working on developing AI tools through the use of supercomputing and vast databases of information, then you know it’s an experience that opens eyes.

And you better believe a lot of our students probably know about it too.

Before I stumbled upon news of ChatGPT in my teaching and technology circles, a student said to me, “Did you know I can get the computer to write an essay for me?”

For some reason the comment has not been registered at the moment. I kind of acknowledged the possibility, but not much more. A week later I realized what they were telling me. They had tinkered with ChatGPT. And they were right. It can write an essay for you. In seconds. (Note: when I wrote this, the platform was still open to everyone, but that’s likely to change if it hasn’t already).

My first impulse was an “oh oh”. So I dived in and spent time with this technology and surfaced with a few observations.

First, I hate to think negatively about how students could use ChatGPT text to write essays, stories, poems, and plays as their own for schoolwork, but well, that’s certainly going to happen. ChatGPT has the ability to quickly write responses to any prompt, and most of the time what it writes is pretty thoughtful. scary.

I asked ChatGPT for their opinion on students using it to cheat on assignments. There was a pause in his answer, as if considering the ethics of my question, although I know I’m probably just humanizing the AI ​​here.

“It is possible that in the future students will use ChatbotGPT or other speech generation models to write schoolwork. These models are designed to generate human-like text based on a prompt provided to them, which could potentially ease the writing process for students. However, it is important to note that ChatbotGPT and other language generation models should not be used as a substitute for a student’s own writing and thinking.

“Instead, these models can be used as tools to help students generate ideas and start writing, or to provide inspiration for their own writing. It is ultimately up to the teacher or trainer to determine how these tools are to be used in the classroom and to ensure that students are using them in a way that is appropriate and conducive to their learning.”

So how can we imagine a positive and potentially productive use of AI systems like ChatGPT in our classrooms?

This development in AI will certainly mean that educators cannot resort to generic writing prompts for students. These will be too easy for chatbots to answer. Instead, change will require more thoughtful lesson designs that incorporate more creativity and multimedia elements into traditional text-based writing assignments, and open up countless opportunities for writing students to express themselves. A single letter may no longer be sufficient for students to demonstrate understanding and creativity.

Instead of fearing the technology, we can embrace it and consider how we can use ChatGPT with students to demonstrate how “predictive text” (which is the basis of ChatGPT through machine learning) has potential and limitations. For example, on many occasions, ChatGPT has been shown to be dead wrong about the information provided in the replies despite the technology appearing as authoritative in their writing voice. The AI ​​doesn’t know everything, and yet it’s pretty good at faking what it doesn’t know.

Teachers could use the technology to reconsider writing activities, as ChatGPT suggested in their reply to me. It’s surprisingly adept at generating writing prompts on a topic. It does a pretty decent job of suggesting revisions to submitted essays and stories. It can be helpful to suggest names and situations of characters and settings. It can explain forms of poetry and then provide examples. It can take a text and revise it into any imaginable style, allowing students to understand genre changes.

This AI could one day even replace search engines like Google as a source for students conducting research projects. ChatGPT not only has a growing database, but also individualizes the answers to specific queries and provides context for information found. Follow-up questions and clarifications are a question and a click away.

The release of ChatGPT is potentially an earthquake in education that we in education cannot ignore, even though many ethical issues remain unresolved. Perhaps we educators raised the same concerns when Wikipedia took off and YouTube suddenly became ubiquitous and Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and TikTok took the world by storm. Still, this feels like a different moment, at least to me.

Alternatives to ChatGPT are already emerging. There are platforms with names like LaMDA, BlenderBot, DialoGPT, Gödel, Sparrow, Galactica and more. This AI technology is still in its infancy, which makes our attention all the more important.

I’ll leave ChatGPT to end here with the last word:

“It’s also worth noting that the use of ChatbotGPT or other AI tools in education is still an emerging area of ​​research and development and we still don’t know a lot about how these tools will be used in the future. Therefore, it is important that students and educators exercise caution in using these tools and are aware of the potential limitations and ethical considerations.”

Kevin Hodgson, from Leeds, is a sixth form teacher at William E. Norris Elementary School in Southampton and a teacher adviser with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project.