Learning Strategies

The Pros and Cons of ChatGPT in the Classroom

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ChatGPT is taking over the classroom.

What is ChatGPT? It is an AI natural language model that relies on prompts given by the user to generate written responses. It interacts in a remarkably conversational way, has the ability to admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises and more.

ChatGPT has gotten so popular that students - and educators - have begun to use it in the classroom for research, essays, and homework.

Some people believe that ChatGPT is more of a detriment to education than a benefit because its responses aren't always accurate. Plus, it can negate the need for critical thinking. But whether it's helpful or hurtful in the classroom isn't so clear cut.

We've highlighted the chatbot's pros and cons below to help educators decide how they should use it - or not use it - in their classroom.

The Pros of ChatGPT for Educators and Students

From crafting lesson plans to generating grading rubrics, there is little doubt that ChatGPT can be a helpful, time-saving tool to educators.

For example, teachers can use ChatGPT as a shortcut for writing emails to students.

All they need to do is type in who the email is for and what the purpose is. A common example is an email to a parent about a student using their phone during class. Chat GPT will write a proper response to the prompt and the teacher can fill in the blanks regarding the student's name and the parent's name.

ChatGPT can even write up lesson plans or ideas for classroom activities with little more than a subject, grade and objective - saving teachers countless hours of prep.

For example, here's a prompt for a classroom activity on photosynthesis, followed by ChatGPT's response:

PROMPT: List a fun activity I can do with my students to explore the concept of photosynthesis

RESPONSE: A fun activity to explore the concept of photosynthesis with your students could be to create a "photosynthesis salad". Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Divide your class into groups of four or five students.
  2. Give each group a variety of green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and lettuce.
  3. Ask each group to choose one vegetable from their selection and place it in a bowl or on a plate.
  4. Place each bowl or plate in a location with direct sunlight.
  5. Leave the bowls or plates for several hours (or even overnight) to allow the sunlight to shine directly on the leaves.
  6. Have each group observe the vegetables they selected before and after they were exposed to sunlight. Encourage them to take note of any changes in color or texture.
  7. Have each group share their observations with the class and discuss how sunlight is essential for plants to make their own food through photosynthesis.

This activity is a fun and interactive way to explore the concept of photosynthesis with your students, while also incorporating healthy eating habits.

In addition, the bot can be used to generate permission slips, whether it's for watching a movie in class or going on a field trip. It can even create grading rubrics - for example, teachers can tell it to create a rubric for an argument essay and then modify it to fit their needs.

Students, on the other hand, can use ChatGPT to help sharpen their writing skills. The tool can generate essay ideas, create an outline and proofread text for common grammatical errors.

Students can also use the chatbot to research topics for papers or homework assignments. The bot can field follow-up questions and help find sources, allowing students to dive deeper into topics.

Overall, ChatGPT can make students' learning process quicker - decreasing confusion or the number of questions asked in class.

The Cons of ChatGPT for Educators and Students

While ChatGPT poses many practical advantages to learning, there are certain risks that come with using it.

One of the biggest cons is that ChatGPT can misunderstand context and spit out inaccurate results.

And, the chatbot can show real world biases since it was trained on the collective writing of humans across the world. For example, it can generate answers that discriminate against minority groups. Currently, the company that created ChatGPT, OpenAI, knows this issue and is trying to address it.

Proofreading the information ChatGPT spits out or even conducting a peer review is a great way to ensure its answers are accurate and any biases are taken out. In fact, examining the information the bot generates can be an effective lesson on critical thinking and analysis.

On the flip side, many in education argue that too much dependence on ChatGPT can undermine students' critical thinking skills, especially if it's constantly used to help write or complete assignments. Most students are taught to use the bot as a supplement to their own expertise and skills - not as a machine that can do all the work for them.

Plagiarism is another risk the tool poses. It may be tempting for students to use the bot to author their research papers or homework entirely - instead of using it as a helpful for minor editing or research. Fortunately, there are now various tools that educators can use to detect AI content.

Because ChatGPT is still evolving, it's unclear how it may (or may not) change how learning and work is done in classrooms across the country. Ultimately, it's up to educators to examine its potential and determine how it might fit into their own curriculum.

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