What teachers need to know about Chat GPT artificial intelligence, how it affects your teaching and lessons, and how to know if students are using it for their work.

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It’s been a little over a year since Chat GPT AI was made available to the public. It’s ubiquitous now. Every time you use your phone, laptop, computer, or apps, AI is being integrated. It’s even being used by schools to help teachers plan and write lessons. As a writing teacher, what is your first reaction? Are you for it or against it? How will you know if a writing paper was created using artificial intelligence or if it was penned by your student?

First, let’s talk about Chat GPT and what it is and what it can do.

What teachers need to know about Chat GPT AI over the image of a woman's face and a robot.
This post was last updated on January 11, 2024.

 

 

Chat GPT is a program developed by OpenAI that is able to create human sounding text. You may have seen or read reports about this technology. It’s actually quite remarkable. As with all new things tech-related that can make schoolwork easier, it’s practically a guarantee your students will be using AI for their homework.

At the time of my writing this blog, it can carry on a fairly comprehensive conversation, and can write a paper with basic facts. But there are a few things missing.

What Can Chat GPT Do?

It can do your homework for you. According to this article by Emma Bowman about Chat GPT at NPR.org,  it’s turning heads in academia. The reporter asked the text-based system at OpenAI to write a quippy news article about how it could change academia.

It’s definitely a game changer, that teachers and students are using on the regular. Not only can it write papers, according to the same article, it can solve math problems, debug code, and summarize lengthy articles and books.

It sort of reminds me of Data, the android character on the science fiction series Star Trek. Although it was a fount of knowledge, Data also had some faults. One fault in particular was the lack of any sense of humor. It seems ChatGPT has a similar fault. See for yourself.

ChatGPT-dog-joke about a dog.
Chat GPT screen shot at OpenAI taken by Suzanne Pitner, Jan 3, 2023.

 

How Does Chat GPT Work?

I asked the system at OpenAI to tell me the answer to this question. Here is its response

Screenshot of explanation of how ChatGPT works.
Chat GPT screen shot at OpenAI taken by Suzanne Pitner, Jan 2, 2023.

 

Notice it mentions it keeps track of words and phrases that have been used and uses that context to create more responses. During my informal investigation, I began seeing the same words and phrases multiple times.

What Are the Weaknesses of Chat GPT?

One thing that was clearly apparent to me was that text produced by Chat GPT was lacking in the writing trait of voice. You can test it out yourself and see what you think. In my opinion, the writing was dry and fairly stilted, even formulaic. It’s also repetitive. That can be expected in beginning writers in elementary grades, but in high school and above, it’s a ringer for ChatGPT. See for yourself.

 

 

Chat GPT answer to a question.
Chat GPT screen shot at OpenAI taken by Suzanne Pitner, Jan 2, 2023.

 

 

Chat GPT screen shot at OpenAI taken by Suzanne Pitner, Jan 2, 2023.

 

Immediately upon reading these I noticed the formulaic writing. It has two paragraphs of explanation, complete with a transition, and a concluding paragraph that restates the main ides. It’s also exactly what I teach students to do when they are beginning writers. But as they advance in their skills, they can vary the formula to create more original-sounding writing. Can Chat GPT adapt and advance? Time will tell.

Tell tale signs your students are using Chat GPT A.I.

How Well Can an AI System Write Poetry?

Next, I asked Chat GPT to create three poems about Juana. I gave no details about this person, just a name. I requested an acrostic poem, a bio poem, and a sonnet. For your reading pleasure, I enclose the three screenshots of the poems. First, here is the bio poem.

 

Bio poem for the name Juana written using AI.
Chat GPT screen shot at OpenAI taken by Suzanne Pitner, Jan 2, 2023.

 

Okay, my third grade students could have written this. Honestly, I wouldn’t suspect AI if I read this poem from a student.

This is the acrostic poem.

 

Acrostic poem for the name Juana using AI.
Chat GPT screen shot at OpenAI taken by Suzanne Pitner, Jan 2, 2023.

 

It’s a tad more complex, but it lacks emotion. Naturally, it’s written by a bot.

Finally, in the sonnet, you’ll notice the repetition.

 

Sonnet about a person named Juana, written by Chat GPT at OpenAI.
Chat GPT screen shot at OpenAI taken by Suzanne Pitner, Jan 2, 2023.

How Can A Teacher Discover If A Student Used AI to Write a Paper?

Robot hand with a lightbulb on a platter.
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There are tools available online to determine with a high degree of probability if a student has used AI to write their papers. For now, those can be helpful. Certainly, students will find a work-around, and from what I’ve read online, many already have. One website you can try out is HuggingFace.co. Paste in the text, and it will give you an probability indicator of whether it was written by AI or by a human.

Another interesting site for determining the validity of a student’s writing is Originality.ai.

The Authority Hacker did an three-phase test of Originality.ai. They used business articles, some generated by AI and some written by humans, and one a mixture of both. You can read how accurate the results were in the blog post Originalityai Review.

Some savvy students may realize that they can go to different AI text generators and combine their results. Perhaps they ask ChatGPT to write a paper at one site. Then they go to another site, paste in the text, and ask for a rewrite. They might even go to a third, paste in the text, and ask for an edit. Would a teacher be able to tell if that was AI generated or not? You can give it a try and see what you find.

Watermarks for Chat GPT

I had a feeling this wouldn’t be far into the future, and sure enough, it’s in the works. At the time of this writing, OpenAI is developing a watermark system, so that AI generated content can be more easily detected. Also, Google will penalize bloggers and content writers if their work appears to be AI generated. Apparently AI will recognize other AI online. I’d say that’s a good thing.

Pros and Cons of Using Chat GPT in the Classroom

While there are many negatives that come to mind immediately surrounding students using Chat GPT, there can also be some positives. In the blog post, Teaching With ChatGPT and AI – The Good, the Bad, and the Possibilites, I delved into some of the ways this technology can be used in the classroom to enhance our lessons. Ideas are already popping up in education boards and posts about how to lean into this trend. What’s that saying about keeping your enemies close?

As this first year of the public availability of artificial intelligence tools comes to a close, teachers have many, many options. What you choose to use is ultimately up to you and your school district. In my opinion, these tools are a starting point, not an end point. We will always need human writers and teachers.

If you’d like to read about some ideas about using ChatGPT in a secondary French language classroom, the Frenchified blog has a good list.

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Suzanne-TeacherWriter

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