ChatGPT for Teachers: Harnessing the Power of Teaching With AI 

Let’s jump into everything you need to know when considering tools like ChatGPT for teachers. AI tools like ChatGPT are already transforming jobs, fueling scientific breakthroughs, and empowering humans around the world on a daily basis. So naturally, the question is: How can teachers responsibly harness AI to save time and bolster learning?

To effectively answer that question, and to make sure you’re equipped with the right tools for going forward, let’s break this down.

Understanding ChatGPT For Teachers

In the sense that ChatGPT is, at the end of the day, a piece of software… it’s “just another tool” in your repertoire. And simultaneously, because of the unprecedented nature of how it’s able to rapidly produce cohesive content for us, it’s also MORE than “just another tool.”

The important thing to keep in mind is that AI tools (like ChatGPT for teachers) don’t “know” things in the human sense. Rather, they utilize a sophisticated kind of statistical analysis (after analyzing just about all of the text on the internet) to generate responses that we perceive to be meaningful. In other words, ChatGPT is a word-forecasting-tool; it processes your prompt, and then, based on its database and the patterns it has recognized across huge amounts of data, it guesses at the subsequent letters, syllables, and words, that it expects will be an appropriate response.

Understanding THAT helps to make sense of everything else. It explains why ChatGPT for teachers can be great for brainstorming ideas, and also why it can often produce strange or incorrect information. It explains why ChatGPT is able to produce complex responses in multiple languages, and also why it sometimes “hallucinates” or makes stuff up. It shines a light on ChatGPT’s enormous potential and power in our teacher toolkit, and it also reinforces the fact that it’s not infallible, and should be used as an aid, not a replacement, for your expertise.

Privacy, Ethics, and Responsible Use

Now that you have a basic understanding of how AI models like ChatGPT work, concepts like privacy, ethics, and responsible use can be considered in a whole new light.

Where privacy is concerned, it’s crucial to keep in mind that these chatbots are owned and operated by companies outside of your school. That means that you should never input personally identifiable information (PII) of yourself or students into chatbots. Instead, consider using pseudonyms, or simply omitting names and PII all together.

From an ethical standpoint, it’s important to keep in mind how AI models like ChatGPT for teachers have been trained. In summary, if they have been trained on all of the text and information that is published on the internet (e.g. encyclopedias, Wikipedia, X / Twitter, news articles, etc.), they will invariably produce responses in the likeness of that knowledgebase. That is how and why chatbots often inherit the same problematic biases, prejudices, and dominant narratives that exist in humans. And while a significant onus falls on the creators of these AI chatbots to combat those biases, it’s our duty to be aware of these shortfalls in the meantime. (This is part of what it means to be “AI literate” in the age of chatbots!)

But the ethics of AI use don’t end there. Questions about what qualifies as “appropriate” use, versus “inappropriate” use (or “misuse”) are being raised. Consider that it likely feels ethically acceptable to use AI for rote tasks that save time, or that are not intended to be (or that pretend to be) original work. (We seem to feel pretty good about using AI for things like generating lesson ideas, quiz questions, and writing prompts… and we feel pretty good about letting students know that AI was used to generate those things.) But, on the contrary, we feel a bit more conflicted about using AI to generate text that is offered-up wholesale as an “original” document (such as entire emails, personal letters, and so on). Related practices that are emerging include:

  • Intentionally using AI as a thought-partner, brainstormer, template-maker, and peer reviewer — rather than as the sole-writer.
  • Offering transparency about whether AI was used, such as including a phrase in your email signature that states: “AI tools may have been utilized to compose this email.”
  • Never using AI-generated content without carefully reading it, editing it, and making it your own.

This, of course, brings us to responsible use — the core of which revolves around a concept that has been around for a long time, often referred to as “human in the loop.” The idea is that AI cannot think, is liable to generate incorrect or inappropriate content, and actually needs human guidance to enhance its output. The solution: Ensure that AI-generated content is never offered up wholesale, but rather, is always carefully reviewed, refined, and “approved” by a person (i.e. “human in the loop”). 

Opportunities Unleashed

Now that we’ve considered how AI chatbots work, as well as how we might safely, ethically, and responsibly use them, it’s time to explore how tools like ChatGPT for teachers can transform our practices as educators. One of AI’s greatest strengths is the ability to rapidly produce content that would otherwise take enormous amounts of time, effort, and energy. By methodically leveraging AI tools, we can save countless hours, can reserve our brainpower for some of the most “human” and cognitively demanding tasks that matter most, and can adopt pedagogical practices that previously would have taken an impossible amount of time to functionally implement.

For example, consider the idea of “personalized learning.” Educators everywhere agree that developing unique assessments and learning materials for every student in the room, based on their skill levels, interests, strengths, and targeted areas for improvement, would be a boon for learning. And, simultaneously, educators everywhere agree that there isn’t enough time in the day to create even a fraction of the resources that would be necessary to accomplish that. That is, until generative Ai entered the scene.

Now, AI tools can be used to provide tailored reading suggestions, generate unique math problems, or create customized writing prompts for each student. They can develop a unique version of your quiz, at varied levels of difficulty, and reframing questions based on students’ interests, in a matter of seconds. AI can be used to differentiate instruction, to generate discussion questions, and to create compelling projects that heighten engagement. The possibilities are nearly endless.

The Art of Prompt Engineering: ChatGPT For Teachers

All of that being said, you aren’t just limited by your imagination. The most effective use of AI chatbots such as ChatGPT for teachers relies heavily on how you phrase (or “engineer”) your prompts. The more specific and structured your questions, the better the responses. Formulate clear, concise, and direct questions. Experiment with different types of phrases and prompts to see what works best for different subjects or objectives. Understanding prompt engineering can significantly impact the quality and relevance of the AI-generated content.

As an example, consider the detail and manner in which which the following DALL-E 3 image generation prompts were composed (the same line of thinking applies to text-based prompt engineering, too!):

Historical Reimagining: “Create a digital 3D rendering of the signing of the Declaration of Independence set in a futuristic society. The founding fathers are depicted as diverse figures from various cultures and time periods, signing a glowing holographic document. The scene is illuminated with neon lights reflecting off metallic surfaces and advanced technology.”

Science Fusion: “Illustrate a watercolor painting of a cross-section of the human heart transforming into a lush, green forest. The scene should be vibrant with life and detail, symbolizing vitality with animals representing different heart anatomy parts. The lighting should be soft and natural, highlighting the surrealistic style.”

Mathematical Concepts: “Visualize the Fibonacci sequence in a high-resolution photograph-style image showing a spiraling galaxy, a sunflower center, and a nautilus shell. Overlay a transparent golden ratio spiral with a slight shimmer effect on each object, demonstrating the sequence’s occurrence in nature.”

Literary Scenes: “Depict a digital oil painting of a scene from Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ where the forest comes alive at night. Characters from the play interact with anthropomorphic trees and moonlit creatures in an enchanted, whimsical style, with a focus on rich, deep colors and dynamic lighting.”

Cultural Celebrations: “Create a vibrant and detailed digital collage of a traditional Diwali celebration in India. The image should show families lighting diyas, fireworks in the sky, and a diverse range of people participating in the festival, reflecting rich colors and joyous atmosphere. The scene should be well-lit with the warm glow of fire and lanterns.”

Environmental Awareness: “Illustrate a powerful contrast between a polluted cityscape and a thriving green urban environment in a graphic novel style. One side should show the polluted city with a monochromatic, dull palette, while the other side should be vibrant and green with renewable energy sources and community gardens. The transition should be dramatic and thought-provoking.”

Artistic Styles: “Generate an image of Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ reimagined as a digital pixel art scene. Maintain the original color scheme and swirling patterns but with a modern, tech-inspired twist. The pixels should have a glowing, neon effect to enhance the digital feel.”

Mythology Meets Modernity: “Portray a scene where Greek gods and goddesses are using modern technology in a panoramic digital illustration. Include Athena reading on a digital tablet, Hermes delivering messages on a smartphone, and Zeus holding a lightning bolt-shaped neon light. The setting should be a contemporary city at dusk, with long shadows and a deep blue sky.”

Interdisciplinary Learning: “Create an image that combines musical concepts with architectural design in a detailed graphite pencil drawing. Show a grand piano transforming into a modern building, with musical notes flowing out and turning into structural elements like columns and beams. The image should be monochromatic with a focus on texture and shadow to emphasize the structure and design.”

Space Exploration: “Visualize a classroom on Mars in a vibrant acrylic painting, with a diverse group of students in futuristic attire learning about Earth’s history. They should be looking out of a large dome window onto the Martian landscape with Earth visible in the sky. The lighting should be dramatic, with the sun setting on the Martian horizon and casting long, deep shadows inside the classroom.”

Macro World of Insects: “Photograph an up-close, detailed image of a colorful butterfly, resting on a flower in a natural setting. Use a macro lens to capture intricate details like the texture of the wings and the facets of the eyes. The depth of field should be shallow, with the insect sharply in focus against a soft, blurred background. Natural sunlight should be diffused through a scrim or during a cloudy day to avoid harsh shadows and highlight the vibrant colors. Camera Lens: 100mm macro len. Exposure: ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/250 sec. Lighting: Diffused natural light.”

Embracing the Future

Adopting AI in education isn’t just about keeping up with technology; it’s about reimagining the way we teach, learn, and do what we do. Continue to stay informed about the latest developments in AI, to participate in professional learning opportunities, and to explore new AI tools as they cross your path. In this new era of rapid AI evolution and technological advancement, the potential for transformative growth is huge, and the journey we’re embarking on is filled with limitless possibilities. Considering tools like ChatGPT for teachers is only the beginning. Enjoy the ride!

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