5 tips for navigating ChatGPT and other AI tools in the classroom

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Since ChatGPT launched Nov. 30, the artificial intelligence technology has sparked concerns about the potential impact on education, including students’ use of the technology to plagiarize schoolwork. 

Districts that have already blocked access to ChatGPT include New York City Public Schools, Los Angeles Unified School District and Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools, according to Forbes.

The chatbot, created by San Francisco-based OpenAI, generates human-like responses based on prompts given by users. The free research preview of ChatGPT can be used for anything from explaining quantum computing in simple terms to gathering creative ideas for a 10-year-old’s birthday, as well as writing essays, poems, cover letters and even movie scripts.

OpenAI announced on Jan. 31 the release of an “AI classifier” tool trained to distinguish between human and AI-written text “from a variety of providers.” However, the company cautioned that the classifier “is not fully reliable.”

Some educators have also advised against knee-jerk reactions to the tech. 

“I absolutely understand the desire to panic. It is a scary prospect, the idea that students can have an essay entirely written for them with a prompt, that couldn’t be detected on a plagiarism scanner,” said Shana Ramin, a school technology integration specialist in Michigan and former middle school teacher. “But there are also a lot of potential benefits that can come from this.”

Don’t stop at blocking access

While Washington’s Seattle Public Schools has blocked access to ChatGPT on devices issued to students, the district allows teachers to access and leverage it as a learning tool for students, said Tim Robinson, the district’s lead media relations specialist.

The district also blocks student devices from accessing seven other AI-powered sites: chat.openai.com, rytr.me, articleforge.com, writesonic.com, ai-writer.com, wordai.com and jasper.ai.

However, blocking access to ChatGPT on school devices doesn’t prevent students from accessing it on their personal devices, said Dan Lewer, an AP history teacher named Hawaii’s 2020 History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute. That, in turn, puts students who don’t own any personal devices at a disadvantage, he said.

Lewer, whose “History for Humans” features educational videos that teachers can use in the classroom, has talked about how ChatGPT can be used in the classroom on his TikTok channel with over 18,000 followers.

Seattle Public Schools is having ongoing discussions about ChatGPT and planned to host conversations among educators, school leaders and its central office. “We can’t afford to ignore it,” Robinson said.

The district’s discussions include the potential educational applications of ChatGPT, Robinson said.

“Students could use it as a personal tutor, providing feedback and new ideas, exposing them to new styles or techniques, starting new lines of thinking and research,” Robinson said. Likewise, educators could use it to train students to be better critical thinkers and boost their creativity in the classroom, or to produce comments and instant feedback for formative assessments — a use for which AI-powered tools like Gradescope already exist — he said. 

Seattle Public Schools is also looking at creating “how to use these (AI) tools for learning” guidance for educators and students, Robinson added. 

Re-evaluate assignments

If an assignment can be easily performed by ChatGPT, teachers could reconsider the value of that particular assignment, said Ramin, who writes about teaching and technology on her website, Hello, Teacher Lady.

“Are there ways to make that assignment better? Are there ways to modify it, and what we are doing as teachers, so that it is more AI-proof?” she said. “As a teacher, I was never a fan of the five-paragraph essay. If AI can do that, maybe we need to be rethinking traditional assignments.”

Rather than asking for an essay, teachers could ask students to create a podcast, infographic or other creative work to complete an assignment, Ramin said. “For example, instead of asking them to write a paragraph about a book about symbolism, maybe they could make a playlist of songs for the main character that integrates some symbolism into the story.”

This article originally appeared in www.k12dive.com

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