ChatGPT: A Primer

A new semester starts on our campus this week. In preparation for the new semester, my dean, Dr. Lara Willox, reached out and asked if I’d be willing to write a short blurb about ChatGPT that she could include in her semester kick-off newsletter. Since I’ve been writing and reading and talking about ChatGPT a lot over the last six weeks, I was happy to help. She was gracious enough to let me share that blurb with all of you. Enjoy!

Last November, OpenAI released an artificial intelligence chat bot called ChatGPT into the world. While chat bots have existed for years, ChatGPT disrupted the technology and educational worlds. The tool can quickly and effectively generate text-based responses to all sorts of questions. While previous chat bots were subscription-based or only accessible to research communities, ChatGPT was offered for free to the general public upon its release. Within a few days, millions of people around the world were actively using the tool. Since its artificial intelligence based, ChatGPT will continue to learn and improve with more use.

ChatGPT offers some clear challenges for our work as educators. There are already stories nationally about students submitting ChatGPT-generated work as their own. While traditional plagiarism tools like Turnitin won’t flag ChatGPT-generated text, with a little sleuthing, educators may be able to detect whether a student has submitted work that ChatGPT has created. ChatGPT’s writing should be the first clue. Its writing is pretty formulaic; the tool uses similar transition phrases and doesn’t regularly vary its sentence structure. Also, while it is built on a huge database of information, ChatGPT doesn’t always make accurate connections between concepts and will sometimes just make up information or sources.

If an educator comes across a discussion board post or a paper that doesn’t sound like it was written by a student, there are a few tools that can help.
https://openai-openai-detector.hf.space/
https://etedward-gptzero-main-zqgfwb.streamlit.app/

Although neither tool will definitively say whether some text was written by ChatGPT, both will provide metrics that can be used to inform a plagiarism conversation with a student.

While ChatGPT may present some problems in our classrooms, the tool can also offer some opportunities. We can have students analyze the text that ChatGPT generates and have them critique the connections the tool makes. We can also use ChatGPT to field test our essay questions and discussion board prompts to see the types of responses we may get from our students. Those are just a few ideas. We’re really at the beginning stages of ChatGPT’s impact on the educational community. With time, creative educators will find additional ways that ChatGPT can support the work they do. For some additional teaching ideas, check out this New York Times article: Don’t Ban ChatGPT in Schools. Teach With It.

For some other ChatGPT related content, check out:

My blog posts on ChatGPT:
https://the8blog.wordpress.com/2022/12/13/being-an-effective-teacher-by-chatgpt/
https://the8blog.wordpress.com/2022/12/20/teaching-in-a-chatgpt-world/

My podcast episode on ChatGPT:
https://scienceinbetween.fireside.fm/119

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