ChatGPT and other AI in the Classroom

ChatGPT and other Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the Classroom

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ChatGPT is a language-based artificial intelligence technology with a conversational interface that generates text responses to prompts (for example, in the form of questions or directives). It was developed by OpenAI, the technology start up that also created Dall-E, the AI image generator that was released a few months prior to ChatGPT. DFI compiled responses from affiliated researchers and staff about educational possibilities with this technology. Below are highlights from that exchange and we encourage you to engage with these ideas and explore ways that AI might inform your teaching.

Lesson Ideas

In groups, ask students to pose the same disciplinary or topical question in several different ways and use ChatGPT to generate at least two replies per question. Then, swap computers with another group and: a) observe how different groups formulated questions about the same topic or issue; b) identify gaps in the ai-generated responses (ask: “What’s missing? Which perspectives are not included?”); c) refine the prompt and ask ChatGPT again and see if the responses improve.

- Lalitha Vasudevan


Human AI Emulator: Create an “AI” Image Generator using people instead of computers. The goal is to create a new thing,let’s call it a “shorp.” Divide into two groups. One group draws as many random interpretations of a shorp as they can, as quickly as they can, in the time provided. These are given to the second group, who sort the drawings into two piles (“shorp” and “not-shorp”). Give the “shorp” pile back to the first group, who will create as many new drawings as they can based on the feedback. These are passed on to the second group for another round of decisions. Keep going until something interesting emerges. (A consensus on what a shorp is, a breakdown of the process, something unexpected, or…) Stop and discuss. 

(Expected duration: 1 hour - 1 year)

Alternative: try the same thing, but provide the second group with image(s) of what a “shorp” is ahead of time, to use as a reference. Play with how this reference is determined. How does this version change the game and outcome?

- Chris Moffett


Help students learn how to ask different kinds of questions. ChatGPT is pretty good at making inferences based on its existing knowledge and new knowledge introduced by the prompts. You can ask ChatGPT to make analogies, find patterns, make arguments, make counterarguments, to annotate things with reasonings, to create multiple different representations of the same thing. It's really an interesting way to not only ask for ChatGPT's reasonings, but to test one's own. You can ask ChatGPT to assess one's own reasonings based on parameters you set. You can challenge ChatGPT to test other argumentations etc. ChatGPT is great at organizing and reorganizing one's own thinking into multiple structures and forms. But all this - the kinds of cognitive activities we engage in that ChatGPT can support - really depends on the domain and how it/they value certain thinkings and understandings. Thus, play with it to see what kinds of questions you think are important - and teach students how to ask. Reference to LMV's response. But also - good to socially model questioning. (You can even ask ChatGPT to compare questioning: e.g. between my question and teacher question… ChatGPT, what does the teacher see that they would ask something like this? etc.)

- Jin Kuwata(- Non-Coding example chat with a variety of examples).



What is ChatGPT good for, and what is it not-so-good for? When we see it “in action”, it’s most often for tasks like summarizing, explaining, or coding. An interesting exercise would be to brainstorm other use scenarios and figure out where it excels and where it falls short. For instance, here are a few examples (from this Twitter thread): 

    • Planning -- Think of a task you have and a reasonable timeline. Ask, “create a schedule for me to launch my new startup by May 1, 2023? Include deliverables, timelines, contingency planning, team bonding, breaks, brainstorming, and user testing.” 
    • Brainstorming -- Think of something you want to shake up and ask, “I’m turning 40yo soon and want to celebrate my birthday in a way that incorporates my passions. I love BBQ and axe throwing. What are 3 ideas for a party that costs under $2k?”
  • Writer’s Block -- Do you have an email or blog post you’ve been meaning to write? Ask, “write a nice email to Tom - ask him if he enjoyed the offsite, then ask him to update his monthly report.” Use that as a foundation, then edit or tweak as needed.
  • Motivation -- AI is not a replacement for trained medical professionals, but if you’re feeling a little low you can ask, “can you give me three motivational phrases to help me get through a hard day when I’m low on sleep?"
  • Creative production -- coming up with poetry, fiction, ideas for art projects, etc  

Then, based on these experiments, we could engage in a kind of SWOT analysis: a deeper reflection on the strengths and limitations of AI, as well as areas for future development. 

Ioana Literat


This is a somewhat obvious use…but I think ChatGPT can be useful for educators to think about how useful an assignment might be. I was helping my son with homework last night and was thinking about how the assignment he was working on would be super easy to complete using ChatGPT. For his social studies class he was filling out a worksheet about beliefs, practices, leaders, etc of the five major world religions. His method of work was to google “Jewish practices” and then try to figure out, mostly from the google page itself and occasionally from clicking on linked articles, 2-3 practices, etc. It was taking him a SUPER long time to do this, and he even complained at one point, “I’m bad at doing research on the internet.” I thought about how, 30 years ago, the idea of using the internet to do research was itself a bit taboo–teachers were not happy about using the internet, rather than books, for research. How would we know if the information was correct? How would students learn to search and read reference books, periodicals, etc.? You’re going to get the occasional junk and surface level thinking, but ChatGPT is pretty good at answering fact-based questions. It’s not too shabby at comparing and contrasting, generating ideas, etc. As educators, rather than see this as undermining our work, we should see it as an opportunity to reevaluate what’s useful to know and do. Pass an assignment over to ChatGPT and see how it responds. Does it “get it”? If so, how can you invite your students to go further or deeper than the AI? 

Related to the above, one thing ChatGPT can’t do is value things. What do our students value? How is that part of the work we ask them to engage in? Decontextualized knowledge is inert. 

- Nathan Holbert



If you are ready to fully embrace your students’ use of ChatGPT, be aware that it’s not always available and it is unlikely to always be free. OpenAI CEO, Sam Altman, tweeted on Dec. 5, 2022 that the cost of running ChatGPT is "eye-watering.” Since it is so costly to run, it is not always available to anyone who wants to use it and it’s very unlikely to stay free for all users.

- Debbie Beaudry


Time is in short supply these days, and though we all technically have 24 hours in a day, those hours can be spent/felt very differently. As Ioana mentioned above, ChatGPT may help with minimizing the time (and mental energy) that it takes many of us to do everyday things, like writing emails, brainstorming ideas, and planning the everyday. For some folks, these tasks can be challenging due to social anxieties, trouble with organizing and planning, and other kinds/degrees of disability. Using ChatGPT may help someone, for example, more easily figure out their rental legal rights and then generate an informed correspondence to their landlord to ask for some support with fixing the elevator for better access due to a disability. With so much bureaucracy around activities such as figuring out how to access social services, ChatGPT may be able to support with summarizing and laying out the steps one needs to take to interface with governmental institutions. It can help a working parent studying in graduate school with planning everyday meals that require attention to severe allergies and dietary restrictions. It may assist people with communication challenges. A few caveats: 1) the results of these kinds of functions may still be imperfect, 2) of course there are lots of other potential issues of inequity, 3) the quality of the results of these requests would depend on quality of the ask. That is, I imagine that one still needs to know what specifically to ask and how, in order to get better results. 

- Tran Templeton 


ChatGPT can support our students’ writing, particularly those who may be working on the practice of standard academic English. Students could input their own writing into ChatGPT and ask for a more polished version. If students can note that they used ChatGPT as a resource (as one would use a tutor, editor, or Grammarly), as well as include their original version, why wouldn’t that “count”? Of course if the submission were for a writing course, that would complicate matters, but if the assessment is centered on how students synthesize, analyze, generate, etc. ideas from the course, then why not allow students use of this technology? Further, the student still should have to read the ChatGPT generated work to determine how the results might need to be edited/tweaked. 

- Lara Mullarkey


I’m really interested in how we balance our ethical reflection about ChatGPT as a kind of shared human endeavor. We’re rightly thinking a lot about plagiarism and the diffuse, ambiguous semi-theft of individual and collective labor. But I think it’s worth asking whether it’s faithful in some way to consider ChatGPT a massively co-creative endeavor. Practically anyone who puts creative work online is, like it or not, probably helping ChatGPT get better. Maybe we can find ways for it to follow that we all have some small voice in how it continues to develop—and a larger voice when we band together. We know thinking just about individual choice is always a reductive trap (to use or not to use, enthusiastically or sheepishly). How can we work together to claim agency and practice transparency in our entanglements with ChatGPT and the technology and media it will help create? 

- Kyle Oliver



Might be good for users to learn Markdown. I believe ChatGPT uses a variant of the Markdown language for its response outputs. Markdown is a relatively low hurdle markup language for plain text that can turn small simple syntax into formatted text. For example hyphen space words will turn into a bulleted list automatically. If you are working with ChatGPT to visualize things, organize things, sometimes you might see strange artifacts and understanding how markdown works can sometimes help you and ChatGPT produce better outputs. For example, I was working with ChatGPT to change the rules of Tic Tac Toe and play a game with me but it kept printing weird artifacts. Once I helped ChatGPT avoid such special characters, it was able to produce better visualizations of our game state.



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