The Rise of ChatGPT and Its Massive Effect on Education

Michelle Bouslog
Michelle Bouslog
EdTech teacher; M.A.Ed. in EdTech, Concordia University St. Paul, MN
A person sits on their laptop and chats virtually with the ChatGPT AI chatbot.

To my fellow educators out there, it won’t come as a surprise when I say that the average teacher puts in a 54-hour work week. More surprising, at least to the general population, is that nearly half of that time is not devoted to directly working with students.

What if there was a way to cut down on the time it takes to compose emails, make lesson plans, or even offer feedback on assignments? This sounds like a dream, and that is just what many feel about the trending ChatGPT. This deemed “bonus brain” is helping teachers cut down on workload by generating lesson plans, coming up with email responses, and brainstorming activities.

Some people, however, have witnessed ChatGPT chatbot become a nightmare in their classrooms. Let me take a minute to explain the rise and buzz of ChatGPT, how it affects classrooms, and how educators can use ChatGPT to help alleviate some work to more directly support their students.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT was created by OpenAl in November of 2022. An artificial intelligence (AI) tool that can answer questions with a simple prompt, the ChatGPT app has taken the world by storm. Within five days of launching, it had over 1 million users. Now, at over 100 million users, it has set the record for fastest user growth in just the few months it has been alive.

What exactly is it? ChatGPT is a general-purpose Al chatbot that is able to answer your questions, create lists, write code, or even assist you with responding to emails. It understands human dialogue, can generate detailed human-like text, fix grammatical errors, and challenge incorrect premises.

Would you believe me if I mentioned it even admits its mistakes? Now that I have your attention, let me give you some examples. When asked, “Explain to me what happened during World War II.” ChatGPT will explain WWII and even allow the user to chime in with follow up questions such as, “What impact did Winston Churchhill have on the war?” It remembers what users said earlier in the conversation and can refer back to that.

Are you in need of ideas for a class party? Ask, “What are some good ideas for a kindergarten class party?” and ChatGPT will generate a list for you. Not liking the ideas? Follow up with, “I want to have a party with items we already have in the room. Can you adjust the list?” Done. This all sounds dreamy right off the bat, but here is how ChatGPT is negatively affecting some classrooms across the globe.

How Does ChatGPT Affect Classrooms?

While ChatGPT has many wonderful features that give us the ability to quickly receive information, there are some problems it is stirring up in classrooms. You may be wondering, can ChatGPT write essays? Yes, students are using ChatGPT to assist in writing papers and essays, and it is not very easy to detect plagiarism. Students are able to find answers to even complex questions and assignments without their teacher being able to know if they came to that answer on their own or with the help of ChatGPT (especially when you are able to ask ChatGPT to explain the answer in a voice like a nine year old.) You can see how this could quickly get out of hand. So how can educators easily work with ChatGPT and not have to work so hard against it?

Working With ChatGPT as an Educator

It is always helpful to start at the beginning with students, even if they come to the table already knowing things about the topic. Introduce ChatGPT to your students. Explain how it was created, what awesome features it has as well as its flaws. Explain how it can help them in their learning, but also ways it could hurt them. Then, give students their first experience with ChatGPT under the guidance of your wing. One example could be to have students use ChatGPT to generate ideas for historical events that took place during the 1900’s. Have students choose an idea and write an essay. Next, have students choose one paragraph to ask ChatGPT for help with: “Improve my writing in this paragraph.” Part of the students’ work could be to write a reflection on how ChatGPT improved their writing and what they learned from their experience with it.

In music class, students could have ChatGPT write a song for them: “Write me a song about birds.” Students could then add on and make changes from the generated song. This could be beneficial to students who are not musically confident or need a little extra guidance on how a song comes together.

Another way ChatGPT can be useful to teachers is by creating quizzes for reading checks: “Make me a ten-question verb quiz for a second-grade student.” Adjust it by asking ChatGPT to add more questions, fewer questions, or questions at a third-grade level.

Need a writing prompt for the day? “ChatGPT, give me a writing topic for my fourth graders on vegetables. Make it sound silly.” Need to lighten your geography unit? “Create a rap for me about the Midwest. Make sure to include facts about Minnesota.” Or review for your Europe test by asking ChatGPT to “Pretend you are a European travel agent. Create an itinerary on a ten day trip to Europe for me. Make sure I travel to the post popular places.”

For teachers working on lesson planning or struggling with explaining a topic, ChatGPT can help. “Give me three ideas on how my second graders can practice finding the main idea of a story. Be sure to include an introductory activity, writing component, as well as partner work.” Or “Explain two ways to teach third graders persuasive writing.” Or lastly, “Help me write an email to a parent of my fifth-grade student on why we cannot bring cellphones to school. Be polite, but stern. Make sure to touch on how this was their third offense bringing a cell phone to the classroom.”

ChatGPT can be a very useful tool in the education setting. It can help students correct their grammatical errors, brainstorm ideas for topics, or help with creativity when generating project ideas. For teachers, it can help reduce their workload by writing lesson ideas, composing emails, or even writing letters of recommendation for fellow colleagues. Why not give it a try and put this bonus brain to the test!

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