Navigating the Use of ChatGPT in Education

A futuristic looking AI head with a person holding an iPad and Stylus, controlling the AI

In my recent blog post, I introduced my new friend ChatGPT and started to explore what large language models such as this might mean for the future of assessment in education. ChatGPT itself was actually very helpful, coming up with some interesting insights on this issue which is causing some alarm within the education sector.

ChatGPT, the possibilities are endless

Fast forward a few weeks and it seems that talk of ChatGPT can be found just about everywhere from the news to YouTube to TikTok. Everyone is now talking about ChatGPT and sharing their experiences of ways they have used it to help them in their daily work.  It seems that the only thing it can’t do is give good dating advice!

Whilst I understand that some teachers will have reservations about discussing ChatGPT with their students, for fear of promoting its use in assessments, it is important to remember that the genie is already very much out of the bottle on this.

Since my last blog, only a matter of weeks ago, Microsoft has invested billions in this technology and already has a new AI-powered Bing search engine.  They are also adding new functionality to the tools we all use on a daily basis, such as Word, embedding AI to help users create document summaries. It seems this technology is not going away, and nor should it.

Source: Dr Lee Fallin, TwitterA new (beta) document summary has now been seen in Word

Let’s change the narrative

It is now down to us, as educators, to embrace this technology in our teaching. We need to find appropriate ways to include it in teaching and assessment, which are complementary with learning aims rather than in opposition to them.

In doing this we can change the narrative across the sector away from a focus on the risks and misuse of this technology, towards excitement about how it can be used to stimulate students and create new opportunities for learning. Essentially, ChatGTP isn’t going anywhere so we need to work with it rather than against it.

Finding a Role for ChatGPT in Education

As teachers, we aim to provide our students with the digital skills they will require when entering the workplace, so why would be limit the use of ChatGPT, one of the most exciting advancements in technology we have seen in years?

Yet ChatGPT is developing at such a rate that it poses challenges for institutions who must react with a considered response in a timely way. To help institutions do this the last in the Digitally Enhance Education webinar series, held on 8th February, we had three talks focussing on ChatGPT and its role in education.

The interest in this topic was clear from the record number of attendees. Attracting over 1,300 colleagues from across the sector, we actually reached the limit of Teams!

First, we heard from Michael Webb from Jisc who spoke about ChatGPT-3 and its impact on education. Next, Professor Philippe De Wilde from the University of Kent made us all rethink what original work really means. Then Professor David Smith from Sheffield Hallam University talked about exam questions that ChatGPT answered successfully and those answered less successfully and the future for written assignments.

The recordings for these talks are available via the Digitally Enhanced Education YouTube Channel and have already clocked up over 8,000 views in just over a week.

So how then do we start to introduce ChatGPT into our teaching?

From the discussions at the webinar, it struck me how important it is that we all keep in mind that ChatGPT is not a replacement for critical thinking, creativity, and human interaction. As educators, we should allow our students to use ChatGPT as a tool to support their learning, but we must also warn them not to rely on it.

Although ChatGPT can provide helpful cues, it is not always accurate and will lack the contextual knowledge needed to provide entire answers to assignment questions. Students should be made aware that, to score highly, they will need to synthesize information from a range of sources in order to provide answers that are both relevant and appropriate. Where academics have permitted it’s use, ChatGPT could be part of this, but not all of it.

Furthermore, we should make students aware that if they want to develop skills that they can take into the workplace, then they must learn to become independent thinkers who can solve problems on their own. Their time in higher education is the time to build and refine these skills which will serve them throughout their lives.

It is crucial that we start to have open discussions with our students about the use of ChatGPT in education now. Only through open and honest dialogue with our students can we highlight the benefits and limitations of using AI technologies and support students to use them responsibly and ethically.

The next Digitally Enhance Education webinarTeaching with ChatGPT: Examples of Practice’ taking place on the 15th of March (14:00 GMT) will hear from academics who have had these conversations with their students and successfully incorporated ChatGPT into their teaching practices, or plan to in the near future. If you would like some ideas, please do join us.

What has ChatGPT-3 got to say on the matter?

As I did in my last blog post, I thought I would ask ChatGPT the following question “Do we need to start discussing ChatGPT with our students?

Perhaps not surprisingly the response highlights the benefits of large language modules to students. This includes immediate benefits such as helping students improve their writing skills, generating ideas for research papers and providing instant feedback on their writing, as well as longer-term benefits such as career readiness, which will be a primary motivator for many students.

Here’s what it had to say:

Yes, it is important to start discussing large language models such as GPT with students

As an AI language model, ChatGPT can be a valuable tool for students in many different contexts. By discussing ChatGPT with students, they can learn about the capabilities and limitations of AI, gain exposure to natural language processing technologies, and explore ways in which AI can be used in various fields.

Here are some specific reasons why discussing ChatGPT with students can be beneficial:

    1. Develop critical thinking skills: Discussing ChatGPT with students can help them develop critical thinking skills by challenging them to consider the strengths and weaknesses of AI technologies and how they can be used ethically.

    2. Career readiness: As AI continues to play an increasingly important role in many industries, students who are familiar with AI technologies such as ChatGPT may be better prepared for future career opportunities.

    3. Improved writing skills: ChatGPT can help students improve their writing skills by offering feedback and suggestions that can help them refine their writing and communication skills.

    4. Language learning: ChatGPT can also be used as a language learning tool, allowing students to practice and improve their language skills through interactive conversations.

    5. Innovative teaching strategies: By incorporating ChatGPT into their teaching strategies, educators can create new and innovative learning opportunities that engage students and promote active learning.

To summarise, as educators, we should adopt this technology in our teaching and strive to incorporate it in ways that complement our learning objectives, rather than working against them. This exciting world of AI is here to stay so we must help prepare students for a future that will undoubtedly be shaped by these technologies.

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