ChatGPT has captured the imaginations of many and, unsurprisingly, generated excitement and fear in equal measure. But as well as being a hot topic, it can also be an incredibly powerful tool. With a small introduction (like this blog) you can learn to get the most out of what AI programs like ChatGPT can offer. The best way to engage with something is to improve your understanding of it. As well as a bit of an explanation, we’ve got some tips and insights that can guide you towards using ChatGPT to save time while still keeping human interaction at the centre of your learning environment.
What is ChatGPT? (and what is it not?)
ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence chatbot created in November 2022 by Openai.
Chatbots are used for customer service and use keywords from typed-out questions to search a company’s database. ChatGPT, or Generative Pre-trained Transformer, is a chatbot that claims to avoid opinionated or polarizing information and has been updated to GPT-4, which excels at complex reasoning and creativity. It uses a neural network to create responses and relies on transfer learning, which applies knowledge gained while solving one problem to another related problem. Each time ChatGPT is used (around 25 million times a day!), it gets better at answering questions in detail. To learn more about ChatGPT, check out our first blog in this series: What is ChatGPT and How Can It Be Useful?
ChatGPT has many more uses beyond answering questions. It can summarize, rewrite, and provide examples for almost any enquiry you can think of. But, like all machines, ChatGPT is not without limitations. It should not be treated as an encyclopedia or a repository of knowledge. It is neither. In fact, the internet is filled with examples of ChatGPT confidently getting things wrong. There’s also no easy way to tell when it’s mistaken. So, remember that at its core, ChatGPT is a language predictor. It will do its best to collaborate and collate information for you, but it doesn’t actually know things in the same way that you do. Another concern with ChatGPT is the possibility for students to use it to do their work for them. To read more about this, check our blog on this issue: ChatGPT and Academic Cheating: Cause for concern?
How to incorporate ChatGPT into your classroom
As we’ve mentioned, ChatGPT is a very adaptive program. One of its most applicable functions for educators is that it can reword content to be appropriate for different age groups. For example, if you ask ChatGPT to “Explain Newton’s third Law” it will tell you:
Newton’s third law of motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This means that when two objects interact with each other, the force exerted by one object on the other is equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to the force exerted by the second object on the first. In simpler terms, if object A pushes on object B with a certain force, then object B pushes back on object A with the same force, but in the opposite direction. This law applies to all types of forces, whether they are contact forces (like pushing and pulling) or non-contact forces (like gravity and electromagnetism).
Thorough, but a bit wordy. However, if you then ask it to “explain it for five year olds,” it’ll give you something like:
Newton’s third law says that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This means that when you push on something, it pushes back on you with the same force. For example, when you push a toy car, it pushes back on your hand with the same amount of force. This is why the car moves.
And you can do this with all sorts of concepts, not just physics. Additionally, ChatGPT can be used to provide personalized feedback to students on their work, identifying areas where they may need improvement or offering suggestions for further research or exploration. It’s especially good at analyzing the grammatical and stylistic aspects of writing. This can help students develop critical thinking skills and improve their understanding of the material.
- Lesson plans: ChatGPT can be a great tool for teachers to create fun and engaging lesson plans that they can then personalize and perfect. With its vast knowledge and natural language processing abilities, ChatGPT can help teachers come up with new and creative ways to teach their subjects. Whether it’s generating interesting discussion questions or suggesting interactive activities, ChatGPT can provide valuable insights to help make learning more enjoyable and effective for students. Here is an excellent step-by-step guide by New Edtech Classroom.
- Writing prompts: ChatGPT can generate writing prompts for students to help them get started with a writing assignment. This can be especially useful for students who struggle with coming up with ideas or who need extra support in generating content. It is ideal for making short, bullet point lists such as “ten short-story premises” or “five examples of combustion engines”.
- Language practice: ChatGPT can be used to practise speaking and writing in a non-native language. Students can ask questions or practice conversations with the language model to improve their skills. A quick survey of Google hits would show you that its effectiveness as a translator is very good, but not perfect.
- Research assistance: ChatGPT can be used as a research tool to help students find information on a particular topic. By asking questions or providing keywords, ChatGPT can provide relevant and useful information to support student learning.
- Creative writing: ChatGPT can also be used to inspire creative writing activities. This is an area where ChatGPT really shines. It can be an excellent jumping-off point for imaginative, creative practices. Students can provide a starting sentence or phrase, and ChatGPT can provide a variety of potential storylines or plot twists to spark the imagination. It can generate dozens (or even hundreds) of pop-culture icons in everyday scenarios that your students can then expand on in their own words. It can be a lot of fun to set up a scene in a fictional cafe where Darth Vader is the head barista, for example.
Given that ChatGPT is an AI language model, it makes sense that more language-focused subjects such as English or world languages will have more applications for it. But like our E=MC2 example, there are applications for science and even math!
However, you may be surprised to learn that ChatGPT has limitations. As we stated earlier, it can’t weigh in on divisive political topics or engage with queries that it deems to be unethical.
Surprisingly, there’s also one game in particular that ChatGPT can’t play very well at all.
Everyone knows the game of twenty questions, right?
If you had a child, or were a child in the early 2000s, you may remember this handheld version that would play twenty questions with you. Despite being more than twenty years old and having the processing power of a tamagochi, the 20Q is much, much better at twenty questions than ChatGPT 4. I played several rounds with it and it failed to guess even a basic object like “sword.”
There is also a limit to the number of queries you can submit in one hour, although that number changes based on the amount of traffic ChatGPT is currently experiencing.
Between its amazing capabilities and its shortfalls, it’s important to remember that as an adaptive neural network, ChatGPT is constantly changing. We recommend that you jump on and have a go yourself, see what you can get out of it and try to test it every way you can. You’d be amazed at how much fun it can be to talk with AI!