ChatGPT is a new artificial intelligence software that will answer a prompt with a detailed response. This program from OpenAI does require registering for an account (including using a valid phone number) but has no cost associated with it.
Once you register, you can ask it anything you would like and it will give you a well-written response. There are numerous disclaimers that the information has the possibility of being incorrect, so wrong answers are not unheard of.
However, the ChatGPT answers that do come up are pretty impressive. For instance, this is the response I got when I asked why the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941:
Accurate and well-articulated, with the option of regenerating the response if it’s not quite what the user was looking for. You can already see how this can change everything in terms of the classroom.
I remember when turnitin.com was released. We finally had a way to prove if a student was plagiarizing (if they didn’t already make it obvious by using different fonts and different colors throughout their assignment). Up until this point, this was one of those “illegal activities” in the classroom that took teachers a long time to prove in some cases. Then with TurnItIn, this virtual machine showed immediately if anything had been plucked from another source without documentation.
It was the first time we had a “leg-up” on the situation and could somewhat breathe a sigh of relief to be able to catch cheating a little easier without having to Google search everything that looked conspicuous, which was lots of work on top of already grading the material.
Writing is generally a way of implementing reinforcement learning, but with so many ways for students to work around that and save themselves time (and honestly, we can’t blame them; they’re only human), we have now stepped into another computer program that not only creates human-like text but does it in a conversational way that is well-written and nearly impossible to detect.
However, all is not lost. Let’s look at ways you can work with this new advancement in the classroom.
Using ChatGPT as a Teacher
Before we even talk about the likelihood of our students using this tool, let’s look at the ways it can make our own lives easier.
First, as a disclaimer, please (and hopefully this is obvious) make sure that if you’re using this, you have the correct answers in whatever output you get. Also, sometimes Chat GPT uses biased content, so keep your eye out for that as well to keep your information as generic as possible.
However, this is a really useful tool to save time and be effective in the classroom.
How many times have you grabbed an article that explains the topic well, but it’s just above your students’ reading level? Copy and paste it into the ChatGPT interface and ask it to rewrite it so a fourth grader could understand it.
Ever been stuck on creating a meaningful assignment? Ask something like “What is a creative way to teach 6th graders about the solar system?”
Think about how much time this takes scouring the internet or Pinterest, trying to find something that jumps at you.
Been dreading replying to an email because you just don’t know how to start it? Guess what…
Of course, this is not a final product, but it certainly helps create a template to use (and this took about 10 seconds to develop).
This is just a drop in the bucket of ideas to make your teacher life easier by using AI software. It’s, of course, best practice to use this as a guide, but the time-saving measures here are invaluable as we continue to have more added to our plates with less time to get it all done.
Avoiding Students using ChatGPT
While this can certainly be a good tool for students to use, there are also, obviously, times when their use of AI software would take away from the entire purpose of an activity (and, frankly, ends up wasting everyone’s time when you look at the big picture of that scenario). While we can’t prevent this in every case, we can certainly switch up our assignments where students would be tempted to use a misleading impression of greatness instead of what is appropriate coming from their own thoughts.
Here are a few ways you can create assignments for students that avoid the use of AI software:
- Focus on creative tasks: AI software is typically best at completing tasks that require a high degree of accuracy and attention to detail but is not as effective at tasks that require creativity and original thought. Consider assigning tasks that require students to be creative, such as writing a short story, creating a piece of art, or designing a product.
- Assign tasks that require critical thinking: Tasks that require students to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information can be challenging for AI software to complete. Consider assigning tasks that require students to think critically, such as analyzing a news article, evaluating an argument, or synthesizing information from multiple sources.
- Use open-ended assignments: Assignments that have a clear right or wrong answer can be easily completed by AI software. Instead, consider using open-ended assignments that allow students to explore and express their own ideas. For example, you could ask students to write an essay on a topic of their choice or to design a project on a subject that interests them.
- Use assignments that require practical skills: AI software is not yet advanced enough to complete tasks that require practical skills, such as building a model or performing an experiment. Consider assigning tasks that require students to use their hands and apply their knowledge in a practical way.
- Monitor student work: One of the best ways to ensure that students are not using AI software to complete assignments is to closely monitor their work. This can be done through regular check-ins, peer review, or by requiring students to present their work to the class. By staying engaged with student work, you can identify any instances of AI software being used and address the issue promptly.
How to Detect ChatGPT (or other AI software) in an Assignment
The trickiest part about this is that no two AI outputs will be the same, so it’s not like picking up something that had been copied and pasted from somewhere else. Obviously, if a student doesn’t take any time to put some human feedback into what they came up with, you might be able to spot the errors quickly (much like when I was reading a final exam essay once and noticed that my American student was using the British version of words [ie. adding a “u”]…one quick copy and paste check in Google and I had a very upset senior who did not get any points for a final essay!).
Regardless, the posting of answers as a preview of progress will be highly skewed and could have very negative ramifications down the line if a student is taking the easy way out here.
However, students are human and they will go out of their way to cross a task off the list by putting forth the least effort possible. It is natural and to be expected (though not necessarily accepted). Fortunately, when ChatGPT was created, so was their counter program, RoBERTa base OpenAI Detector. You can read more about it here as well as access the detector to give it a try. It basically tells you the percentage change that the text was generated using AI software.
While it’s not perfect, and a student would have to admit to their behavior, it at least gives us something to go off of. You may also want to make sure you’re collecting assignments digitally because then you can go into the documents to see when exactly they were started and when the last update(s) were. It’s hard for a student to rationalize an entire essay was completed in just a few minutes.
This does bring us back to those days before TurnItIn.com again, but as teachers, we just need to be aware of the potential and try to create assignments where it is MORE difficult for the student to use software like ChatGPT than to just do the assignment as written.
Creating Meaningful Assignments and the 4 Keys
Learning how to navigate assignments that can counter the use of AI tools like ChatGPT in the classroom isn’t difficult, it just needs to ebb and flow with the students and where they are (physically, mentally, and emotionally). Being flexible is the key to making all of this work. The key is engagement. There are four keys to student engagement that I discuss in my video training challenge called “Finding Your Student Engagement Formula” and it walks you through those four keys and how to implement them in the classroom.
If you are interested in registering (it’s totally free), visit the Finding Your Student Engagement Formula Challenge registration page and you will be notified the next time the series is available.
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