What is ChatGPT and How Can It Be Useful?

Dark green background with two speech bubbles - one with a yellow bubble with ellipses in orange and the other with a green bubble that has a question mark inside

If you already know more about ChatGPT than an advanced AI chatbot , you may want to jump straight to our other ChatGPT blogs: How to Use ChatGPT in the Classroom, ChatGPT and Academic Cheating: A Cause for Concern, and ChatGPT: A Time Management Tool. If not, stick around and find out more about this fascinating tech advancement.

What is Chat GPT, really?

ChatGPT is a computer program (specifically a “Chatbot”) developed by OpenAI in 2022, and it has quickly become a powerful tool in various industries, including education.

Chatbots are programs designed primarily for customer service. You know the ones — they’re the little chat windows that many companies have on their website that have replaced the old-fashioned help windows. They say things like, “how can I help you today?” and use keywords taken from your typed-out question to create a keyword search of their available database. 

The GPT in ChatGPT stands for “Generative Pre-trained Transformer.” The “pre-trained” part means that when it was originally tested, all its answers were supervised and monitored for things like misleading or opinionated information. It has also been pre-trained to avoid polarising political leanings.

The most recent update, called GPT-4 was released on March 14 and, according to OpenAI, it “excels at tasks that require advanced reasoning, complex instruction understanding and more creativity.”

The Transformer part of GPT means that it uses a “neural network” to access huge banks of information to create its responses to your questions. It’s much more sophisticated than the keyword searches that traditional chatbots use to formulate their responses because it relies on a fine-tuned version of what programmers call “transfer-learning.” Transfer learning (TL) is a research problem in machine learning (ML) that focuses on storing knowledge gained while solving one problem and applying it to a different but related problem. For example, knowledge gained while learning to recognize cars could be applied when trying to recognize trucks. In this way, each time someone uses ChatGPT (which happens about 25 million times a day) it gets better and better at answering questions in more detail. 

As a tool for teachers

In the realm of education, one of the greatest challenges lies in providing personalized learning experiences to meet the diverse needs of students. Fortunately, ChatGPT emerges as a valuable ally in this endeavor. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, ChatGPT empowers educators to create individualized learning journeys for each student, catering to their unique learning styles, preferences, and abilities.

What truly sets ChatGPT apart is its capacity to make learning interactive and enjoyable. Educators can employ this technology to design captivating learning activities and games that actively engage students. By incorporating quizzes and interactive exercises, teachers can foster active participation and provide instant feedback, even in remote or hybrid learning environments.

As a tool for students

ChatGPT can also be a valuable tool for language learning. The model’s ability to generate human-like text in most widely-spoken languages makes it an ideal language partner for students learning a new language. Students can practice speaking and writing in the target language with the model, which can provide instant feedback and help improve their language skills.

Finally, ChatGPT can assist students with writing assignments by analyzing their writing and suggesting ways to improve grammar, sentence structure, and style. It can also suggest relevant sources and materials that can be used to support their writing. This feature can be especially helpful for students who struggle with writing or those who need extra support with a particular assignment.

ChatGPT has limitations despite being constantly trained on vast data, which can lead to errors or incomplete information due to gaps in training data, contextual misunderstandings, or programming errors. It may struggle with longer conversations and sometimes refer to user writing as its own. Remember, ChatGPT is a machine and not perfect, so double-check and verify responses for accuracy.

It’s also important to understand what ChatGPT is meant for, and what it is not. ChatGPT isn’t a repository of knowledge, or a generator of reasoning, and it isn’t meant to be. It’s (roughly) a word predictor: In the current context, given all the text it’s absorbed, what words are likely to come next? So its grammatical structure is amazing, and it will get facts right a lot of the time, but it will often confidently spout incorrect information. The good news for educators is, ChatGPT works extremely well if you already have the subject knowledge and just want to use it to help speed up some of the mundane and time consuming tasks you do every day or week.

Of course, with any new technology like this, there are always going to be students who use it for the wrong reasons — in particular, cheating. Luckily there are things you can do to combat this. If you want to find out how to make sure your students don’t use ChatGPT to cheat, check out our blog here.  

In conclusion, ChatGPT is a useful tool for educators in a variety of ways, from personalized learning to assessment and grading. By leveraging the model’s capabilities, educators can create a more effective, efficient, and engaging learning environment for their students. With technology continuing to evolve, it’s essential that educators stay up-to-date with the latest tools and resources, and ChatGPT is one of the most promising tools available today. By using ChatGPT in the classroom, educators can help their students achieve academic success and prepare them for a future where technology is an integral part of daily life.

Still in doubt? How could a program’s writing ability compare to that of an educated human? Well in case you hadn’t realised, this blog was written in about twelve seconds using a ChatGPT prompt. All I typed in was “write a 800 word blog explaining how ChatGPT is a useful tool for educators” and there it was (with some fact-checking and verification, of course). 

If you’re interested in reading more about ChatGPT and its potential uses, check out our other blogs which cover:

  • How to use ChatGPT in classrooms
  • How to make sure your students don’t use it to cheat
  • How to use ChatGPT to help you with your time management

Don’t worry, all these blogs are written by a human, or occasionally a pair of humans being supervised by the office Labrador. 

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