The launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT artificial intelligence (AI) platform in November 2022, has raised a number of concerns regarding the use of artificial intelligence by students. Will AI mean an end to authentic work? Will it degrade students’ abilities to think critically? Will it ruin creativity and imagination? After researching the issue, I decided to engage with ChatGPT myself to see how our ideas regarding the use of AI in the classroom compare.
ChatGPT generates its answers based on the text it has been trained on, which includes the internet, books and various articles. It is not able to access the internet in real-time, so my conversational partner was only able to generate answers from information up to January 2022. It was very easy to set up a free account and kick off our conversation. (One upside to “chatting” with artificial intelligence? No need for small talk!)
Me: What is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is a language model developed by OpenAI. The “Chat” in ChatGPT indicates its suitability for conversational applications. It is designed to understand and generate human-like text based on the input it receives. It has 175 billion parameters, making it one of the largest language models to date. These parameters enable it to perform a wide array of language tasks, including text completion, question-answering, language translation and more. Users can interact with ChatGPT by providing prompts or questions, and the model generates responses based on its training data.
Because ChatGPT doesn’t have the most up-to-date information, its answers, at times, may be incorrect. Also, when it doesn’t have enough information to pull from, the AI platform may make up an answer, a phenomenon known as a hallucination. Finally, because ChatGPT draws its answers from the copious number of sources it is exposed to, it takes on the potential misinformation or biases of the source material. If the team of developers is not representative of all groups, it can also reinforce any implicit biases.
Me: Does AI have a place in the classroom?
Yes, AI has the potential to play a significant role in the classroom and education more broadly. While AI offers numerous opportunities in education, it’s important to consider ethical considerations, data privacy and the need for human oversight. Integrating AI into the classroom should be done thoughtfully, with a focus on enhancing the learning experience and supporting educators rather than replacing human involvement entirely.
When ChatGPT first launched, some of the country’s largest school districts banned its use in the classroom until they could figure out how to handle the technology and its potential effects. However, once the technology was out there and accessible, it was virtually impossible to stop students from engaging with it. Instead, many school districts are now working to develop ways to lean into the benefits of AI, while mitigating the potential downsides, such as plagiarism. ChatGPT can help teachers with lesson plan design, grading and newsletter and communication generation, among many other things.
Me: How are teachers addressing the misuse of Chat GPT?
Addressing the potential misuse of ChatGPT or similar language models is a significant concern for educators. By combining clear guidelines and ongoing supervision, teachers can help create a positive and safe learning environment where AI tools are used as educational aids rather than potential sources of misuse. Collaboration with other stakeholders, including parents and school administrators, is crucial in addressing and preventing the misuse of AI in educational settings.
Teachers have an amazing ability to adapt to challenges and pivot. Rather than banning it, many teachers are encouraging the use of ChatGPT, so they can also teach their students how to effectively manage this technology. A recent study by Nootroedge showed which states have the highest number of students using AI to write their college application essays. Texas ranked in the top five. This means that it’s vital for teachers to help students think critically about what ChatGPT serves up and to recognize that we shouldn’t turn all our thinking over to AI, but rather should learn to make it work for us.
I enjoyed my time chatting with ChatGPT. I found myself asking it things like, “What are some side dish recipes that go well with salmon?” Benign questions for sure, but because of my research, I was also aware that everything I asked AI is now permanently recorded. The power of ChatGPT is incredible, and being able to approach it with a critical mindset is crucial. Once again, we are reminded that teachers have a profound role in shaping the minds and futures of their students.
Alison Bogle is a writer living in Austin with her husband and three children. A former fourth grade teacher, she now enjoys writing about children and education. You can also catch her talking about articles from Austin Family magazine each Thursday morning on FOX 7 Austin.