Have you ever felt you needed a personal assistant (or an extra brain) to get through all th things that are expected of you as a teacher? If so, your ship may have (virtually) come in. Today we’re going to talk about ChatGPT, a form of artificial intelligence you have probably heard about over the past year. We’ll talk about what it is, what it means for classrooms, and how you can harness its abilities to assist with the things you do as a teacher.
First, what exactly is ChatGPT? The GPT stands for generative pre-trained transformer. I did not know that, I had to look it up. If you’ve ever had the less than thrilling and more than likely a little frustrating experience of trying to communicate your needs via a Chat bot for customer service - either online or on the phone, where it asks you if that’s what you meant or spits out some topics from the help library that may or may not help you - ChatGPT is like it’s cousin. I say cousin, and not brother, sister, direct descendent, because it’s much, much smarter. It’s programed to respond to you and to write like a human. And it’s remarkably accurate. It’s history stops at 2021, so aside from asking it anything too recent, it can give you up-to-date ideas, responses, outlines, you name it.
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My first impressions of this form of AI were not positive The first time I heard about ChatGPT in passing is was about kids using it to cheat on assignments and using it to write their essays for them. So at first it sounded like one more of those things we needed to steer the kids away from - and I thought Snap Chat and Tik Tok were bad. At least they don’t do the kids homework for them!
And there is the fear mongering, that we’re all going to be replaced by robots or AI, but I don’t buy into that. I thing AI can improve our lives - hey if your using your phones maps or GPS, you know how much better that is than Map Quest. And while there are jobs that may be replaced by people, someone will need to program the robots. But I’ve been playing around with ChatGPT, and while it’s good - very, very good - and it’s very fast. Everything I’m going to share with you that ChatGPT can do, it does it in a no more that a minute or less. But it’s not fail safe. It’s not 100% correct all the time, and most importantly, it doesn’t have a soul, It has no lived life experiences, no unique voice that sets it apart from everyone else. That’s on you.
We all seek human connection, people that feel and think like us, or challenge us. ChatGPT has the potential to make life easier, but it won’t take the need to have people, especially teachers, connecting with students and providing their own unique talents to the world.
Now, should the kids be using it to do their homework? No. Hard live in the sand there. No. Just like kids don’t belong on social media because they and many adults can’t emotionally and mentally process what they see. NO. There are age limits as to who can use ChatGPT, but we know know from Snap Chat, Tik Tok, they aren’t supposed to be on those and they are. I think it’s going to be our next big issue in education actually.
Sure, if they could use it responsibly, it could act as a tutor when they get stuck or they could use it with parental supervision but come on. If you’ve been teaching any length of time you know that’s not how it’s going to roll. There are many other resources kids can access like online videos, Khan Academy, for when they need assistance and a robo-writer doesn’t need to be one of them. When you are fully developed in your voice and place in this world, sure. But kids aren’t. The maturity isn’t there. It’s a no or me.
But that’s them, not you. Let talk about what ChatGPT could do for you as a teacher. And before you balk, stay with me. Because I’m not a slacker. But I do believe in efficiency and productivity. - and saving teachers time so they can focus on themselves and the things that matter most in the classroom. Teachers’ executive functioning is taxed to the max every day, always and in all ways. And as much as it’s needed, things aren’t getting easier and nothing is being taken away, just added.
So what if…ChatGPT is what we’ve been waiting for? What if it can be like a personal teaching assistant - not doing your job for you, but alleviating some of the tasks and thinking so you can use your brain power for other things (or even fewer things).
I’ve been playing around with ChatGPT just to see how it works. No, it’s not always correct. I don’t like every idea it has, or I feel that I need to edit some of its responses (see, that’s where your individual voice and preferences come in). But it has the potential to alleviate some of your “think load.” So here are seven of the ways teachers can use ChatGPT as a way to teach smarter, not harder. And if you like these or are curious for more information on getting started with ChatGPT in your classroom, I have created a guide to getting started with ChatGPT in 10 minutes or less that you can download here.
#1: ChatGPT can be used by teachers when they need more information on a topic that they are teaching or creating resources for.
Sure, you can Google it, but instead of having to click through a list of websites generated by a search engine, you’ll get a synopsis all at once, in one spot. You can even ask for step by step directions, and it will provide it for you. Or even give it a limit - tell it you need a paragraph.
#2: Teachers can use ChatGPT to create extra practice learning resources for your students.
Seriously, this thing is smart. Let’s say you need more multiplication with decimals word problems for your students for reinforcement. You can ask ChatGPT to create a certain number of multiplication with decimals word problems, and boom. It will spit it out - AND you can ask it to generate an answer key (now, check the answer key, because I’ve caught a couple answers that were’t correct).
It gets even better though, because you can be really specific. For example. If you need reading passages on a certain grade level, or even Lexile level, it understands what that means! Tell it what topic, even include certain words or vocabulary you want in the passage - it will do it! So instead of hunting around for extra practice or even enrichment activities, you can save lots of time and provide your students with the resources they need - for free.
Is this cheating? No, not for adults. Not for teachers. You know how to teach and how to do your job - this just gives you more time to do it. And you still have to be discerning. So, if you ask ChatGPT for 5 informative writing prompts on the environment, if you don’t like a certain prompt, don’t use it. Or any of them, for that matter. But it could give you some ideas to help you generate your own if you get stuck.
#3: ChatGPT can create lists of books, websites, resources, or create unit outlines.
If using ChatGPT to generate your own content just feels like too much, treating it like a search engine can’t hurt. If you need a list of websites on a topic, or a list of books, picture books that go along with a theme or unit, you can get them all at once in one place. Remember, you can be specific right down to the age and reading level.
You can also use it to help you plan. If you are creating a unit and need a foundation of where to start, you can ask it to generate a sequence of study, vocabulary, subtopics to cover within the larger topics. That’s a big help!
#4: ChatGPT can help teachers create test questions or study guides.
If you need a variety of questions, or just want certain questions, like multiple choice, true or false, it can generate those for you Give it the data or information you want the questions based on- copy and paste it in there - the more clear and specific you are, the more likely you are to get the responses you want! And yes, you can ask for it to create an answer key. See how much time that would save? And yes, you can even ask it to create a rubric. It will do it. Like I said, details matter. But it will even put the rubric in a table format. All you have to do is copy and paste it into the document of your choice.
#5: Teachers can use ChatGPT to provide communication when you need to respond to something - and you’re not sure how.
In my last podcast episode and in Episode 7, I spoke about removing yourself emotionally - not jumping in the pool if your will - when it comes to responding to parents in heated situations, when there or your emotions are high. So in those times when you need to respond, or you want to create a playlist of sorts of responses, so you don’t have to be on the spot when these events arise - you can ask ChatGPT to help write those responses. Sure you can edit it, but think about the amount of pressure that could relieve you from in the moment.
#6: Teachers can use Chat GPT for translate text for different classroom communications or resources.
.Although there are already translation apps out there, you can use ChatGPT to translate a reading passage, a newsletter, or directions into another language. This would be very helpful if you have students or parents that don’t speak English and you need to communicate with them. It would also be helpful if you teach a foreign language and need to generate extra practice or resources for your students.
#7: You can use ChatGPT as a teacher to get feedback on writing assignments or written work.
You can plug in your students writing (you can do this for your own writing, too) and have ChatGPT give you feedback on a students use of transitions, sentence structure, focus on a main idea - it is truly remarkable. Now this goes into the gray area, the line in the sand over what is generated by you the teacher and what is generated from AI. But think of it this way. First of all you don’t have to give the student the feedback if you don’t like it. But if you create self checking, automated graded assignments in Schoology or another LMS that your school district uses, that in its own way is AI - I know that may feel like a stretch. But students can grown and learn faster when they can receive feedback in a timely manner, and if using ChatGPT allows us to do that, why not?
So to recap, seven ways you can start using ChatGPT to lessen your teaching load:
We are going to see more ChatGPT related apps available to use or included in educational products as time goes on - I truly see things headed that way. While you may feel this lessens your role or importance as an educator, I only think that it makes the human connection that only a teacher can provide as more important. Using AI such as ChatGPT lessens the mental load you bear as a teacher and lets you step into the next chapter of education where we use the tools around us to work more efficiently and productively, so you can focus on the things about teaching that brought you to this profession in the first place.