Last week, I shared a post to give some background on artificial intelligence in general, and the work of OpenAI and their chatbot ChatGPT. You can see that post here. Today’s post is my effort to think about how we might utilize AI within the educational realm.
If you’ve followed my writing for long, you know that I have often talked about teaching as something of a craft. It’s something that educators are bound to refine over time. If you compare the early writing of your favorite authors or earliest works of art by a favorite artist with things they created later in their career, you are going to notice differences. Whether we are talking about being an educator, artist, or anything else, we see that skills change over time. By no means am I suggesting that we remove the craft of teaching, or the creativity that comes from designing lessons that are responsive to the learners in your classroom, but as I start playing with AI like ChatGPT more, I’m finding that there are probably ways that we can use it to carry out some of the tasks that exist in our role as educators.
I’m not completely sure where I heard it, or even what the exact quote is, but it goes something like this:
Between the rise of digital technologies, search engines, and artificial intelligence, content knowledge is cheap. The creativity to take knowledge and skills and combine them in new and creative ways is what future employers will be looking for. We must remember that we aren’t trying to help our students be prepared for the jobs that exist in our world today, but rather we hope to have our students prepared for the jobs that will exist in the future – some of which may not even exist yet! The sooner we as educators can embrace new technologies, the more quickly we help our students find ways to use that technology in new and creative ways.
So, with today’s post, I wanted to think a bit about how technologies like AI might help make the life of a teacher a bit easier. Here’s a quick list of a few things that ChatGPT might be able to help educators accomplish:
1: ChatGPT could assist with creating and generating lesson plans and ideas – While visiting a first-grade class today, I noticed they were learning about text features in nonfiction writing, so I asked ChatGPT to create a lesson plan for me. Here’s what it created (click on the first image, and then you can swipe through the gallery):
Now, depending on the needs and interests of my class, my own personal knowledge of standards, and other information that I as a teacher might have, I would probably make a few changes, but this is something that could certainly serve as a starting point. And the cool thing about ChatGPT is we can ask follow-up questions. I asked the chat to adjust the lesson for a small group that was reading more than a year above the expected level, and it made several changes. Next, I asked for a lesson that was more student-directed. It adjusted by adding in more small group exploration into text features, and less teacher-directed time. With each follow-up, the adjustments made the lesson better in my eyes. The craft of teaching now comes from taking these initial ideas and focusing on how I can make sure that the lesson meets the individual needs of my students.
2: ChatGPT can assist in creating a quiz – I think we all would agree that we’re not going to be giving quizzes to our first graders, but just to test an idea, I next asked the AI to create a quiz that would assess student knowledge from the above lesson. It created a 10-question, multiple-choice quiz with three choices given as potential solutions. At the end of the quiz, it created an answer key. Again, the craft of this can come from adjusting what the AI creates to meet the needs of our students, but think of the amount of time I just saved!
3: ChatGPT can help create accessible materials for students learning English as a new language – Next, I asked ChatGPT to translate the quiz into Spanish. By no means am I fluent in Spanish, but I took enough in high school to recognize some of the questions and answers. I probably would want to check with someone that I knew was fluent (or at least more fluent than me), but at first glance, it seems pretty good. Next, I wondered what other languages might work. I tried Arabic, then Russian – now, I have no idea how accurate it is, but it must be at least as good as Google Translate!
4: ChatGPT can assist in answering questions in real time – As a former science teacher, one of the things that I loved (and at times hated because we could get so off track) were the curious “What if…” questions students would ask. These invariably ramped up during our unit on outer space. Just for the fun of it, I asked what would happen if astronauts could take a rocket at the speed of light from Earth to Mars. Questions like this were bound to happen when we started talking about the distances in space. It shared that it would take just a few minutes to get there but went on to discuss Einstein’s theory of special relativity, the concept of time dilation (where time appears to slow down for the rocket’s occupants), and the fact that the astronauts wouldn’t be able to see anything outside the ship because light would not reach them since they were traveling at the same speed as the light. How often have you had students ask you questions that you didn’t know the answer to? Or that you weren’t sure about the answer? ChatGPT could be a quick way to find an answer to whatever the question was.
Now, as I write this post, I know that I cannot use my school laptop to access ChatGPT – I get an alert that it’s been blocked. As I shared in my post last week, several schools across the country have chosen to block ChatGPT. Is that the right decision? I’m not exactly sure what the answer is. There have always been concerns as we introduced technology into schools. But when we think about school as a system, we also need to recognize that these technologies exist outside of the school setting. Our students will be able to access them when not on the school wifi (and keep in mind, if you work with an age group that has cell phones, they can probably just use their phone on their cell network while they are at school to access AI). If they have access to the technology, we need to start having conversations about how to use it in responsible ways.
I’m a big fan of teaching our students how to use all the various technologies that exist around them to support their learning. The only way we can do that is to also understand the capabilities of the technology and how it can support us in what we do. This is yet another opportunity for us as educators to refine our craft. My belief is that while the blocking of artificial intelligence is commonplace right now, at some point AI will be a mainstream tool that is used daily. Now, I know based on the various opinions that I have seen out on social media around artificial intelligence that this may make some of us uncomfortable.
So, as you think about integrating artificial intelligence into your practice, what thoughts do you have? Do you see benefits? What about drawbacks? Finally, what do you think about schools that are choosing to block AI within their technology ecosystem? Share your thoughts in the comments below.