Teachers in the US are learning to use ChatGPT instead of banning it

For decades, the Walla Walla High School campus, located in Washington state’s largest wheat and other grain production center, has housed an old redwood barn where students have learned a time-honored farming skill: how to raise pigs and goats.

As the new school year begins, some school teachers are gearing up to help students learn the latest digital skills: how to operate artificial intelligence chatbots like ChatGPT.

This month, Walla Walla Public Schools, An organization attended by about 5,500 students conducted a one-day workshop on artificial intelligence chatbots that can generate essays, fictional stories and other texts. About 100 local educators came to the high school for the event.

It’s an unusual change for the district, which blocked students’ access to ChatGPT on school devices in February.

Yasmin Bahena, a social studies teacher at Bilingual High School, said, “I want students to learn how to use it. „They’re going to grow up in a world where they’re normal.”

Last winter the media frenzy about chat boxes dramatically disrupted school districts and universities across America. Trained on large databases of digital texts, these tools use artificial intelligence to generate written responses based on users’ instructions. Bots also find things without restrictions.

Tech giants and billionaires promised that artificial intelligence tools would revolutionize learning. Critics have warned that bots often undermine education by inundating students with misinformation and facilitating widespread cheating.

Amid predictions of impending doom and gloom, some public schools tried to hit the pause button to buy administrators time. In December, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest school system, blocked ChatGPT on school Wi-Fi and district-owned student devices. Other districts followed suit, such as New York City, America’s largest school system.

However, administrators soon realized that bot bans were ineffective. On the one hand, wealthy students with smartphones or laptops can access bots at home, such as ChatGPT or Google Bard, developed by San Francisco’s OpenAI.

„Kids who have devices and connections at home without filters or restrictions are already benefiting from having access to these tools,” Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, noted in an interview this week. „There are fewer students who rely on district devices and connectivity.”

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In May, New York schools released a Public mea culpa In it, they noted that the district would act with great urgency and ban ChatGPT. This week, Carvalho announced that Los Angeles schools are also operating on a more permissive policy.

As schools reopen in the fall, educators and district leaders grapple with complex questions raised by AI tools: What should writing assignments look like in an era when students use chatbots to write? How can schools, teachers and students use bots effectively and creatively? Is it cheating if a student asks a bot to draft a text he or she is rewriting?

Some large counties, including Milwaukee, still maintain a ChatGPT block. Some districts, such as Newark Public Schools in New Jersey, are testing specialized chatbots designed to educate students.

Other districts are following suit with tools like ChatGPT to help teachers plan lessons and opportunities for students to learn how bots can detect misinformation and reflect human biases. According to administrators, they’re taking a pragmatic view: Students should learn how to instruct chatbots to answer their questions, just as they learn how to query search engines like Google.

„The world our children will inherit will be full of artificial intelligence, and we need to make sure they are well-equipped for both the advantages and disadvantages,” Walla Walla Public Schools Superintendent Wade Smith said in a recent interview. . „Hiding behind a curtain or sticking our heads under the hood and waiting for it to go away is not realistic.”

This year, Walla Walla provides an example of an unusual district learning curve in the use of artificial intelligence. School administrators have sought to harness the potential benefits of chatbots while addressing thorny issues such as cheating, misinformation, and potential risks to student privacy.

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In January, Keith Rose, the school district’s director of technology and information services, started hearing about ChatGPT. Teachers in the district began noticing that some students were submitting assignments prepared by chatbots. One obvious clue: Chatbots generate quotes that don’t appear in the novels assigned in class.

The district is also concerned about student privacy. ChatGPT and Bard require new users to provide personal information such as their email address and cell phone number. However, administrators don’t know how AI companies can use data from students’ accounts or data from their text interactions with chatbots.

„We don’t know enough about the technology,” admitted Rose, who in February blocked students’ access to ChatGPT. „We blocked it because we wanted to buy time as a matter of urgency to figure out what it was and how we were going to help teachers and probably students use it.”

The district formed an Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee consisting of 15 administrators and teachers. AI plans to provide additional training to teachers on the tools and potential benefits and risks of allowing students to access chatbots.

„There are two main components: using it more efficiently and saving time as a teacher, but also teaching our students how to use it responsibly and authentically,” said Gary LaRoy, the district’s technology integration specialist who helps oversee the group. .

Around 8 a.m. on a recent Thursday, about a hundred local teachers and principals filed into a glass-walled meeting room at Wa-hi, known as the high school. They gave up a day of summer vacation to test artificial intelligence tools for lesson planning and student learning.

The workshop was led by Molly Brinkley, a regional technology coach who works with 23 local school districts. Most of them blocked ChatGPT last spring, Brinkley noted.

Some workshop participants described themselves as new to chatbots. Others said they attended to gain advanced skills.

One of them was Beth Clearman, an experienced AP English teacher at a local high school who wanted to bring some literature games to the first day of school. So, he asked ChatGPT to create six-word reviews of well-known literary figures.

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The artificial intelligence chatbot immediately generated descriptions: „cycle, unrequited love, green light” and „purpose, face of rebellion, mockingjay fire.” Clearman said she plans to ask students to match the names of the protagonists to their biographies produced by the chatbot. (I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but… Jay Gatsby, Katniss Everdeen).

Clearman, who was initially wary of AI chatbots, now says “a lot!” He said he plans to use it. ChatGPT with your writing students.

„I changed my way of thinking,” he said.

Bahena, a bilingual social studies teacher, found another useful feature: lesson translation.

„I wanted to see how well it worked in Spanish,” Bahena said. So he asked ChatGPT to create a Civil War quiz for his eighth-graders in English and Spanish. „It went well.”

However, even enthusiastic teachers in Walla Walla acknowledged concerns about students’ potential difficulty in engaging with the materials that chatbots produce at the level of critical analysis required.

„I’m worried they’ll take it too literally,” admitted Shana Millett, a high school English teacher.

For now, the district is encouraging teachers to embrace chatbots and teach students about their glaring deficiencies. Students above the age of 13 can also create ChatGPT accounts if they wish.

Near the end of the workshop, Brinkley, the regional trainer, looked around the room and was delighted to see dozens of local educators already comfortable—if not fluent—conversing with the AI ​​chatbots.

“I recommend that schools reconsider their bans; If teachers, families and students are trained,” he opined.

Natasha is a singer He writes about technology, business and society. He currently reports on the visionary ways technology companies and their tools are transforming public schools, higher education, and the workplace. More about Natasha the singer

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