How will ChatGPT alter the world of education ?

Just when we thought we could be returning to a sense of normality in schools in 2023, our next wave of disruption comes crashing down, right before those gates open for a new school year.

ChatGPT has crept into the world right when we were unplugging for a few weeks and finally reading books for pleasure, watching a TV series and enjoying the luxury of having nowhere else to be.

If you are not already familiar with ChatGPT it is a language model that was developed by Open AI for natural processing tasks such as text generation and language translation. Chat GPT has been exponentially popular due to its ability to generate human-like text responses to prompts.

My first encounter with ChatGPT was through my tech-savvy husband, who excitedly showed me how it could write his code for work, design his next project brief and even write my next blog! Through the joy of playing and experimenting with ChatGPT’s many uses for us together, I knew the first question that would be on every educator’s mind as soon as they first learnt of ChatGPT’s potential would be; what does this mean with regards to authenticating student work?

On returning to work last week, my first instinct has been validated time and time again through the staff I have spoken to. ‘But how will we set essay topics for homework? How can we check for plagiarism? How will we know if any work produced at home is actually the student’s own?’

The truth is, this is something we should have all been asking ourselves more robustly for sometime. Long before ChatGPT or Google there were parents and tutors and friends. Our quest as teachers is to want to inspire our students to learn, grow and adapt. It has never been our job to inspire them to get a task done.

So, what are 5 things for teachers to do with ChatGPT before leaping into their new school year?

1. Accept it. I am sure many schools will consider whether this technology is to be embraced or banned, but the simple truth is, that it is here and it is not going away. Our true power as teachers is to teach students how to utilise technology responsibly and to their advantage; and there is a new tool in town.

2. Consider it. As educators we all have a responsibility to consider how we authenticate student work in how we set tasks. If plagiarism of work is something that weighs heavily on your mind through the nature of your subject area or the work you typically set, then think about how you ask the questions, when you set the work and what the end goal for the student is with a different lens. ChatGPT has not changed the brainstorming stage, the guided discussion or the discovery in learning. It has substantially changed the research stage and it therefore can change the work that can be produced, but that is still a student’s choice.

3. Acknowledge it. With any new technology release, we are here to educate students about the new tool’s use, but also about the new tool’s fallibilities too. ChatGPT clearly articulates that what it produces still needs to be checked due to the nature of how it works, pulling information from multiple sources. Students also need to be educated on how it can be valuable to their learning but also when it can be detrimental too.

My 14 year old son had the privilege this Summer of being exposed to his first experience of Shakespeare, through studying Romeo and Juliet at school. We used ChatGPT to understand what a phrase actually means and what each character may be motivated by (all of this is learning), but once we type in his homework question and he copies and pastes it, he is now not learning. Could he get a great opening or closing sentence for punchier impact? I would argue that this also constitutes great learning for a reluctant teenage writer. Helping your students use it effectively will be key.

4. Use it. Now we have moved past the hurdles listed above, let the fun begin. As teachers, one thing we always need is time. ChatGPT allows us to claim it back. I have asked ChatGPT to write me some multiple choice questions, give me ideas for my staff start up address, create me a lesson plan on a topic that is new to my study design this year and point me in the direction of three great articles I could read to further my understanding on that topic too. We need to stop thinking like ‘Googlers’ and start playing with the type of questions and tasks that can be aided through the assistance of intelligent technology like ChatGPT.

5. Incorporate it. Playing with ChatGPT is the first step, but like any great tool, learning when to incorporate it within your world will be where it holds its most value. It can’t read the feel of my classroom, school or community, I do that. But it may be able to help guide me in what I can do about shaping that. It can’t enjoy dinner with friends, but it could write me a meal plan and shopping list to save me valuable time and allow me to invest more in social time.

I have professed strongly over these past COVID-filled years that this time taught us that technology and AI will never replace human interaction or the value of teachers. I truly believe that incorporating ChatGPT into our world allows teachers more time to show their value in the ways that truly make an impact.

And for all of those wondering, no I did not use ChatGPT to write this, it probably would have produced a better outcome. But what I said for my students is true for me as well. I love to learn, grow and design, and have never been motivated by simply getting a task done. The choice of its use still lies in our hands!

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