Under the fluorescent lights of a fifth-grade school in Lexington, Ky., Donnie Piercey told his 23 students to fool a “robot” who was trying to complete writing assignments.
That robot was referring to the new ChatGPT Artificial Intelligence tool, which can generate everything from drafts and haikus to final drafts in seconds. Teachers are intimidated by technology and school districts have narrowed access to the site. However, Piercey, who takes a different approach, has embraced it as a teaching tool, saying it is his job to prepare students for a world where knowledge of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be in demand.
“This is going to happen,” says Piercey, who describes ChatGPT as the latest technology in his 17 years of teaching, which raises concerns about the potential for cheating. Calculator, spelling, Google, Wikipedia, YouTube. All of her students now have Chromebooks on their desks. “Like teachers, they are still not well-equipped to use artificial intelligence. But here it comes, whether we like it or not.
An exercise in their class pits students against the machine in an interactive, scripted, animated game. Piercey asked the students to “Find the bot.” Each student scanned a text about Muhammad Ali, the beating heart of Kentucky’s boxing champion, and then tried to figure out who the chatbot wrote.
At the elementary school level, Piercey is less concerned about cheating and plagiarism than high school teachers. Your district has blocked ChatGPT for students, but allows teachers access. Many educators across the nation say they need time to evaluate and crack down on chatbots, but they also recognize the futility of the ban that today’s tech-savvy students can circumvent.
“To be honest, do you want it to be ‘discovered’? But it’s done,” said Steve Darlow, a technology coach at Santa Rosa County, Florida, schools, which has blocked app devices and networks in schools.
He sees the advent of AI platforms as “a new and disruptive reality” for education. Imagine teachers asking ChatGPT to provide “wonderful lesson plans for a substitute (teacher)” or even to help grade papers. “I know I’m talking idealistic, but this is the truth of the waters. You will have an advantage in life, business and using education.
ChatGPT has quickly become a global phenomenon since its launch in November, with rival companies including Google racing to launch their own versions of AI-powered chatbots.
The topic of AI platforms and how schools should respond attracted hundreds of educators to the Future of Education Technology Conference in New Orleans last month, where Heather Brantley, a math teacher in Texas, gave a talk. Enthusiast about “AI Writing Magic For All Subjects”.
Brantley said he was amazed at ChatGPT’s ability to make sixth grade math more creative and applicable to everyday life.
“I use ChatGPT to edit all my lessons,” he said in an interview. The court was closed to students, but it was open to teachers at his school, White Oak Intermediate. “Whatever lesson you prepare and say, give me a real-world example, and you’ll have examples from today, not twenty years ago, when they were written to be delivered.”
For a lesson on an inclined plane, the chatbot prompted students to construct ramps out of cardboard and other items found in the classroom, and then measure the slope. To teach about the surface area, the chatbot allowed sixth graders to see how the concept applied to real life by wrapping gifts or building a cardboard box, Brantley said.
It encourages its countries to train staff in the use of AI platforms to stimulate student creativity and problem-solving skills. “We have the ability to lead our students in a great next event that will be a part of their entire lives. He doesn’t stop and shut down.”
Students in Piercey’s class said the novelty of working with a chatbot makes learning fun.
After a few rounds of “Finding Bot” Piercey asked his class for skills that helped him out. The hand was raised. “How to use abbreviations and capitalize words and commas correctly,” said one student. A lively discussion ensued about the importance of developing voice in writing and how some of the chatbot’s sentences lacked style or sounded forced.
Trevor James Medley, 11, felt that the sentences written by the students “have little meaning for them. More food. More flavor.”
Then the class turned to stories, or as Piercey’s workshop called it, “Writing Playwright-IA.” The students were divided into groups and described (with paper and pencil) the characters of a short story with three scenes that explain the plot of the problem to be solved.
Piercey entered details from the workshop on the ChatGPT site, along with instructions for placing the scenes inside the fifth grade school and adding a surprise at the end. He generated line-by-line fully formed scripts, which the students edited, briefly revised, and then completed.
There was one computer in the class that ran away and the students went on a hunt to find it. The authors of the story laughed at the plot of the machine, which was introduced to send the students into time travel.
“I was impressed at first,” said Olivia Laksi, 10, one of the stars. I liked how the chatbot came up with creative ideas. But they also liked how Piercey encouraged them not to change all the lines and directions of the stage. “It’s a good idea because it gives you a starting point. It’s a good generator of ideas.
She and her classmate Katherine McCormick, 10, said they see the pros and cons of working with chatbots. Students can get help from a writer and help those who are struggling to develop their thoughts on paper. But there is no method for creation that can be added to the work class.
Fifth graders don’t seem to understand the hyperbole or controversy surrounding ChatGPT. For these kids, who will grow up to be the world’s first native AI users, their approach is simple: use it instead, but do your work.
“Don’t use it,” McCormick said. “For you do not know anything, if you give him what you want, and he answers you.”
Associated Press writer Sharon Lurye in New Orleans contributed to this report.
The Associated Press team dedicated to education receives support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Associated Press is solely responsible for all content.