February 27th, 2023
As an educator with a love for EdTech and digital wellness, I know many parents and teachers are concerned about the use of ChatGPT in the classroom. We're used to using AI tools, but ChatGPT has thrown everyone for a loop. However, I've seen many examples of how it can actually be a valuable tool for both teachers and students.
I understand that some people have concerns about the use of ChatGPT, as we should. It's new. As educators, we should ALWAYS research the technology we bring into the classrooms, analyzing it for its purpose, safety features for students, and whether or not it's actually beneficial. Think of the SAMR model. But there's still so many questions, and new information comes out every day when it comes to ChatGPT! And how do we share this knowledge with parents and address their concerns? It's different than being handed an App that's ready to go. In fact, by the time I publish this, there will probably be countless more information and research that comes out. At any rate, I've tried to put together some information, tips on how to use ChatGPT safely and effectively, and provide some resources. First and foremost, it's important to remember that ChatGPT is intended for use by individuals 18 years or older. Additionally, parents and educators should familiarize themselves with how ChatGPT works and what it can and cannot do, by reviewing the guides available through sources like Common Sense Education. Please note, before going forward:
"As with any new technology, it's important to ensure that schools have clear policies in place regarding the use of AI tools like ChatGPT. Teachers should be trained on how to use the tool effectively and how to ensure that student data is protected," says Common Sense Education.
I've gone through A LOT of articles, educator posts and podcasts regarding ChatGPT over the past several weeks, and I've tried to make sense of it all as best I can, with the knowledge and experience that I have. It's a bit overwhelming to digest. I know there are parents (and educators for that matter) out there who are still coming to an understanding of what is happening in the world of education with regards to ChatGPT, and feeling uneasy about it all. Here's my take on it all, trying to synthesize the information into a palatable post for parents (and teachers too). Hopefully you'll gain a bit more understanding of what it is, what some of the concerns have been, and how we can celebrate its use in education.
So What is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is an AI program that uses a massive database of language to generate responses to prompts or questions in a way that seems like a human is responding. It's not just a Google search with top hit returns, and it's not just Siri (who sometimes has to revert to, "I don't know, but I found this on the web", because even she doesn't know everything). It's kind of like an enhanced virtual assistant that (who?) can provide information or engage in conversation, but with advanced capabilities. It seems to be a powerful tool that can help with many things, from answering simple questions to writing stories and articles, and it has been making waves in the world of education, but it comes with caution.
Why are There Concerns?
Many parents are concerned about the potential risks associated with ChatGPT. They worry that their children may be exposed to inappropriate or harmful content, or that the technology might compromise their privacy and security. It is definitely important to remember, and I'll reiterate it here, that ChatGPT is designed for use by individuals 18 years of age or older, and its use by children should always be supervised by an adult. Some teachers are even hesitant to incorporate ChatGPT into their lesson plans due to concerns of cheating, plagiarism or lack of effort on behalf of the students.
"As with any technology, there are concerns about ChatGPT's impact on privacy and security. It's important for schools to have clear policies in place regarding the use of the tool, and to ensure that students are protected from any potential risks," noted by Time interview.
Some specific common concerns that both parents and teachers may have about ChatGPT include:
Privacy and safety: concerned about the safety of children's personal information and the potential for the chatbot to collect data without their knowledge or consent. According to the National Education Policy Center, parents are concerned about "the potential risks of student data being used inappropriately, including for commercial purposes or to make decisions about students without their knowledge or input." What are your school's policies on using ChatGPT? Are students using it? How old are they? Is this a teacher only tool in the classroom? What information is being fed into the bot?
Reliance on technology: worry that the use of ChatGPT in the classroom may lead to over-reliance on technology to do the day to day thinking and a decrease in face-to-face communication and social skills development among students. This would mostly be for older students when we take into consideration the age restriction of ChatGPT, but let's face it, anyone can create an account, and I'll assure you there are MANY under 18 thinking this is the coolest thing ever. How many of the younger kiddos already have accounts are using it? The question I ask, even though they are underage, WHAT are they asking? This can go two very different ways. One for enrichment and further research and understanding, or for just doing the tasks for them. (I know there's other risks, but I think those are pretty obvious, so I won't discuss here)
Accuracy and bias: concerned about the accuracy and potential biases of ChatGPT's responses. Remember, it is trained on large amounts of sourced data that may contain bias or inaccuracies, because anyone can be contributing to "information". As one parent stated in a New York Times article cited below, "I'm worried that students might get biased information and not know it." My own husband found faults in some replies from ChatGPT, and called "it" out. We have to teach our children about this, encouraging proper research and digital literacy skills.
Ethical implications: worry about the ethical implications of using AI chatbots in the classroom, including the potential for ChatGPT to replace human teachers or reduce the need for teacher-student interaction. I, personally, do not foresee this happening. As many experts have mentioned, there is an absolute need for the human side of technology. While it's amazing, it's not a person. Forbes Business Council highlights that AI can only be as powerful as its human intelligence, so when it comes to ChatGPT, we can use it to augment and enhance, but not replace human intelligence.
However, ChatGPT can be used in a variety of ways to enhance student learning and engagement. For example, teachers can use it to create interactive writing assignments or generate writing prompts. I've even seen teachers using it to create leveled reading passages for students, providing the reading level and genre! The fact that it can be used to create personalized learning experiences for students by tailoring resources to their individual needs and interests it's pretty amazing and a great tool for teachers. Additionally, ChatGPT can be used to foster a more inclusive classroom environment by providing teachers and students opportunities to break down complex pieces of reading/writing into appropriate levels for English language learners, allowing them to interact with the content. We, as educators, have the responsibility to make sure we are not turning over the teaching and learning to a bot, but instead, help our students understand how we can use it to enhance what we're already doing.
"While ChatGPT can be a useful tool for teachers and students, it's important to remember that it's not a substitute for human interaction and guidance. Teachers should still play an active role in the learning process and be available to provide support and answer questions," stated in The New York Times.
I've seen a lot of awesome uses by educators, and one of the positive possibilities for teachers using ChatGPT in the classroom is to provide personalized feedback and support to students. ChatGPT can be used by teachers to provide students with TIMELY, individualized feedback on their writing assignments, while offering suggestions for improvement and helping them identify areas where they need more practice. This can also help teachers save time so that they can work with more students and continue the teaching, learning and feedback cycle. Feedback takes a lot of time out of the actual teaching and being able to work on that concept or objective the student needed to revise.
Another way teachers can use ChatGPT in the classroom is to create interactive learning experiences led by the teacher. For example, teachers can create threads that engage students in conversation about historical events or scientific concepts, using ChatGPT to generate responses that deepen their understanding of the subject matter. This can be a fun and engaging way to bring complex topics to life and encourage students to ask questions and explore ideas. What's even more, is catching the mistakes or misinformation as a class, which is part of digital literacy skills. It's been great to see the limitations of the tool, but even greater when students pick up on the errors. As with all research skills, we teach students to fact check and look for the sources of information. This is a fun way to do that.
Here's even more!
What Do EdTech Leaders Say?
As a parent myself, I wanted to understand what schools and educators were doing right now. I have been speaking with a few EdTech leaders in International schools, as we've been keeping our fingers on the pulse of ChatGPT's impact in education.
One of my distinguished and trusted colleagues, Tim Evans, has been excited by the possibilities of ChatGPT helping teacher workload and workflow.
Tim noted, "It’s an unbelievable tool. I asked for - 'in table format, 10 one hour lesson plans for grade 2 students using Dash robots and iPad, to help with developing computer science knowledge. Include CSTA and ISTE standards. Include resources and activities.' And 10 seconds later - had it all!" As a busy EdTech leader at his school, this was a valuable time saver. Knowing how to work with ChatGPT, and really utilizing its abilities to help create outlines like the above, open up more time to work on other tasks for students, staff and the school. Tim has also created a Padlet of ideas as a way to share the capabilities possible for teachers utilizing ChatGPT, and was willing to share this with you, parents, to have a more concrete idea of why it could be of benefit to your child's teachers. Tim goes on to remind others:
“AI will not always give a definite answer/solution, but it quickly accelerates the journey for reaching a desired outcome. ChatGPT does not understand our context, situation, or the relationships we have with students, and this is why I believe AI will never truly replace educators. If anything, it highlights just how important educators' personal skills are.”
Cora Yang is equally as passionate and active about AI, ChatGPT and schools. Cora is an IB Tech Coach and DT teacher, and just last week led a school PD for fellow educators to understand it and delve into using it. Cora explains:
“I started to introduce AI and tools and educational use with my community ever since ChatGPT started. I just hosted a whole school PD last week. It seems that a lot of people are scared of AI. Of course, it's a new thing and we're afraid of the unknown - like human instinct. I know this is a great way to upgrade our teaching and learning. With AI, students need to shift focus from learning outcomes to learning processes. They need to learn HOW instead of WHAT. As educators, we assess learning by the learning evidence instead of exam results.”
Technology will continue to ebb and flow, evolve as we learn more, and creep into various areas of our lives, just as it always has. Our jobs as educators is to help our students understand how to use it, how to embrace it, and how to use our digital literacy skills to help make it a productive, instead of passive, tool.
And another EdTech leader and friend, Jamie Stark, had the following to contribute:
“New technology tools like ChatGPT provide opportunities and challenges for educators alike. By harnessing the power of such disruptive AI innovations, we can evaluate the analytical, problem-solving, and critical thinking ability of our students in new ways. Whether we like it or not, these disruptive technologies are going to play a large part in the future of our world. We need to teach our students about appropriate use and how and when to work alongside them effectively.”
He went on to explain that ChatGPT still has limitations, such as the inability to reference or cite information, and provided this link. Jamie’s school has really embraced the conversation, including students, parents and teachers. They went so far as to hold a symposium, allowing a conversation to unfold regarding ChatGPT use in schools and with students. It was wonderful to listen to students, parents and teachers engage in a conversation without judgment. There was a respect amongst all of them, listening to the opinions, ideas and thoughts each had, and seeing where the possibilities, or limitations, lie. (The Promise and Pitfalls of AI in Education symposium by FIS) I think that is a crucial conversation that more schools should follow. Banning things never leads to forward and future thinking, nor does pretending it will go away and hiding it from the conversation.
Many schools are looking for ways to teach both teachers and students about the technology, rather than banning access. Allowing teachers and students lessons and real experiences with ChatGPT not only lends itself to understanding disinformation and media literacy skills, but can be very beneficial in alleviating some of the workload and burnout felt by teachers.
Tips for Using ChatGPT Safely and Effectively
It's important to note that while ChatGPT can be a valuable tool in the classroom and at home, it's also important for teachers and parents to be aware of potential risks and limitations. Teachers and parents should take steps to ensure that ChatGPT is used appropriately and that student privacy is protected, remembering that it is intended for 18 and older. By using ChatGPT responsibly and thoughtfully, teachers and parents can harness its power to enhance teaching and learning and provide students with new and exciting ways to engage with the curriculum.
At home, supervise children's use of ChatGPT and ensure that they understand how to use the technology safely and ethically.
Use ChatGPT as a tool to enhance learning in the classroom, rather than a replacement for traditional teaching methods.
Incorporate ChatGPT into lesson plans in a thoughtful and intentional way, such as adjusting the level of a piece of information, taking into account students' individual needs and interests. Or inputting a student's piece of writing and seeing what adjustments could be made to it when teaching about transitions!
Encourage students to critically evaluate the responses they receive from ChatGPT and engage in discussions about the limitations of the technology. This is digital literacy and research. This is a must as part of educating our students.
Stay up-to-date on the latest developments and research related to ChatGPT and other AI technologies in education. LinkedIn has a wealth of information being shared by companies and educators, as does Twitter. I've also linked some resources below.
Head's up! Turnitin has successfully developed an AI writing detector that identifies 97% of ChatGPT/GPT3 authored writing. Link
The concept of digital wellness emphasizes the importance of using technology in a mindful and balanced way to promote overall well-being. This includes developing positive digital habits and behaviors that foster healthy relationships with technology. When it comes to using chatbots like ChatGPT in education, it's important for educators and parents to consider how these tools can be used in a way that promotes digital wellness for students. By using ChatGPT to foster engagement, creativity, and critical thinking, educators can help students develop the digital skills they need to thrive in the 21st century.
At the same time, it's important to be mindful of potential risks and concerns and to take steps to ensure that ChatGPT is being used in a responsible and ethical way. By doing so, we can create a safe, inclusive, and empowering digital learning environment for all students. Our students today will continue working on and creating platforms like this in the future. We, as parents and educators, are to figure out how to help them understand both the opportunities and limitations (or even risks), so that forward development and use are done ethically and responsibly.
Murati, Mira. "What Educators Should Know About OpenAI's ChatGPT." Time, 14 Jan. 2023, https://time.com/6252404/mira-murati-chatgpt-openai-interview/.
Metz, Cade. "AI Chatbots Are Invading Schools. Here's What Teachers Should Know." The New York Times, 12 Jan. 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/12/technology/chatgpt-schools-teachers.html.
"ChatGPT and Beyond: How to Handle AI in Schools." Common Sense Education, https://www.commonsense.org/education/articles/chatgpt-and-beyond-how-to-handle-ai-in-schools .
National Education Policy Center. (2021). Chatbots in K-12 education: Current research and future directions. https://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/chatbots
The New York Times. (2023, January 12). In classrooms, chatbots are the new teachers' pets. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/12/technology/chatgpt-schools-teachers.html
EdTech Magazine. (2022, September 16). Educators must navigate AI chatbots in the classroom with care. https://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2022/09/educators-must-navigate-ai-chatbots-classroom-care