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ChatGPT needs to be your newest teaching buddy

Okay . . . so I’m guessing you’ve heard about how AI robots are going to take over the world, ruin education, and steal your dog. I’m not entirely sure about the taking over the world and stealing your dog part but pretty sure ChatGPT is not going to ruin education.

And, yes, I’ve been wrong before. So the ruined education piece could happen, I suppose. But I’m pretty sure that an artificial intelligence chatbot like ChatGPT isn’t going to be the thing that does it. And I’m starting to believe that it might actually help us do our jobs better.

For those of you just catching up, ChatGPT is a piece of software that rolled out last fall that mimics the thinking and writing of people like you and me. The concern is that students will use this piece of software to create products in response to classroom assignments and submit those products as their own work. Could this happen? Absolutely. Has this sort of thing been going on for years? Absolutely.

Back in the day, pre-internet, students could and did order entire catalogs that listed hundreds of pre-written history papers available in a variety of lengths and quality. Post internet? Those catalogs and essays simply went online. And now? AI is simply the next step in the decades-old Cold War between student and teacher.

Some of you haven’t been around long enough to remember the heated discussions and hand-wringing that happened in the math world when pocket calculators became readily available. The current conversation around ChatGPT ruining the educational process has a similar feel to it.

And I get it. We want the actual kid, not a chatbot, to prove what they know and are able to do. But I’m convinced that social studies teachers can and should find ways to incorporate AI into their classrooms.

So. What can that look that look like in practice?

First thing first.

You’re freaking out a bit about a kid who you think turned in work created by ChatGPT. Your immediate steps aren’t a whole different than if you suspect a student has plagiarised any other assignment.

Be sure you and your building have a clear academic policy in place. Plagiarism is still plagiarism and your expectations around academic honesty are still in place. We know that when you have a clear policy and make kids aware of the policy, plagiarism happens less often. (Don’t have an Academic Honesty and Expectations policy? You’re super late to the party. You might start here.)

The next step to detecting whether ChatGPT wrote something is to simply ask ChatGPT itself. Recently an author used ChatGPT to write the first paragraph of an article titled “ChatGPT: The Enemy of Academic Integrity?” I grabbed the first paragraph, went to ChatGPT, and asked:

The software churned for about a second and spit this back out:

Many of you are using plagiarism software such as TurnItIn. Stick with that. TurnItIn is claiming that it has software in place to counter ChatGPT.

The company that created ChatGPT has developed a tool for detecting whether ChatGPT was used to create a product. Yes, it is ironic. But who better to write detection software than the people who wrote the chatbot code in the first place?

There will be more and more detection tools becoming available but two others you might try are:

Are these tools any good? I asked ChatGPT to create an article in the style of Frederick Douglas and posted its response to detection software. All caught the article as being created by AI. Your results may vary.

Of course, long-term steps to counter tools like ChatGPT involve us examining our instructional and assessment practices. A couple of years ago, edtech superstar Marco Torres, asked a large room of social studies teachers:

If your kids can Google the answers to the questions on your homework and tests, what do they need you for?

Replace “Google” with “ChatGPT” and the question still works. Our kids need us to help them develop the skills needed to make the world a better place. That means we need to go beyond traditional sit and get social studies instruction.

If our classrooms are still centered on rote memorization and low-level thinking skills, software like ChatGPT is exactly the response many students will take. While very few of our students will graduate and later become historians, our task is to train them to read, think, and create like historians. We should be asking our kids to dig into historical resources and evidence to create new products and connect past with present.  Using strategies, activities, and assessments focused more on inquiry-based learning can help discourage plagiarism of all kinds while helping our students become engaged and knowledgeable citizens.

So what are a few ways we can start using the software in our instructional designs?

  • One of the quickest ways for using CHatGPT is to encourage students to spend their time finding basic, textbook-style information online instead of getting lost in the research process. This also provides a great opportunity to teach media literacy and corroboration questioning skills.
  • Ask ChatGPT to create a list of inaccuracies or myths around a topic and have students use primary sources to prove the myths incorrect.
  • Robert W. Maloy and Torrey Trust created a student choice board focused on Black History Month that is a great example of asking students to think critically around prompts and products created by ChatGPT.
  • Use ChatGPT to create writing and discussion prompts:

Ask ChatGPT to rewrite primary and secondary sources to specific lexile levels to make them more accessible to your students:

  • You and students can also ask ChatGPT to summarize the content of textual articles and video clips, giving them the opportunity to spend more time thinking critically about the content rather than simply curating and organizing it.
  • Your use could be as simple as asking the software to craft rough drafts of student recommendation letters:

Ultimately all tech tools, ChatGPT included, are just tools. We can use them as hammers to break out a bunch of windows or to build beautiful cathedrals. ChatGPT is a tool. It collects and organizes information. It’s not going to replace us but we can use it to help us rethink our jobs as social studies teachers. Do we see teaching as simply presenting information that students will memorize, summarize, and forget? Or is it our job to find ways of empowering our kids to think critically and creatively?

Your students have already started using ChatGPT. How we choose to use it is up to us.

Looking for some more resources and tools?

Other AI Tools

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