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ChatGPT: A Partner in the Future of Learning in Schools

By Dr. Megel R. Barker
ChatGPT: A Partner in the Future of Learning in Schools

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the enormous potential to completely revolutionize the way we approach education, providing new and innovative ways for teachers to engage with students and facilitate learning. One particularly promising technology in this regard is ChatGPT, a natural language processing tool that allows users to communicate with a virtual assistant in a conversational manner. In this article, we will explore the potential partnership role of ChatGPT in the delivery of learning in schools, including how it can enhance the effectiveness of teachers, address concerns about AI replacing human educators, and provide recommendations for school leaders looking to effectively embrace ChatGPT in their schools.

While driving long distances in the UK, my go-to radio station is BBC Radio 4. I love the diverse array of programs and the in-depth discussions, which often introduce me to new ideas and perspectives. Recently, I was listening to the radio on a trip to pick up my daughter in Ascot and heard a discussion about ChatGPT, an AI tool that can generate content at a rapid pace. This got me thinking about the potential impact of this technology generally and, as a school leader, on the way we educate students. According to the presenter, ChatGPT can even complete a student's homework in just 10 seconds. It's no wonder that many children would be tempted to use it, but I wonder if many teachers are aware of this tool and its potential consequences

At a recent faculty meeting, I shared ChatGPT with my teachers, explaining that it was a technology that had impressed me with its capabilities. My exact words were, “It blew my mind.” When I asked if anyone had heard of it, one member of the team mentioned that they had started exploring AI and pointed out the potential for students to use it to cheat on homework. I demonstrated ChatGPT by asking my team to suggest potential challenges. One teacher requested that it explain how to solve a Rubik's Cube, which it did in just five seconds, and then another challenged it with a more complex question about Shakespeare's use of extended metaphor. ChatGPT generated a 250-word response in under five seconds. The teacher, while impressed with the references to Romeo and Juliet, wondered how well the writing would fare when assessed against her marking rubric. I pointed out that it would likely improve with more detailed information on how the essay should be constructed. ChatGPt is highly adaptive, so it relies heavily on the quality of the questions asked and the guidelines for its responses. I encouraged my colleagues to spend some time exploring ChatGPT and to consider the implications of this technology for teaching and learning. We also had a brief but interesting discussion about plagiarism and the discomforting availability of AI. Some were concerned about the potential negative impact on education, while others were excited about the potential to enhance teaching and deepen learning.

The reality is that many teachers have embraced AI in our education system. We are already finding ways to incorporate AI into their classrooms to improve their effectiveness. For instance, some educators are using AI-powered learning management systems to track student progress, create personalized lesson plans, and provide feedback on assignments. Others are utilizing AI-powered tutoring platforms to provide one-on-one support to students who need extra help. In addition, AI can be used to analyze data on student performance and provide insights to teachers on how to better support their students. A good example of AI performing these analytical tasks is the popular Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests. Its testing platform adapts questions based on students’ responses and then provides a detailed report on areas of strengths and weaknesses. Imagine if teachers had that power at their disposal in classrooms every day!

I strongly believe that ChatGPT has the potential to bring numerous benefits to the classroom experience. One of the most significant benefits is its ability to provide personalized learning experiences for students. ChatGPT can adapt to the needs and abilities of individual learners, providing personalized feedback and support based on their specific areas of strength and weakness. This can help students stay motivated and engaged, leading to better learning outcomes. It can also assist teachers by taking on routine tasks, such as grading assignments and providing feedback. This frees up teachers to focus on more important tasks, such as lesson planning and one-on-one support for students. Furthermore, ChatGPT can be used to provide support to students outside of normal class hours, allowing for a more flexible learning environment.

If you find your discussions are focused on how to block ChatGPT from student use or if you experience fear about being unsure about student responses to task prompts, this might be the time to reconsider your practice. Are we asking the right questions? One stance to ultimately consider is, is this the time for teaching and learning to shift from training students to “answer the question” to inviting students to “question the answers” they receive. I must confess, AI excites me as an instructional leader. I am challenged to think of interesting uses for these tools to reduce teacher workload and simultaneously improve learning. So, my focus is on the power of AI as an effective partner rather than the negative viewpoint.

ChatGPT can also help teachers be more effective in the classroom by providing them with valuable insights and data on student performance. It can analyze data on student progress and provide teachers with reports on areas of strength and weakness, helping them to better understand their students and tailor their teaching strategies accordingly. In addition, it can provide teachers with a range of resources and materials to use in their classrooms. These resources can include lesson plans, educational videos, and interactive activities, all of which can help teachers to more effectively engage their students and improve learning outcomes. Which teacher would turn down the opportunity to have more time to bring the human side to their classroom?

My forays online have inevitably unearthed the existential question about the potential for AI to soon replace teachers. While AI can assist teachers in the classroom, it is not capable of fully replacing the role of a skilled and dedicated educator. Teachers bring a unique set of skills and expertise to the classroom, including the ability to adapt to the needs of individual learners and create a positive learning environment. Moreover, AI is simply a tool. And like any tool, it is only as effective as the person using it. Teachers who are well-trained in using AI in the classroom can leverage its capabilities to enhance their effectiveness and support student learning.

I asked ChatGPT this very question: Should teachers be worried about ChatGPT? Its response in five seconds:

“It is understandable that teachers might be concerned about the potential for students to use ChatGPT or similar AI tools to cheat on homework or other assignments. However, it is important to recognize that AI tools like ChatGPT can also be used as a teaching tool to help students learn and engage with course material. It is ultimately up to individual teachers and schools to decide how to approach the use of ChatGPT and similar tools. It may be helpful for teachers to consider the potential pros and cons of using these tools in the classroom, and to establish guidelines or policies around their use. Teachers might also want to consider incorporating activities or assignments that are designed to be resistant to cheating, and to encourage students to develop their own critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”

These technologies are freely available on the internet and surely will not disappear. Therefore, school leaders are compelled to reflect on future-facing strategies to embrace AI in their schools and provide a sustainable platform for both new and experienced teachers as well as other members of the school community to reap the benefits. Of course, there are ethical and moral questions, but couldn’t these be addressed through dialogue and school agreements? For school leaders looking to effectively embrace ChatGPT in their schools, there are several recommendations to consider. I compiled this list with the help of ChatGPT.

  • Providing professional development opportunities for teachers to learn how to effectively use ChatGPT in the classroom.
  • Ensuring that teachers have access to the necessary resources and support to effectively use ChatGPT in their classrooms.
  • Collaborating with educational technology experts and industry partners to stay up to date on the latest developments and best practices in AI-powered education.
  • Engaging with parents and other stakeholders to educate them about the potential benefits of ChatGPT and address any concerns they may have.
  • Setting clear guidelines and expectations for the use of ChatGPT in and out of the classroom, including how it should be integrated into lesson plans and instructional strategies, and how it should be used to enhance student learning.

In my view, ChatGPT has the potential to be a powerful partner in the delivery of learning in schools. By providing personalized learning experiences for students and assisting teachers with routine tasks, it will enhance the effectiveness of educators and improve student outcomes. While some educators have concerns about the potential for AI to replace human teachers, these concerns are unfounded. Google Docs, predictive texts, or adaptive games didn’t replace teachers. With proper training and support, teachers can effectively leverage the capabilities of ChatGPT to enhance their effectiveness and deepen student learning. By following the recommendations outlined above, school leaders can effectively embrace ChatGPT in their schools and harness its full potential as a transformative partner in the future of education.

Are you an educator who is interested in exploring the potential benefits of AI in education? If so, I invite you to reach out to me online and join me in forming a research group to delve into this exciting and rapidly evolving field. Together, we can share our knowledge and experiences, discuss the latest developments in AI, and consider how these technologies can be used to support teaching and learning. Whether you are a seasoned expert or just starting to explore this topic, I welcome your participation and look forward to collaborating with you. Please don't hesitate to get in touch and join me in this exciting and rewarding journey of discovery.

Megel Barker is the current head of middle school at TASiS England. He has a wealth of experience in education, having worked in the field for 28 years. Prior to his current role, Megel served as the middle school principal at the ABA Oman International School, where he was responsible for the academic and personal development of middle school students. He has also held positions as an MYP Coordinator and instructional leader and has expertise in curriculum design. In addition to his professional roles, Megel is also an author and has a passion for promoting excellence in education.

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02/14/2023 - Millennium
If we fear it, it will control us without us even knowing what happened. But if we use it with rules and parameters we will be able to do even greater work than before. As Dr. Barker said, these tools are out and here to stay.
01/31/2023 - Fergie
Great article Dr. Barker — a very balanced outlook on the potentials of ChatGPT in education.
01/31/2023 - Gowane
I think that this is a well written article. Well done Dr. Barker. The use of AI is certainly a game changer for education and without a doubt, has the potential to enhance certain sectors such as, personalized learning, intelligent tutoring systems, automated assessments, improved accessibility and data analysis. Now, the question is, how will use of this powerful technology be managed? Will they block its use in schools or will they navigate it successfully enough to help in the advancement of education to fit the needs of the 21st century learner.
01/30/2023 - Dr. Williams
I think that this well written article is spot on. K12 education must be willing to embrace innovation, or get left behind.
01/23/2023 - SBurns
Really interesting and balanced discussion of this fascinating tool. I look forward to seeing how you develop its use further.
01/22/2023 - James Mattiace
I would be involved as well. However, Greg Clinton from AIS Chennai has one off the ground already. You can request to join here AI and Education Collaborative: Request to Join Here John Mikton and Dan Taylor just put out a really great podcast last week on ChatGPT and schools Greg was a guest. Super informative.

I put this on LinkedIn as well . Definitely need as many perspectives on this as possible. The learning curve is steep and changes daily.
01/18/2023 - ZenLibrarian
What ChatGPT helps us with, is to avoid writing "woolly" language. ChatGPT itself is very good at that, and there are several paragraphs in the above article that sound like they are AI generated. If ChatGPT can encourage us to write in a more direct and personal way, and not like a robot, I think that would be a wonderful effect of AI.