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ChatGPT: Risks, Challenges, and the Future

by Susan Gaer

Many people think that AI (Artificial Intelligence) is new, but translation services, speech recognition, personalized learning with language learning apps, and grammar/spelling checkers are all forms of AI that we have become accustomed to. AI is already around us. What is new is the plethora of tools that have been bombarding us since November 2022 when ChatGPT-3 was created by OpenAI. This article will focus on the educational uses of ChatGPT.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is a natural language processing tool written by OpenAI. The key characteristic of ChatGPT is that it uses natural language that allows you to have a more human-like conversation. This language model can help you answer questions and write almost anything. In February of 2023, ChatGPT-4 was developed, and it is more powerful than version 3. This version is not free and currently costs $20/month.

How Can Educators Use It?

There are many ways that educators can use ChatGPT. Insert a text you want students to read and ask ChatGPT to simplify it. As an example, here is an article I got from the news: CNN - Everything You Need To Know About King Charles III's Coronation. I asked ChatGPT to lower the reading level to beginning reading. Here is the article simplified:

On May 6, 2023, the United Kingdom will have a new king named King Charles III. He became king when his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, passed away in 2022. The coronation is a special ceremony where Charles will be crowned king of the United Kingdom, which includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It will take place at Westminster Abbey, a church in London where British kings and queens have been crowned for almost 1,000 years. The ceremony will have costumes, music, and parties. It will start at 11 a.m. in London and 6 a.m. Eastern Time in the United States. More than 2,000 people have been invited, including famous people and leaders of other nations. Prince Harry will attend, but his wife Meghan will stay home. Camilla, the wife of King Charles III, will be crowned queen alongside him. The coronation regalia includes crowns, a golden ball with a cross, and St. Edward's Crown, which is made of solid gold and covered in 444 jewels.

I made new words bold, then cut and pasted them into ChatGPT and asked for a definition and example sentence for elementary readers. I got this:

  1. Passed away - When someone dies, we can say they have "passed away".
    Example: My grandmother passed away last year, but we still remember her fondly.
  2. Coronation - A coronation is a ceremony where someone becomes a king or queen.
    Example: We learned about the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in our history class.
  3. Crowned - When a king or queen is officially given their crown, we say they have been "crowned".
    Example: The new king was crowned in a beautiful ceremony at the palace.
  4. Costumes - Costumes are special clothes that people wear for a specific purpose or event.
    Example: I love wearing costumes on Halloween. Last year, I dressed up as a witch.
  5. Alongside - When two things are together, we can say they are "alongside" each other.
    Example: The mother and baby bird were sitting alongside each other in the nest.
  6. Regalia - Regalia is a collection of special items, like jewelry and clothing, that are worn by someone important, like a king or queen.
    Example: The queen wore her regalia to the coronation ceremony.
  7. Crowns - A crown is a special headpiece that is worn by a king or queen.
    Example: The king's crown was made of gold and had many sparkly jewels on it.
  8. A golden ball with a cross - This is a special ball made of gold that has a cross on top. It is often used in royal ceremonies.
    Example: During the coronation, the king held the golden ball with a cross in one hand.
  9. Solid gold - When something is made of solid gold, it means that it is made entirely of gold, without any other metals mixed in.
    Example: The ring was very expensive because it was made of solid gold.
  10. Jewels - Jewels are beautiful stones that are often used to decorate jewelry and other items.
    Example: The queen's crown was covered in many different jewels, like diamonds and rubies.

Third, I asked ChatGPT to create 5 multiple choice comprehension questions for elementary readers and here is what I got.

  1. Who will become the new king of the United Kingdom?
    1. Queen Elizabeth II
    2. King Charles III
    3. Prince Harry
    4. Meghan Markle
  2. Where will the coronation take place?
    1. Buckingham Palace
    2. Windsor Castle
    3. Westminster Abbey
    4. St. Paul's Cathedral
  3. What is a coronation?
    1. A special ceremony where a new king or queen is crowned.
    2. A dance party with costumes and music.
    3. A parade through the streets of London.
    4. A cooking competition among famous chefs.
  4. Who will be crowned queen alongside King Charles III?
    1. Queen Elizabeth II
    2. Prince Harry
    3. Meghan Markle
    4. Camilla
  5. What is included in the coronation regalia?
    1. Crowns, a golden ball with a cross, and St. Edward's Crown
    2. Costumes, music, and parties
    3. Food and drinks for the guests
    4. A special throne for the new king and queen

Finally, I asked ChatGPT to create 2 discussion questions for elementary readers from the text and here is my result.

  1. Why is the coronation ceremony special in the United Kingdom?
  2. Can you name some of the items that will be part of the coronation regalia?

This took me 5 minutes to do and now I can add a few pictures and I have a ready-made lesson on a current event ready to go.

Besides writing materials, you can get prompts at any level, create dialogues with any parameters you want, and create stories at any level for listening. I asked ChatGPT to generate a story about an immigrant who plants a tree in her backyard and watches it grow. I asked for the tone to be emotional. I asked for the level to be elementary. Here is what I got.

Maria had left her home country for a new life in America. She had come to the United States with her husband and two children, hoping to find better opportunities and a brighter future. But the journey had been long and hard, and Maria missed her family and friends back home.

One day, while sitting in her backyard, Maria noticed a small sapling growing in the corner. She decided to nurture it, watering it every day, and watching it grow. As the tree grew taller and stronger, Maria felt a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Watching the tree grow reminded Maria of her own journey, and the challenges she had overcome to start a new life in America. She thought of the loved ones she had left behind, and how much she missed them. But she also realized that, just like the tree, she too was growing and thriving in her new home.

Years went by, and the tree grew into a towering oak, providing shade and shelter to Maria's family and friends. Whenever she looked at the tree, Maria was reminded of the struggles she had faced, but also of the strength and resilience that had brought her through them.

One day, Maria's grown-up daughter came to visit and saw the tree for the first time. "Wow, Mom," she said, "this tree is amazing! How did you grow it so big and strong?"

Maria smiled and took her daughter's hand. "It was a lot of hard work," she said, "but it was worth it. This tree is a symbol of our journey, and all that we have overcome. It reminds me that no matter how hard things get, we can always grow and thrive, just like this tree."

My idea for this is to use a technique called Dictogldoss which is a type of supported dictation. For this activity,

  • I will set the scene and pre-teach a few of the words that I know my students would not know.
  • I will read the story aloud to the students once.
  • Students will then work in teams to write down as much of the story as they can remember.
  • I will read the story aloud again, and students will have a chance to add any details they missed the first time.
  • Once the students have finished listening to the story twice, they will work together to put the story back together in chronological order.
  • The team that has the closest resemblance to the original story wins.

How To Write Good Prompts

  1. Be clear and specific: Make sure your prompt is clear and specific enough to give a clear idea of what you are looking for. Vague or overly broad prompts can be difficult to respond to and may result in a less helpful answer.
  2. Keep it concise: Try to keep your prompt concise and to the point. Long-winded prompts can be overwhelming and difficult to understand.
  3. Provide context: Provide enough context so that ChatGPT understands the situation or problem you are facing.

Tip Be sure to write follow-up comments and make sure you are receiving what you ask for. ChatGpt is sometimes dumb, so think and ask questions that will make ChatGPT go back and think, too. In the same way we teachers help our students get to the place they need to. Always tell ChatGPT to ask you another question.

For many more ideas on how to use ChatGPT with your students, please make a copy of this excellent slide deck authored by Kristi Reyes and Ryan Detwiler:
Google Slides Copy - ESL Meets AI: How We Can Make Our Lives Easier with ChatGPT

How Can Students Use ChatGPT?

I know what you are thinking. Why would I want my students to use this - they will cheat! Well, it is the writer's opinion that they are already using it. By encouraging the effective use of the tool, you are teaching them how to use it to augment their learning instead of replacing it. So, what kinds of things can you do?

For higher level students you can ask them to input their writing into ChatGPT and ask it to evaluate it. Here is an example from a writing class I am teaching for the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF). The prompt is what are some of the challenges that AUAF students face in my writing classes. I had my student input it to ChatGPT and here is how ChatGPT evaluated it:

Overall, the essay provides a thoughtful and well-written analysis of some of the challenges that AUAF students may face in meeting the standards of the writing course. The author effectively identifies several key factors that may contribute to these challenges, including poor preparation for college-level work, language barriers, and a lack of effective study techniques. Moreover, the author offers practical suggestions for addressing these challenges, such as academic preparation programs, language support services, and study skills workshops.

The essay also includes a personal anecdote that effectively illustrates the author's point about the importance of effective study methods. The author's personal experience adds depth and credibility to the essay's argument, while also helping to engage the reader.

One potential area for improvement in the essay is the organization. The author could consider grouping the various factors that contribute to student challenges (e.g., poor preparation, language barriers, and study techniques) together in a more structured way. Additionally, the essay might benefit from a stronger thesis statement that explicitly states the author's main argument.

Overall, however, the essay effectively identifies and analyzes some of the challenges that AUAF students may face in meeting the standards of the writing course and provides useful suggestions for addressing these challenges.

Now I can have my students tell me how to fix their essay after running it through ChatGPT. This makes reading their essays much easier.

Another way ChatGPT can be used for students is to create word dictionaries for new words with sample sentences. Student can even add a list of the new words and ask for those words to be put into a story to have a sample of how you can use those words in a text format.

Khan Academy is developing a new product called Khanmigo. You can watch the video about this here: Khan Academy Announces GPT-4 Powered Learning Guide. Students who are over 18 can sign up to be on the wait list to use this product free. Once in the pilot study, Khanmigo will be integrated into all of Khan Academy lessons which will allow students to receive tutoring on any topic.

Another idea is to have ChatGPT be a conversation partner.

Ask ChatGPT to generate conversations for practice. Type a prompt.

Screenshot of ChapGPT thread

Students can ask ChatGPT to customize with different vegetables and different problems. They could have conversations about almost any situation they come across.

ChatGPT can also be a conversation partner. You can talk about anything and ask ChatGPT to correct.

Screenshot of ChapGPT thread

Of course, I asked ChatGPT what students can use it for and here is its response:

  1. Writing assistance: Students can use me to generate ideas for essays, research papers, and other writing assignments. I can also help with grammar, syntax, and vocabulary to make their writing more polished and effective.
  2. Research assistance: I can assist students in finding relevant information for their research projects by providing summaries of articles, suggesting keywords, and identifying credible sources.
  3. Homework help: Students can use me to help them solve problems in math, science, and other subjects. I can also provide explanations of difficult concepts and guide them through step-by-step solutions.
  4. Language learning: I can help students practice their language skills by suggesting vocabulary words, grammar rules, and phrases to use in context.
  5. Exam preparation: Students can use me to study for exams by generating practice questions, providing study tips, and reviewing key concepts.
  6. Career guidance: I can assist students with career planning and offer insights into potential job opportunities based on their interests and qualifications.

Ethical Uses by students

Once students understand the concept of AI and how it is useful, hopefully you will have conversations such as this:

Screenshot of a chat conversation

In this conversation, the student received a peer review from another student. Before accepting it, she ran it through a few AI checkers and found that the peer had used AI. So, she asked me what to do. These are the types of questions that we want students to ask. Had I not introduced activities using AI to the class, she would not have even thought to check it. But because I had used AI activities with the class, she knew the teacher would be the one to ask about how to handle it. Of course, the teacher told her to rewrite it in her own words.

Risks, Challenges, and the Future

Sometimes AI can be scary. However, AI is not meant to take over what humans do, but to augment what humans do. There are a lot of issues with AI, and it cannot be used verbatim. It sometimes makes up facts, gets the math wrong, has bias, and can give out misinformation. As AI progresses, it will improve. Our future will most certainly involve AI. We must learn how to incorporate into our lessons and teach our students ethical uses for AI. One day, it will be like our phones and calculators - we will wonder how we ever lived without it.

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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN220124 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.