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In this episode, we are talking about our initial thoughts and reactions to ChatGPT by OpenAI. We are going to talk a little bit about what this might mean for education, and how we can start to think about using it in our own classrooms.

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Bitmoji of Katie and Rachel dressed up as robots

Show Notes

This week, we are talking about ChatGPT. This is such a hot topic in education right now. Everywhere we look on social media, Twitter, workrooms at school – this is all we hear and see.

At schools, some colleagues are quite concerned about ChatGPT, and there have been some heated debates about it in education. It is so interesting to consider how it’s going to affect education and the way we teacher, so we thought we’d tackle this topic.

There is a lot of potential for educator use of this tool. It’s fascinating how a simple (or more detailed) prompt can be used to create whatever it is you want!

For those new to ChatGPT, it is an AI (Artificial Intelligence) chat bot. You can ask it questions, and it will respond. You can create new chats to talk about specific topics, and you can get information from it. It’s like talking to another human being with access to a whole lot of knowledge, far more knowledge than humans can possess.

First reactions

Between Twitter and all of the conversations with colleagues, the first reaction to this AI tool is that students are going to cheat. This is by far the most consistent reaction so far. This reaction shows how much we value final product versus the process, and it makes us wonder why we’ve moved to this idea of stressing and valuing a final product instead of looking at how students got to that final product.

One of our colleagues was on CBC talking about Chat GPT. During this segment all about Chat GPT, Jamie talked about why students feel the need to cheat, and how it’s important that we get to the root cause of that cheating. He discussed pressure, pressure from parents or peers, grades, getting accept to post-secondary programs, and how these could explain why some students feel like they need to cheat in order to maximize their grades.

We live in a performance-based culture, where it’s all about getting the highest grades, emphasis being on grades not necessarily the building of skills. This grade-based focus it putting this pressure on students to cheat, and to get them to use this type of tool to create for them.

One teacher was even bold enough in a staff meeting to suggest that if students. can get AI to write an essay, why are we assigning an essay? It was a very controversial statement that was met with a varied mix of reactions, but it does make us stop and think about why we do things as educators.

ChatGPT’s potential impact on education

With that in mind, we think that AI is going to have a big impact on education, and it will hopefully shift the way we look at education, the skills we are trying to develop in our students, and the outcomes we want in class.

Bitmoji of Katie and Rachel, rubbing their chins and looking pensive.

It really should involve a shift in focus from the final product to the process.

Back when we were in high school and undergrad, there was a big focus on properly referencing and citing sources, and creating bibliographies in the proper format. We have found ways to shift away from these types of tasks, recognizing that it saves time and sanity to allow students to use tools such as the citation tool in Google Docs, or one of the many websites that will create the correct works cited or bibliography for you.

We need to move with the times again, and recognize that it’s not really about the end product anymore, and that we need to build skills so that students can think critically about texts or topics, and that they can analyze and think things through.

One thing we need to keep in mind is that ChatGPT doesn’t always spit out the right information. It’s based on a database from 2021 (at time of recording), and it could spit out something that sounds great, but it’s important to double check that the answers are correct.

With that in mind, you could ask it to write a 1000 word essay on a topic, but unless you go through it, add in your own background knowledge, etc. it may not be what you needed to complete.

This tool could be used as an idea maker, and not necessarily for the final product. It links back well with the book we have been reading, Daniel Willingham’s “Why Don’t Students Like School?” and this idea that students still need background knowledge in order to take a critical lens to what this AI tool is spitting out.

One thing that we find interesting is that the more specific and detailed you get in your prompt, the more specific and detailed the output is. You could include word count, ask it to integrate quotes from specific sources, etc. The more specific you are in your instructions, the more specific the output is.

How to use ChatGPT

Rachel came across a Twitter thread all about how to get the best response from ChatGPT. The post suggests the acronym PREP. While the whole Tweet likely isn’t relevant to educators, the concept and explanation of how to maximize the output from this AI tool certainly makes it worth checking out and sharing.

The acronym PREP stands for: Prompt, Role, Explicit, Parameters. With this in mind, you have to prompt the AI tool so that it can become your own personal coach. While it may be tempting to input your initial question or scenario and take that information, the key is to keep prompting it for more information until you get what you are looking for.

In some ways, having students use this as a way to see how to start off with a general prompt and then make it more specific is a skill in and of itself. It allows students to practice and become better at providing detailed and specific communication for a specific purpose. In some ways, this is an excellent tool that students. can use and actually see the results of their thinking and how it improves as they find ways to become more specific and detailed in their prompts.

Also, we are kidding ourselves if we think that industry isn’t using this tool. There are so many posts and different things on Twitter threads about how to use ChatGPT to do search engine optimization for websites, for blogging, and so many other pieces. It’s a great way to get ideas, but it’s important that you make it your own. In their policy, they do state that you can’t take it word-for-word and use it to make money from it. You can use it for ideas, and you can give proper credit to ChatGPT for the creation of those ideas. It essentially becomes another source.

YouTubers can also input prompts for ideas on creating videos, but apparently there is some sort of AI program that can look at videos to see if it has been created by AI so that you can’t get profits from those as well. It’s so fascinating, and also intense, that there has been such development in AI.

How to shift education in our own classrooms?

Over the next 5 years or so, there will likely be a massive explosion of AI, and it is definitely going to shift the landscape in education. It then becomes a question of how we respond, and how we change the way that we teach.

We don’t necessary have any answers to this, as it’s really hard to tell how it’s going to affect our own classrooms. Katie teaches a language, which is a skill-based course, it can be difficult to hide the fact that you can’t speak, read or write in the target language. So in some ways, it may affect her classroom less. That being said, it will certainly affect her students when they are in mainstream or content courses. Many of these students are tired of getting low grades because they are constantly marked down for spelling and grammar, and other aspects that aren’t being explicitly taught. So really, English language learners can greatly benefit from knowing how to use AI tools such as ChatGPT.

Concerns or hesitations – one perspective

While we have been talking about ChatGPT quite a bit, it’s funny to note that Katie does not actually have an account. She blames (credits?) her school board for the hesitation in creating an account without knowing what info and data she was giving away.

Both Rachel and Katie were hesitant about signing up because it requires a cell phone number. This caused us to dig a big deeper into the privacy policy, where we discovered that they gather phone number, IP address, name of the device you are using, location, and more. That is a whole lot of data, so Katie hasn’t felt comfortable enough to sign up quite yet. Instead, she has been observing others using it, reading tweets, articles, etc about it, and biding her time a bit before she has to make a decision about it.

You can delete your account should you choose to stop using it, but Katie has become a little more guarded and wary about what data and info she gives out to random companies when creating accounts. The phone number, in particular, felt super uncomfortable.

Other ways for educators to use AI

There are a variety of ways that educators themselves can use ChatGPT. For example, you could use it as a tool to generate ideas or get a first draft of something done quickly. You could ask it to write a 10 question worksheet on a specific topic (eg. stoichiometry), and then you can ask for an answer key as well. It’s great for creating a quick practice worksheet, or as a good starting place.

Bitmoji of Katie and Rachel with a lit up sign above their heads. Text on sign: GREAT IDEA!

We think of this tool as the idea maker or developer. If you are stuck, put in a prompt, and use that output to help you move forward!

Other ways that educators have used it is to ask it to create a lesson plan, with an assessment, and other pieces as well. It tends to be hit or miss in terms of the quality of the lesson plan and the readiness to implement it the following day. This is likely because the way that we teach, and the lessons that we deliver are not automated or artificial; they are based on us as human beings, and our own personalities and ways of talking and interacting with our students.

It is certainly worth mentioning that you do have to really look at what it creates, and make sure that it makes sense to use, or find ways to alter it and make it your own.

We’ve come across many different articles as we have been following ChatGPT online. Here are a couple to check out:

One way that we’ve used ChatGPT is to brainstorm wording and terminology for our podcast episode titles! We often find ourselves defaulting to similar wording or terms, so Rachel has been playing with ChatGPT to help expand our vocabulary, so to speak.

One thing we may notice more is a return to pen and paper tasks and evaluations. This could be good and bad – good if it means we are focusing more on the process of creating a final product, or trying to see what skills students have in order to help them build on that. It could also be bad if it means that teachers are going to try to control the learning environment in a way that could stifle creativity and idea generating.

This means that educators are going to need to do some learning around what it is, and how we can embrace this tool and find a way forward. It’s important that we help our students to build the skills that will allow them to use tools like this effectively. That being said, we can’t require students to create accounts and provide personal data in doing so. If a student has gone out on their own and made the decision (ideally with parental knowledge) to create an account, that’s one thing, however we should not be asking them to do it. With that in mind, it’s important to mention that students under 13 should NOT be creating accounts. This tools is for use by individuals over 13 years of age.

Students could also use ChatGPT to ask a question, and based on that answer, they can reverse engineer and confirm the accuracy of the the AI’s response.

You could also have a weekly challenge where you try to “beat the bot” – the teacher can project the site, and as a class you come up with the prompt, and try to verify accuracy, solve a problem, etc.

Overall, there is a lot of potential with the use of artificial intelligence in education. We have barely even scratched the surface here, but we are excited to see how it all continues to develop, and how education changes along with the technology.

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