Anxieties about ChatGPT posing a serious threat to academic integrity are rife within the teaching community, and I'm certainly not writing this blog post to dismiss those fears, as they are absolutely valid. However, if used correctly, its potential as an educational tool may outweigh the risks of plagiarism. Here are some ways in which ChatGPT can aid your teaching.
As an AI language model, ChatGPT can help teachers in several ways, including:
Answering students' questions: ChatGPT can assist teachers in answering students' questions and doubts related to the subjects they teach. Teachers can use ChatGPT as a resource to provide quick and accurate answers to their students' queries, saving them time and effort.
Generating lesson plans and content: ChatGPT can help teachers in creating lesson plans and generating content for their classes. Teachers can input the topics they want to cover, and ChatGPT can provide them with relevant information, resources, and ideas to make their classes more engaging and effective.
Grading and evaluating assignments: ChatGPT can help teachers in grading and evaluating assignments by providing them with suggestions and feedback based on the criteria they set. This can save teachers a lot of time and effort and ensure more consistent grading across different assignments.
Providing personalized learning: ChatGPT can assist teachers in providing personalized learning experiences to their students. By analyzing students' strengths and weaknesses, ChatGPT can recommend specific learning resources, activities, and assignments that can help students improve their understanding of the subject.
Overall, ChatGPT can help teachers enhance their teaching strategies and improve student outcomes by providing them with quick and accurate access to relevant information and resources. Confession: that was written by ChatGPT. And whilst all of the above are relevant, I want to dive a little deeper exploring why banning it would be a mistake and how you can use it in the classroom to benefit your own teaching practice and the students that you teach.
Banning it won’t work.
When I was teaching in a boarding school in England, we had a no-phone policy during the school day and, in addition, required students to hand in their phones at bedtime to help regulate their usage. A great idea in principle. In practice, however, it was an absolute nightmare. Students would hand-in their parents’ old iPhones and you’d then be spending a ridiculous amount of time playing detective trying to establish if the phones actually had SIM cards or if they were just a decoy. It was incredibly frustrating.
The truth is, banning or restricting something can sometimes do more harm than good, and in this case, we should have been channelling our energy into educating students on how to manage their own phone use and focusing on the WHY rather than simply enforcing rules and not giving them context. Of course, this needs to be scaffolded in an age-appropriate way, but banning alone will not fix an issue. The same goes for ChatGPT. Children are smart and they will find a way around it. And if they are stuck, they can just ask ChatGPT how to get around a ban!
It will encourage teachers to set meaningful assessments.
Have you ever been short of time and set a last-minute homework activity that was pretty pointless such as “Write a paragraph explaining what you think is the main theme in Macbeth.” We’ve all been there. Boring for students to complete. Boring for teachers to mark. Easily Google-able. And now ChatGPT will also allow students to answer these type of questions in seconds. For example:
The main theme in Macbeth is the corrupting and destructive nature of unchecked ambition. The play portrays how Macbeth's desire for power and the prophecy of becoming king drive him to commit a series of terrible crimes, leading to his eventual downfall. The consequences of Macbeth's actions, such as the murders of King Duncan, Banquo, and Macduff's family, illustrate the tragic consequences of unchecked ambition and the dangers of allowing ambition to override one's moral compass. Additionally, the play explores the theme of appearances vs. reality, as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth attempt to present a facade of respectability while engaging in deceitful and treacherous behaviour.
That took me all of 5 seconds.
So try an assignment like this:
Redesign a book cover for Macbeth highlighting the play’s major themes, symbols, and motifs. Write 500 words explaining your design choices making specific references to the play OR record a video of yourself guiding me through your book cover design. You will present these in class and your classmates will be able to ask questions about your design choices.
ChatGPT might be able to help them establish what the major themes are and might be able to help with elements of their writing, but it is impossible for it to complete all aspects of the assignment.
It will make lessons more engaging. The above advice from ChatGPT suggests that it can help with “Generating lesson plans and content”. But what about getting students to use it in class? Try an activity like this: Ask ChatGPT to write a poem about refugees. This can open up some amazing classroom discussions:
Students can analyze the language used. What do they notice about the language, form, and structure? Has ChatGPT used any imagery? From whose voice is the poem written? Is it effective? What edits would they make to the poem?
Students can compare and contrast the poems. Which ones were the most effective and why?
You could also give them two poems – one written by ChatGPT and another written by a poet. Can they spot which is which? How can we tell the difference between ChatGPT and an authentic human voice?
Now I’m not going to sit here and say that the adjustment is going to be easy. Huge technological shifts rarely are. But this is a world that our students are going to inhabit and so we have to put ourselves in a position to guide them rather than shying away from an inevitability.
I am certainly going to start experimenting in my classes so I will keep you updated with how it goes!
(Photo description: Student's hands typing on laptop)