Call for Contributions
Fellow Teachers and Administrators, now that we’ve had several months to process the current and potential impact of ChatGPT and other LLMs on education, let’s do a collective SWOT analysis on them. This is open to any teachers or administrators in K-12 schools or colleges and universities. We will curate the best answers into a blog post and share the results. Please restrict yourself to one concise sentence per question and share your name, your school, and your role so we can give you credit for your contributions.
- What is one strength ChatGPT and other LLMs possess in your area of expertise? What does it do surprisingly well?
- What is one clear weakness of such programs in your area of expertise? What does it do surprisingly poorly?
- What is one exciting opportunity it presents to teachers, students, or practitioners in your field?
- What is one serious threat it poses to your field, to your students’ formation, or to your teaching of the subject?
Curated Contributions to Date
- In philosophy, ChatGPT has the ability to generate logically valid arguments within whatever parameters one sets and give additional explanations and evidence for each of the premises. For example, if you submit the prompt, “Write a logically valid argument with two premises and a conclusion in defense of the claim that human beings possess libertarian freedom,” ChatGPT will generate a logically valid argument and then proceed to give a paragraph’s worth of defense of each premise. You can also ask it to write the argument from the perspective of a given philosopher, and it will do it. It can also identify weaknesses in specific premises in an argument, supply counter-arguments, and reply to those counter-arguments. It can even write philosophical dialogues between interlocutors representing different positions on a philosophical question. – Dr. Sean Riley, Gravitas: A Global Extension of The Stony Brook School
- In humanities classes, it gives students countless examples of good writing (good by high school standards) that they can use as models for their own writing. Conscientious students can thus use it as a writing tutor: they can take their original content, upload it to ChatGPT to be refined and corrected for mechanics, and then study the changes to see where they went wrong—much like a teacher or tutor who’s marking up a first draft of a writing assignment. – Dr. Zach Manis, Gravitas: A Global Extension of The Stony Brook School
- In math, one strength ChatGPT could possess (but does not yet) is the ability to “tutor” students through math problems. It would be great if they could ask it questions and get real explanations in layman’s terms. There are a lot of math “calculators” out there today already but none talk in our “natural” language – they mostly just compute or show steps. – Alexandra Schwein, Gravitas: A Global Extension of The Stony Brook School
- In math, as far as I can tell from my personal experience and the little research I have done, ChatGPT does not do a very good job at calculating math problems currently. It will frequently get answers wrong. From what I have read, this seems to stem from it being a more natural language. It scans millions of texts and anticipates what comes after each word, but this does not really work with mathematical equations or problems. – Alexandra Schwein, Gravitas: A Global Extension of The Stony Brook School
- While ChatGPT is quite good at writing that requires information about X, that knowledge is limited to what was in the input data set, and it is completely incapable of knowledge by acquaintance, so it is useless when writing content that requires familiarity with particular people and communities. – Dr. Sean Riley, Gravitas: A Global Extension of The Stony Brook School
- In my philosophy class, I’m excited about is helping students understand what makes them distinctively human so they can invest in those areas more deeply. I’m having my students write a collaborative human/AI disputatio on difficult, contested philosophical issues and setting the bar really high on the grading so they can learn what it takes to beat what ChatGPT can do on its own. – Dr. Sean Riley, Gravitas: A Global Extension of The Stony Brook School
- In humanities, teachers can instruct students to [improve] their essays [for them], requiring them to submit both the original and the ChatGPT corrected output, and then requiring them to explain why they think ChatGPT made the changes it did. – Dr. Zach Manis, Gravitas: A Global Extension of The Stony Brook School
- Students taking science can use ChatGPT to explain a concept in a different way that may help them understand it better. I often assess student knowledge and understanding by having them answer a brief constructed response question about the topic we are studying, questions that can be easily answered by AI or even a google search. The opportunity here is to have students turn that answer into a children’s story or such to demonstrate a process such as photosynthesis or cell division. For students and teachers, AI tools help us when we “can’t find the right words” or want to reduce or enhance the IQ or reading level. – Christina Howland, Gravitas: A Global Extension of The Stony Brook School
- Since many school writing assignments are designed to test students’ knowledge, reasoning skills, and writing abilities and ChatGPT can do all of those better than most students, the temptation to cheat is now off the charts, and the tools teachers used to use to detect cheating are now at best probabilistic. This is a major threat to student formation, which requires struggle, not short-cuts, and it also threatens to undermine trust between students and teachers, which is fundamental to the learning process. – Dr. Sean Riley, Gravitas: A Global Extension of The Stony Brook School
- The Weakness and Threat are pretty obvious, however, because of the myriad ways that ChatGPT can be misused. If it isn’t already, it will soon be a constant temptation to students to thwart their own education and intellectual development by enabling them to pass certain assignments, and even entire classes, without developing critical thinking and writing skills. And this will increasingly become a temptation not just to unscrupulous students, but also to those who have thus far been conscientious, as they observe peers not only getting away with cheating, but sometimes actually getting higher grades than they do for honest work. Hence the need for teachers to begin incorporating ChatGPT into assignments in some way. The further challenge, however, is that it places a significant burden on teachers, already spread thin, to constantly come up with ingenious new methods to incorporate ChatGPT into assignments in ways that harness its potential and prevent (or at least discourage) misuse. That can feel pretty overwhelming. – Dr. Zach Manis, Gravitas: A Global Extension of The Stony Brook School
- In math, a current threat it poses is that many students may think it is a reliable resource. Right now, it spits out many wrong answers and does not have a coherent view of geometry which may lead to confusion and misinformation to students. – Alexandra Schwein, Gravitas: A Global Extension of The Stony Brook School
Favorite Articles on ChatGPT in Education
Additionally, we are collecting a list of online articles K-12 teachers and administrators have found helpful in shaping their thinking about the current and potential impact of ChatGPT and other LLMs on education. As we collect them, we’ll add them here and use ChatGPT to summarize them.
- “What ChatGPT Can’t Teach My Writing Students: Learning to write trains your imagination to construct the person who will read your words.” By Jonathan Malesic
- ChatGPT-3 200-word Summary: The recent rise of artificial intelligence (AI) writing tools has caused concern among educators who teach writing, who are questioning the purpose of their courses. While boring competence can be helpful in many writing situations, it is not the only goal of writing. Learning to write also teaches people how to turn their loose thoughts into a clear line of reasoning, a skill that is valuable to everyone, regardless of their profession. Additionally, writing is an ethical act that helps to put writers in a relationship with their audience, who may not yet exist or who may be difficult to understand. Writing is not just an expression of self, but an expression to a specific audience for a specific purpose. Great writers have always understood this, with Nathaniel Hawthorne, for example, encouraging writers to imagine that they are addressing a friend who is listening to their talk. When done well, writing creates a sense of profound understanding between the writer and the reader. Ethical writing, therefore, is a way of developing empathy and forming significant personal attachments, as well as enhancing the quality of communal relations.
- ChatGPT-3 200-word Summary: The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in education could be a death knell for conventional instruction and evaluation, which are geared towards transmitting information. As AI applications like ChatGPT continue to improve, the danger is that they will further upend the nature of educational institutions. However, the narrow transmission of information is not an accurate definition of education. Education is about formative development, and students’ intellectual, moral and character formation, judgement, and wisdom. Educational instruction and learning should not be divorced from their proper use which involves a moral dimension. Education should involve addressing the larger questions of life, which involves teaching values, judgement, and prudence. It should involve providing students with a unifying hub for the various academic spokes, to convey what knowledge, skill, and craft are for. The teachers who provide such education care and show interest in their students, and inspire them. Though AI can assist in the transmission of information, it cannot empathise in the same way a teacher can.