Since the release of Chat GPT3 in late November, 2022, I’ve been wondering not just what impact it will have on everything from the job market to our media environment, but also how it can be used, both by myself and people I know. Since many people I know are teachers, including members of my family, education is as good as any a place to start.
What is Chat GPT?
Well, let’s ask Chat GPT itself:
ChatGPT is an advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) model that uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology to understand and generate human-like responses to written text inputs. It is designed to respond to any input text by generating appropriate and contextually relevant responses, just like a human would in a conversation.
The technology behind ChatGPT is based on the GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) architecture, which is a deep learning model that has been trained on massive amounts of text data from the internet. The GPT model learns to recognize patterns and relationships between words and phrases in the data, enabling it to generate coherent and contextually relevant responses to text inputs.
To create ChatGPT, OpenAI has trained the GPT architecture on an enormous amount of text data, including books, articles, and web pages, to ensure that it has a broad understanding of human language. This means that when you input text into ChatGPT, it can draw on its vast knowledge to generate a response that is both accurate and relevant to the input.
Open AI, the company behind Chat GPT, collected data from across the internet, and spent a year and a half training its incredibly powerful novel to match patterns in human speech. Unfortunately, since it took a year a half to train its LLM, Chat GPT’s knowledge stops, well, a year and a half ago. It CAN be coaxed, through careful prompting, into retrieve more recent information but for completely up to date information, you’ll have to look elsewhere. This is NOT true of Bing’s Chat, which can access the internet (and provides sources, which Chat GPT does not). However, despite this, I generally find Chat GPT a more powerful tool than either Bing or the recently released Google Bard.
When Chat GPT3 was first released, the immediate fear was that the technology would be used (or mis-used) not by teachers, but by students, since a simple prompt can solve problem sets and even generate whole essays. The style may be, well, robotic and sometimes flat-out wrong (GPT3 was known to ‘hallucinate’ – that is, to generate random nonsense when it couldn’t find an answer) but the fear was that many students would give up writing their own essays and just generate all their school assignments via AI. While this has happened, right from the beginning many teachers recognized its great potential as a learning tool:
To sign up for Chat GPT3, go to https://chat.openai.com/chat. GPT3 is free and only requires an email address. Note that during busiest times, availability may become limited, or drop out altogether. For that reason, when it became available a few weeks ago, I signed up for GPT Plus, which not only allows 24 hour access but immediate access to the recently released GPT4, which is a considerable improvement on GPT3, with considerably higher accuracy (especially in mathematics and programming) and more in-depth answers to general questions. For me, it’s worth paying $20 per month, but many will be satisfied with the free version.
So . . . how can teachers use Chat GPT to assist them in the classroom? Since I’m not a teacher, I turned once again to my new best friend Chat GPT4:
- Personalized Learning Experiences: Chat GPT can be an invaluable tool for creating personalized learning experiences for students. By inputting a student’s individual learning needs and preferences, teachers can use Chat GPT to generate tailored educational materials, including lesson plans, quizzes, and project ideas. This level of customization ensures that each student receives an education that is specifically catered to their unique strengths and weaknesses.
- Supplementing Lesson Plans: Teachers can use Chat GPT to supplement lesson plans by generating additional content and resources on a given topic. By providing a brief summary or key points of a lesson, Chat GPT can generate detailed explanations, examples, and practice problems. This can save teachers time and help them expand on topics that may be difficult for students to grasp fully.
- Real-Time Feedback and Grading Assistance: Chat GPT can be used to provide real-time feedback to students on their assignments and quizzes. By inputting a student’s response to a question or a written assignment, Chat GPT can generate feedback and suggestions for improvement. This immediate feedback can help students learn more effectively and allow teachers to focus on providing individualized attention and guidance.
- Tutoring and Homework Assistance: Outside of the classroom, Chat GPT can be utilized as a tutoring tool, offering guidance and assistance to students as they work through assignments or prepare for exams. By answering questions and providing explanations, Chat GPT can be a helpful resource for students who require additional support or clarification on a particular topic.
- Enhancing Classroom Discussions and Debates: Chat GPT can help facilitate engaging classroom discussions and debates by providing diverse perspectives on a given subject matter. Teachers can input discussion prompts or debate topics into Chat GPT, and the AI will generate thought-provoking arguments and counterarguments, encouraging students to think critically and engage in meaningful conversations.
- Encouraging Creativity and Originality: Chat GPT can be used to spark creativity and originality in student projects and writing assignments. By providing a prompt or topic, Chat GPT can generate a wide range of ideas and examples that students can draw inspiration from. This can help students break free from conventional thinking and explore new ideas and perspectives.
These are just a few examples. I could prompt again, and generate many more.
For teachers who do want to use Chat GPT, it’s important to have a basic idea of how it works. I might write a whole blog post about this, because it’s an important and surprisingly nuanced skill, but for now, it’s important to understand that because the LLM recognizes speech patterns, how you ask it a question is very important. For the above, I wrote:
Can you write me a blog post describing how high school teachers can use Chat GPT?
I could have written a much more detailed query, and received a much more detailed response. It’s also important to remember that, unlike a search engine, Chat GPT remembers ‘conversations’. so the process is iterative: you ask one question, then another, and Chat GPT will not only ‘remember’ the original question, but remember the answer it generated. Thus you can ask one question and drill down on the answer to get more detail, or receive an expanded answer and Chat GPT will, in a sense, be trained on the ‘conversation’ and tailor its responses appropriately. For example if I then ask:
Can you tell me more about ‘Real-Time Feedback and Grading Assistance’?
I’ll receive an even more detailed answer (I’ll just include the titles – Chat GPT can be verbose):
The use of Chat GPT for real-time feedback and grading assistance presents an opportunity for teachers to enhance the learning experience for their students while also reducing their workload. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, teachers can offer students immediate and personalized feedback on their work, helping them to learn more effectively and efficiently. Here’s a deeper look into how Chat GPT can provide real-time feedback and grading assistance:
- Instantaneous Feedback
- Consistent Evaluation Criteria
- Personalized Feedback for Individual Students
- Reducing Teacher Workload
- Continuous Learning and Improvement
It’s important to note that while Chat GPT can provide valuable real-time feedback and grading assistance, it should not completely replace the role of the teacher. Human interaction, empathy, and understanding are still essential components of a successful learning environment. Teachers should continue to monitor the feedback provided by Chat GPT to ensure its accuracy and relevance and supplement it with their insights and guidance as needed.
In this video Ted Pickett, himself a teacher, outlines the basics of creating a good prompt. He follows a four-step rule put out by an organization called ‘AI In Education’:
Use ARTS to help you craft efficient prompts
A udience: “This blog is from educators around the globe“
R ole: “I want you to act as a title generator for the blog posts I am writing“
T arget: “I will give you the topic and keywords from the article and you create five engaging titles“
S pecific: “Keep the titles concise. Less than 15 words.“
This is the whole video: From Ted Pickett’s ‘AI for the Classroom’ channel.
Ted Pickett’s ‘AI for the Classroom’ channel.
It’s also important to remember that the same response can produce somewhat different answers Since Chat GPT relies on pattern recognition, it will produce different answers for different users, and sometimes even variations on an answer for the same user with the same prompt. It also should not be seen as a replacement for human research: since it relies on information from the web, it can get things wrong (the so-called hallucinations).
Another useful Chat GPT function is its ability to summarize. Download the transcript of a video and Chat GPT will provide a summary. Chat GPT provided the following summary of the video below:
The video presents five ways teachers can use ChatGPT to enhance their teaching:
1) creating lesson sequences with student discussion questions,
2) designing well-being lessons,
3) providing feedback to students,
4) generating student reports,
5) crafting song lyrics for young learners.
The speaker emphasizes that AI tools like ChatGPT can help educators focus on the process and stages of student learning, rather than just the end product.
What’s truly amazing is the speed at which this technology is evolving. Just a couple of months after the initial release of Chat GPT3 comes Chat GPT4, a significant improvement in both accuracy and depth of its responses. Then Microsoft included a somewhat dumbed-down version of Chat GPT4 in its Bing browser. Hundreds, even thousands of apps, built on the GPT API, are being released weekly. And soon, Open AI will allow the use of plugins which could revolutionize the technology even further, allowing for the customization of the core technology into every sphere imaginable, including (probably especially) education. Both Duolingo and Khan Academy have become early adopters (though Khan Academy is still in the testing phase – you can sign up to be on the waitlist for testers – I imagine teachers will get priority), using the chatbot as a sort of virtual tutors for their students.
What does the future hold? As with all technological change, it’s hard to know where this will end up, whether it will be a net benefit or loss. I think AI’s potential to help educators is very considerable indeed, but so is its capacity for misuse. For the time being, I think it’s up to everyone to learn how to use this properly – and to learn how to use it for good.
This is a vast and fast-growing field, so I’ll be posting more on the subject.