Artificial Intelligence · English as an Additional Language · technology

Three Ways to Use ChatGPT…Tomorrow

Back in December of 2022, I tried out ChatGPT for the first time. I had to create an account, which made me a little nervous since I never like making accounts and sharing information. My daughters convinced me it would be fine, and so far, so good.

“Type anything,” Larkin said. “Maybe A letter from a CEO to his entire company firing half the employees but he can’t stop talking about how amazing his French onion soup is.”

She typed in the prompt, and immediately, the letter wrote itself below the prompt.

She laughed when my eyes grew wide and then wider as I experimented with different requests. My initial challenges to ChatGPT are still available within the chat archive:

  • Write a lesson teaching fourth graders to write an introduction for an opinion essay.
  • Write a lesson teaching fourth graders to write an introduction for an opinion essay using dogs are great pets as a demonstration.
  • Write a sample educational philosophy statement that is 250 words.
  • Write an information paragraph about a social issue in the world at a sixth-grade level.
  • Write a 250-word story about Emily who wants a puppy and gets one for Christmas at a third-grade level.

Each time, I was amazed at the speed, accuracy, and yes, usefulness of the responses.

I spent time exploring how ChatGPT could do that. In simple terms, it pulls from all available information and resources that are on-line, and it uses algorithms to interpret and create language. Users can ask ChatGPT how it works, and it will explain the underlying process at any level asked. There are additional programs that exist, as well. Bard is Google’s model, while Bing is a Microsoft product. ChatGPT is the product of OpenAI. The New York Times ran a recent series where you can read much more about these systems if you’re interested.

For the time being, here are three ways I’ve used A.I.:

  • Create demonstration and exemplar pieces of writing

As you could see in my initial prompts, I was interested in how the model could create writing pieces like the ones I want students to write. The more I explored, the more systematic I found the pieces to be. However, I can use them to demonstrate specific skills such as elaboration strategies, transition words, and ways to hook readers. I also like to ask it to simplify or complicate the text by specifying a grade level, and I can also specify topics, using topics that are of particular interest to the students in front of me.

  • Gather ideas for feedback on student writing

I love meeting with students about their writing and discussing what they’re trying to do as writers. I also know that it’s hard to know what to say in the moment. If I take a written text and enter it into the chat with the request for feedback, ChatGPT’s suggestions are predictable, and important. I can also hone my request, asking for specific numbers of positive feedback and constructive feedback. Yep, it does that. One of my daughters was working on a personal narrative, and we tried it out. You can bet she’ll be describing the flowers as a multicolored tapestry.

There’s a caveat worth mentioning here. Teachers still need to learn how to confer well with kids in the moment. I would never want to tell a student to hold on while I copy and paste the writing into the AI chat, wait for some suggestions, and then decide on my feedback. AI shouldn’t replace teachers’ personal connections with students around their writing. Additionally, ChatGPT generated multiple suggestions for feedback and next steps. Teachers need to decide on the prioritized in-the-moment instruction. 

  • Create learning targets for curriculum documents

Learning targets are never my favorite thing to write. However, it whipped them off when I asked it to generate some learning targets for a third-grade biography unit. I didn’t use them all, but I had a place to begin. A lot of the time, it’s easier for me to start with text and revise instead of creating from scratch. I appreciated that. I will also say that the more specific the request, the better the responses.

In my exploration, I have come across many problems as well. ChatGPT doesn’t always admit when it doesn’t know something– although sometimes it does. Sometimes it gives incorrect information so users need to be ready to fact-check. And, yes, it tends to be repetitive with stories and paragraphs that sound the same, following the same format and structure. All that being said, I have no doubt that language models and artificial intelligence will change how people create, teach, and learn. If you haven’t gone exploring, sign up and give it a try.