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Kindred: ChatGPT not likely to fool or replace teachers just yet

Michael Burton-Straub, Declan Lewis
Timothy D. Easley/AP
FR43398 AP
Michael Burton-Straub, left, and Declan Lewis attempt to "Find the Bot" in Donnie Piercey's class at Stonewall Elementary in Lexington, Ky., Monday, Feb. 6, 2023.  Students in the class each summarized a text about boxing champion and Kentucky icon Muhammad Ali then tried to figure out which summaries were penned by classmates and which was written by the chatbot. The chatbot was the new artificial intelligence tool, ChatGPT, which can generate everything from essays and haikus to term papers in a matter of seconds. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Way back in November a friend of mine who works in public relations told me about a newly released computer application.

“You won't believe what this thing can do.. it's amazing,” she told me.

You may have already guessed she was talking about ChatGPT. People familiar with this new technology know that ChatGPT is a text-based artificial intelligence program, but there are many other types.

Some will create art, write computer code, design social media campaigns and more. These are all widely available now, and we are told by the experts they will only become more sophisticated.

Courtesy of Keith Kindred

As an educator, I can't help but wonder how all of this will transform teaching and learning. To that end, I’ve been doing some preliminary experimentation.

To start, I fed ChatGPT one of the essay prompts I use in teaching world history about the relationship between the Ottoman Empire and Europe during the early modern period.

If I had been grading it for real, I would have given it a B- according to the rubric we use for such essays. While well written, it was general, superficial, and lacked specific evidence.

On the other hand, The New York Times published an article this past December where they compared real student responses to ones generated by artificial intelligence. While some of the educators they interviewed couldn't always tell, I thought the difference was pretty obvious.

The AI generated essays didn’t seem like what real 8th graders would write.

I’m quite certain I've already had a few students turn in work that was written by one of these AI applications. As a veteran teacher, I've developed a sixth sense for plagiarism or work turned in that doesn't match what I've seen the student produce in class.

Detection software is already available, but I may have to return to the days of having students write essays in class with pen and paper instead of turning them in digitally.

I also asked ChatGPT to generate a 40 question multiple choice test pertaining to European imperialism of the 19th and 20th centuries. Given what I’d seen with the writing, I wasn’t totally shocked at the results.

The questions it produced were what teachers call lower order thinking, that is to say lacking depth of understanding of concepts or events. I might have been able to use half of the questions, but even those would have required some serious reworking.

The last example I'll give you is that I asked ChatGPT to write two different lesson plans. I also asked it to make these lesson plans based on the Michigan state social studies standards.

What they produced was boilerplate stuff, like you might see in a teacher's edition of the textbook. Some of that take is the snobbery of a veteran educator. If I was a novice teacher, it might have provided me with a decent starting point.

As it exists now, I think that's the early takeaway about how artificial intelligence will affect education - as well as other fields.

ChatGPT and other AI applications can clearly do some pretty amazing things and definitely save time, but what it produces - for students and teachers - is not “off the shelf” ready. It lacks, not only the human touch, but the depth of understanding and nuance that only human brains can generate.

It’s a tool. Some day that tool might even be able to help students learn by acting as virtual tutors, or help teachers analyze data and create rich learning experiments and assessments.

But that day is not here …yet.

Moreover, like other technologically oriented tools we already use - the internet, social media, broadcast television, etc. - questions about ethics and equity abound.

As the old saying goes, you can use a hammer to break a window or pound in a nail. For me, I'll be paying as close attention to how we use these new AI tools as what they can actually do.

By the way, I asked chat GPT to write this radio commentary before I wrote it myself. If you would like to compare what it produced with what I did, point your browser to Michigan Radio’s website.


Write an essay about how artificial intelligence applications like ChatGPT will transform teaching and learning at the K - 12 level; make it approximately 600 words long and write in a style that is appropriate for radio. Use a tone that is serious but not alarmist. 

Good morning, listeners. Today we're going to talk about how artificial intelligence applications like ChatGPT will transform teaching and learning at the K-12 level. With advancements in AI technology, we're seeing new opportunities for education that can improve the learning experience for both teachers and students.

One of the main ways that AI will transform education is by providing personalized learning experiences. With ChatGPT, for example, students can have access to a virtual tutor who can help them with their homework or provide additional explanations for difficult concepts. Unlike human tutors who may not be available at all times, AI-based tutors are always available and can offer customized lessons tailored to each student's learning style and pace.

In addition, AI-based applications can help teachers to analyze and understand student data more efficiently. By collecting and analyzing data on student performance, teachers can identify areas where students are struggling and adjust their teaching strategies accordingly. This can lead to more effective instruction and better outcomes for students.

Moreover, AI-based tools can also facilitate remote learning. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools have had to rely on online learning to ensure students can continue to learn despite social distancing measures. With AI-based applications like ChatGPT, teachers can create interactive virtual classrooms that can simulate real classroom environments, providing an engaging learning experience for students.

However, there are also concerns about how AI will impact education. One concern is that AI-based systems may replace human teachers. While AI can provide valuable support and improve the efficiency of teaching, there's no substitute for human interaction and the nuanced feedback that only human teachers can provide.

Another concern is that AI may perpetuate biases or stereotypes. AI systems are only as good as the data they are trained on, and if that data is biased, the system can perpetuate those biases. To mitigate this risk, it's important to ensure that AI applications are developed with a diverse team that can bring different perspectives to the table.

Despite these concerns, I believe that AI-based applications like ChatGPT have the potential to revolutionize education, making it more personalized and effective for students. However, it's important to use AI as a tool to enhance rather than replace human teachers, and to ensure that AI is developed with an eye toward fairness and equality.

In conclusion, the future of education is bright with the rise of AI technology. With personalized learning, improved data analysis, and virtual classrooms, AI has the potential to revolutionize education at the K-12 level. But it's also important to use AI responsibly and ensure that it's developed with a focus on equity and inclusivity. Let's embrace the possibilities that AI offers, while also remaining vigilant about the potential risks. Thank you for listening.

Keith Kindred is a social studies teacher at South Lyon East High School.
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