With how quickly AI technology popped up last school year we as teachers need to be prepared to adapt to the new tool. ChatGPT and other generative AI tools can be valuable tools in our classrooms. As my school’s technology learning ambassador, I attended a session last spring discussing the role of ChatGPT and how it can be used in our schools as the new technology was emerging. Our group shared concerns around plagiarism and how it would affect students view of doing their work and we also shared some successes from those of us that had already been playing with it. At that point I had been playing with ChatGPT for a couple of months on my own time but definitely applying it to my classroom and one of the things that I found with it right away was that I could generate lists of age-appropriate topics for my students to write about or discuss in a matter of seconds when doing it a traditional way would have taken me hours. This is not to say all of the topics were perfect many of them needed editing adapting and sometimes to be completely omitted because ChatGPT does not always have the best grasp of what a nine-year-old is capable of, but it gave me a start.
When working with ChatGPT to create topics to generate research questions or to create math practice problems regularly word problems that get progressively more difficult I notice that the skill came in how the prompt was phrased. As we move forward with generative AI being readily available for our students we are going to have to teach the skills of creating a good prompt and also knowing when two an when not to use AI tools. One of my current favorite uses for ChatGPT is simplifying a text, I can ask ChatGPT to rewrite a text I have pasted for a grade one student or for a 7 year old and it simplifies the text to a student’s reading level or fairly close to it while maintaining the meaning of the text. This alone was a game changer for me last spring, I had a student who joined my grade for class who was reading CVC words and beginning to use some consonant blends, I was able to adapt are science and social studies content reading to a beginning grade one level for this student using generative AI. Previously I had been scanning the texts into my computer and creating audio files for each text this was vastly time consuming and definitely not a good use of my time but it was the only way I had to give a student access to the text. I got this idea from another tech learning ambassador who shared that she was using ChatGPT to create decodable texts for her grade one and two students on specific phonics skills.
In terms of assessment, we as teachers are going to have to adapt how we assess as generative AI becomes more common as well as more accurate. Currently many generative AI programs are not reliable fact checkers however overtime as they read more of the information that is available on the Internet this will decrease. This leads us to the conundrum of teaching students when to use generative AI to create prompts to narrow down research questions and when they need to do their own work. For some students having these tools could help create the skeleton or the outline for a written piece and help students to organize their thoughts prior to writing. It also means as teachers we need to change our assessments moving perhaps towards more in class assessments and fewer take home written assignments or creating prompts that require a great deal of personal input and reflection from our students.