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AI in the Classroom

a hand holding an hologram of AI with AI outputs next to it.

Artificial intelligence–particularly natural language processing tools such as ChatGPT, Bard, and Claude and image generators like DALL-E2–are already having an impact in the classroom. While they come with challenges and concerns, AI-driven systems can support teachers in a variety of ways, from sparking ideas for classroom conversations to quickly providing information about any topic that comes up.

It’s hard to escape conversation about ChatGPT. While the potential is significant and the system keeps improving, it still has its limitations. Teachers may consider using ChatGPT to quickly answer questions on different topics, but they also should remain aware that the system may have inaccurate information (and, currently, no information beyond 2021). It may also help with professional development by suggesting articles, videos and other resources teachers can use to improve their skills.

Learning about AI is important for any teacher who wants to leverage the power of innovative technology in the classroom. Teachers can even take a professional development course like ChatGPT Crash Course for Educators to experience this groundbreaking technology and gain a deeper understanding of its growing impact on their teaching and their students' learning.

What Is AI In the Classroom?

In most cases, AI in the classroom currently refers to the use of ChatGPT, an AI-generated natural language processing model that provides answers to questions in full sentences or can write white papers of various styles when provided with an assignment prompt. It’s considered a breakthrough because it can read questions and respond in a human-like way. It’s the first such system made widely available for public use.

When it comes to AI for teachers, it’s a source of both high potential and deep concern. The potential involves ways it might help students and teachers improve learning in the classroom. The concerns revolve around students passing off ChatGPT-produced responses, papers or projects as their own work, as well as the impact AI may have on the teaching profession itself.

Ideas On AI For Teachers

Teachers can already put ChatGPT to use in the classroom. The website offers suggestions for ways to do this, and all teachers need is an internet connection.

The site suggests that teachers allow students to use ChatGPT as a “starting point,” asking it to generate answers about the topic under discussion. Despite the potential for initial responses to be "boring and sometimes redundant," ChatGPT can generate realistic and tailor-made responses through practice and refined prompts. Teachers can use these responses to generate new ideas for class discussions and student essays.

They also suggest using ChatGPT to generate articles written or rewrite existing articles on the student’s reading level, as well as using it to suggest activities appropriate to the student’s age. To limit misuse of ChatGPT, teachers can provide learning scenarios “anchored in authentic contexts.” In this case, students can use AI to inform their work (as they do with internet searches), “but would need to think through the ideas and extrapolate to their own contexts,” wrote.

Concerns About AI

The chief concern for educators about using AI in the classroom involves the ethics and impacts of AI, particularly the concern that students may use ChatGPT to cut corners in schoolwork. The worst examples involve students passing off answers or full papers copied and pasted from ChatGPT as their own work. Some institutions have already banned the use of AI in student work, according to the Anthology website. Others, such as the University of Delaware, allow students to use AI to develop ideas but require them to properly cite its use. The key is using AI as a tool in the process and not as the generator of the final product.

Some educators also have concerns about ChatGPT and AI taking their jobs. However, as people in content marketing, journalism and other industries are learning, ChatGPT cannot currently replace original thought or the connection teachers have with their students. Forbes recently listed other issues with ChatGPT, including a lack of common sense, emotional intelligence, the ability to understand context, the ability to generate long-form, structured content, accuracy and grammatical issues and the potential for biased responses. But those limitations might be short-lived and supported in future releases. Forbes also wrote that ChatGPT lacks a sense of humor.

A Chat with ChatGPT About Its Use in the Classroom

What does ChatGPT think about using ChatGPT in the classroom? In the following brief conversation, ChatGPT “talked” about using itself in the classroom (the AI system was asked to limit answers to just a few sentences). Unedited answers from ChatGPT in italics.

What are some of the ways ChatGPT can help teachers in the classroom?

ChatGPT can help teachers in the classroom by providing quick access to information, generating instructional materials, offering personalized feedback, suggesting resources for professional development, and promoting student engagement through interactive activities and simulations.

What's the best way for teachers to put ChatGPT to use in the classroom right now?

One of the best ways for teachers to put ChatGPT to use in the classroom right now is to use it as a tool for generating instructional materials such as lesson plans, activities, and assessments. By using ChatGPT to generate content, teachers can save time and focus more on adapting and customizing the materials to meet the specific needs and learning styles of their students. However, it's important to ensure that the generated materials align with the learning objectives and standards of the curriculum and to review and edit them as needed.

Can students use ChatGPT to cheat, passing off its words as their own? 

Yes, students can potentially use ChatGPT to cheat by passing off its generated text as their own without proper citation or attribution. It is important for teachers to educate students on the ethical and academic implications of plagiarism, as well as to establish clear expectations and guidelines for proper citation and attribution of sources.

Will AI eventually replace teachers in the classroom?

It is unlikely that AI will completely replace teachers in the classroom. While AI can provide valuable support and resources to enhance teaching and learning, it cannot replace the human connection and social-emotional skills that are essential to effective teaching. Teachers play a critical role in creating a positive learning environment, building relationships with students, and providing personalized support that cannot be replicated by AI.

Do you know any funny jokes involving teaching? 

Sure, here's a teacher joke for you:

Why did the teacher wear sunglasses to school?

Because her students were so bright!

While filled with some interesting ideas, teachers will notice the redundancy and lack of resources mentioned to back up certain ideas (such as using AI to generate lesson plans, instructional material and “personalized feedback”). That doesn’t change if ChatGPT is allowed to give longer answers.

It’s worth noting that AI doesn’t see itself replacing humans. And, depending on your taste in jokes, looks like the jury remains out on the whole “lack of sense of humor” issue!