Teachers ask students to use ChatGPT to create a text on a topic and then have them point out the flaws. In one example that one of Stansbury’s colleagues shared in her workshop, students used the bot to create an essay about the history of the printing press. When her US-focused answer did not include information about the print’s origins in Europe or China, the teacher used this as a starting point for a conversation about bias. “It’s a great way to focus on media literacy,” says Stansbury.
Crompton is working on researching ways to improve chatbot training. She lists potential applications she’s excited about, from creating test questions to summarizing information for students with varying reading levels to helping with time-consuming administrative tasks like writing letters to colleagues and parents.
One of her favorite uses of technology is to bring more interactivity to the classroom. Teaching methods that force students to be creative, role-play or think critically lead to deeper learning than rote learning, he says. ChatGPT can play the role of a debate opponent and generate counterarguments for a student’s position, for example. By exposing students to an endless supply of opposing viewpoints, chatbots can help them look for weaknesses in their own thinking.
Crompton also notes that if English is not a student’s first language, chatbots can be a great help in designing text or repurposing existing documents, doing much to level the playing field. Chatbots also serve students with special learning needs. Ask ChatGPT to explain Newton’s Laws of Motion to a student who learns better with pictures rather than words, for example, and it will generate an explanation featuring balls rolling on a table.
All students can benefit from personalized learning materials, Kulatta says, because everyone has different learning preferences. Teachers can prepare several different versions of their teaching materials for a variety of student needs. Kulatta believes that chatbots can create personalized content for 50 or 100 students and turn tutors into regular tutors. “I think five years from now the idea of a tool giving us information that was written for someone else is going to be really weird,” he says.
Some ed-tech companies are already doing this. In March, Quizlet updated its app with a feature called Q-Chat, powered by ChatGPT, that tailors material to each user’s needs. The app adjusts the difficulty of the questions based on how well students know the material they are studying and how they prefer to learn. “Q-Chat gives our students a one-on-one tutor-like experience,” said Quizlet CEO Lex Baier.
In fact, some educators believe that future textbooks may be equipped with chatbots built around their content. Students will have a conversation with the bot about the content of the book as well as (or instead of) reading. A chatbot can create personalized quizzes to teach students about topics they have less understanding of.
Not all of these approaches are instantly successful, of course. Donahoe and her students came up with guidelines for using ChatGPT together, but “we might get to the end of this lesson and I think it absolutely didn’t work,” she says. “This is still an ongoing experiment.”