Nov 17 2023

To ChatGPT or Not to ChatGPT, That Is the Question

Educators and school leaders can learn to work with this popular generative artificial intelligence, instead of against it, to make teaching and learning more efficient.

The last big controversial piece of educational technology introduced to schools and classrooms — the handheld calculator — dates to the late 1960s.

Educators worried that these new devices would have a negative impact on students. Would their math abilities be ruined if calculators did the computations for them? How could they learn from mistakes if the calculator was always there to give them the right answer? What if students became too reliant on this new tool?

Fast forward to today’s controversial new technology: artificial intelligence.

One of the most notorious generative AI tools is ChatGPT. Just as the calculator unnerved many teachers when it was first introduced, ChatGPT is causing mixed emotions among educators and K–12 leaders. Similar questions are being asked: Will students’ writing abilities be ruined if ChatGPT is doing all the work for them? How can they learn from their mistakes if ChatGPT is always there to give them the right answer? What if students — and educators — become too reliant on this new tool?

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Everywhere you turn now, there is an alarming headline about the dangers of AI and ChatGPT. Educational leaders should be familiar with the capabilities and limitations of this technology to facilitate responsible use and to help support guidelines and policies that ensure its effective and ethical integration. It’s not going away, so now is the time to maximize its power for good within your schools.

What Is ChatGPT, and How Does It Work?

ChatGPT, an AI language model developed by OpenAI, relies on machine learning techniques to generate humanlike responses to queries.

ChatGPT primarily interacts through text-based conversations. It analyzes input messages and generates appropriate responses based on the patterns and information it has learned from its training data.

WATCH NOW: Merlyn Mind releases the first large language model for education.

The technology has numerous shortcomings. It has a limited memory, and it processes conversations on a turn-by-turn basis. Because the tool does not have any long-term memory of previous interactions, it’s essential to provide necessary context within a conversation. It also avoids ethical conversations and isn’t able to discern reliable information. ChatGPT occasionally provides incorrect or nonsensical answers and verbose responses, and can exhibit questionable behavior based on the biases present in its training data.

With all of these downsides, why are we embracing and encouraging its use?

Because, as educators, we know limitations exist in all resources, but we can leverage ChatGPT to support our roles.

Once you become familiar with using ChatGPT, understanding its limitations and its potential, you will find there are countless ways to incorporate AI into school leadership workflows.

Perhaps the greatest thing about AI is that it pushes us to think, to up our game and discover new ways to channel this powerful tool’s capabilities. As the educator and philosopher Paolo Freire said, “Education does not change the world. Education changes people. People change the world.” Similarly, educational tools do not change the world, but they can change educators and school leaders, enabling us to continue as agents of change in our school communities.

RELATED: Learn three ways educators can use artificial intelligence in the classroom.

Amber Teamann created and shared this chart with ideas for ChatGPT prompts.


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