Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is certainly causing quite the buzz in educational systems all over the world. It’s hard to go a day without hearing about another teacher using A.I. to create lessons or give feedback or students using it to write papers or create presentations. And yet, there is still a lot to learn when it comes to incorporating A.I. into secondary education, especially in a coordinated and thoughtful manner.
I began my journey to investigate ways to use A.I. in my middle and high school classes by reviewing the tools I was familiar with that already discussed A.I. with this age group. All the tools I know about are designed to teach students how A.I. works, not why to use it. These are an important part of the process of beginning to incorporate A.I. into a classroom though, as Dr.Paulus helped me to understand. If someone wants to us A.I. to better understand a topic in a biology class for example, then a tool like ChatGPT might be a reasonable tool to use as it has been trained on large swaths of the internet, but if they want to create a paper which cites passages from a specific book it may not be the right tool if that book is not available online (and sometimes even if it is!) because it simply doesn’t know what’s in the book. It would be similar to asking the biology teacher to give a summary of the Iliad: it’s not that they can’t know that information, it’s that they are not necessarily an expert and thus would not be the logical choice to ask. So, when I go to work with my students I will be sure they have a clear understanding of how A.I. is created so that they can decide if it’s the right tool for the job.
Next I started looking at popular cases of A.I. use in education. Most of the headlines were about when NOT to use A.I. There was an article in National Review after a school official used ChatGPT to write a condolence letter after a shooting in their school, “there is a[n] … irony to making a computer write your message about community and togetherness because you can’t be bothered to reflect on it yourself.” (Downey, 2023) This prompted me to ensure my students knew that just because it’s not for a school assignment does not mean they can use AI to do all their personal communication.
There were also dozens of articles describing examples students using tools like GPT to help them with writing assignments. An article in NPR describes an experience in Wharton college where students are encouraged to use ChatGPT to generate ideas, “‘the ideas so far are great, partially as a result of that set of interactions'” (Mollick in Wood & Kelly, 2023). This will be a way that I will certainly incorporate AI into my classroom. I also found some gems for ways to use AI with students even in the pieces that seemed negative. In an article inflammatorily titled The End of High-School English, the professor describes a scenario that he feels is terrifying and I find intriguing: “Last night, I received an essay draft from a student. I passed it along to OpenAI’s bots. ‘Can you fix this essay up and make it better?’ Turns out, it could. It kept the student’s words intact but employed them more gracefully; it removed the clutter so the ideas were able to shine through. It was like magic.”(Herman, 2022) What a wonder to be able to get fast, direct, and specific feedback on your writing where ever you are! Sure, you need to ask the questions the right way, and you need to make sure you aren’t leaning too heavily on the tool, but still, the writers workshop is a common tool all over schools so why not a digital one?
Finally, I considered other digital literacy skills and how I can be sure to incorporate them. I thought about privacy concerns. Here is a transcript from my conversation on this subject with ChatGPT:
What do the terms of service, privacy policies, and data protections say with regards to ChatGPT and children?
The terms of service, privacy policies, and data protection regulations regarding ChatGPT and children may vary depending on the platform or application through which you access ChatGPT. However, in general, these policies may include the following:
- Age restriction: Some platforms may require users to be a certain age, typically 13 or 18 years old, to use ChatGPT.
- Parental consent: In some cases, the platform or application may require parental consent before allowing minors to use ChatGPT.
- Data protection: ChatGPT may collect data from users, such as conversations and user information. Data protection policies may specify how this data is collected, used, and stored, as well as who has access to it. In the case of minors, these policies may provide additional protections, such as limiting the type of data that can be collected from minors and requiring parental consent.
- Safety measures: To protect minors from inappropriate content and interactions, some platforms may implement safety measures, such as filtering out inappropriate language or blocking certain types of content.
- Education and guidance: Some platforms may provide educational resources or guidance for parents and minors on how to use ChatGPT safely and responsibly.
It is important to carefully review the terms of service, privacy policies, and data protection regulations of the platform or application through which you access ChatGPT, especially if you are a minor.
Finally, Dr.Paulus recommended considering how students might document their use of A.I. Currently many professors have classroom level expectations for using A.I. which can vary widely from teacher to teacher, so creating a guiding document which includes examples of what assignments it can be used on and how to cite it could be very helpful. He recommended treating the conversation as a form of writers workshop, much like in the NPR article, where the process of asking questions, making suggestions, and reviewing the results would be viewed the same as writing drafts and receiving feedback from a peer. In that same vein, presenting only the final draft of a paper would be unacceptable, so the requirement to submit the transcript where you did your workshopping should be required.
I took all of this information and decided that when I do decide to create a flow chart to help me and my students decide whether A.I. is an appropriate resource for an assignment and how to note its use.
If you find this helpful or if you have any suggestions for modifications please let me know. This is merely my personal guidance for my students in my classroom right now, and should not be considered as blanket advice, however I hope that it helps to spark conversations and thinking around the safe, legal, and ethical use of A.I. in secondary classrooms.
ChatGPT. Personal Communication. May 2, 2023.
Downey, C. (2023, February 21). Vanderbilt College dei office sends Michigan shooting condolence message drafted by Ai Bot. National Review. Retrieved May 2, 2023, from https://www.nationalreview.com/news/vanderbilt-college-dei-office-sends-michigan-shooting-condolence-message-drafted-by-ai-bot/
Herman, D. (2022, December 16). The end of high-school English. The Atlantic. Retrieved May 2, 2023, from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2022/12/openai-chatgpt-writing-high-school-english-essay/672412/
Paulus, Michael. Personal Communication. May 1, 2023.
Wood, P., & Kelly, M. L. (2023, January 26). ‘everybody is cheating’: Why this teacher has adopted an open chatgpt policy. NPR. Retrieved May 2, 2023, from https://www.npr.org/2023/01/26/1151499213/chatgpt-ai-education-cheating-classroom-wharton-school