When OpenAI launched ChatGPT in November 2022, educators and administrators’ initial reaction was a worried one. Many educators were asking the same questions: “Won’t students use ChatGPT to cheat?” and “How will this affect teaching jobs in the future?” Once the initial fear passed, educators began speculating on how ChatGPT could be used to enhance student learning. The discussion around using ChatGPT in the classroom is ever changing, and teachers today get to be at the forefront of the conversation.
Now that artificial intelligence is here to stay, it’s time to ask another question: “How can ChatGPT help students?” Using ChatGPT in the classroom can seem like a problematic decision, but it actually comes with several benefits. Especially in a STEM classroom, ChatGPT can be an invaluable teaching and learning tool. Benefits range from teaching students about AI technology to using ChatGPT as a starting point for classroom discussions.
Do you think your school district could benefit from using ChatGPT for education? Maybe you’ve already started exploring the perks of ChatGPT, but you’re not sure how to incorporate it into your lesson plans. Let’s take a comprehensive look at how you can use ChatGPT in your STEM classroom.
How Does ChatGPT Work?
Before we begin brainstorming, it’s good to have an informed overview of what ChatGPT is and how exactly it functions.
As you likely know, ChatGPT is advanced chatbot software that communicates information in a conversational manner. But ChatGPT doesn’t just answer basic questions. It can also compile data into essay or article form, and even solve academic tests, and even draft potential STEM lesson plans.
Like any technology, there are limitations. The content generated by ChatGPT doesn’t match up to real people’s compelling and creative ideas. And ChatGPT is far from perfect. It sometimes answers questions wrong or gives out false information.
Best Ways to Incorporate ChatGPT Into Your Lesson Planning
As we’ve talked about already, nothing can replace the honest, hard work of dedicated teachers and educators. However, teachers end up doing a lot of grunt work to compile their lesson plans and curriculum.
Instead of replacing class content with ChatGPT-generated content, consider using AI tools to take away some of that busy work and help produce original lesson plans more efficiently. This will leave you with more time to focus on the big STEM ideas you’re so passionate about. So where should you start?
1. Generate Questions
Use ChatGPT to generate a list of review questions or discussion questions, and use these to build a quiz or project. ChatGPT can quickly compile a list of subject-relevant questions, and all you’ll need to do is edit them for accuracy or course specificity.
2. Develop Lesson Plans
Use ChatGPT to quickly come up with lesson plans for any subject, then adjust them to your liking. An AI bot won’t be able to craft a personalized and innovative lesson plan at the level that you can, but it could help you brainstorm your way out of a rut.
Use the lesson plan that ChatGPT puts together as a jumping off point that you can improve upon now that you’re more inspired.
3. Conquer Your To-Do List
Oftentimes, teachers can be dragged down by their ever-growing to-do list. Use ChatGPT to clear up your to-do list by asking it to draft repetitive emails to parents, classroom announcements, or even class objectives for you. This is a great way to knock off some of those pesky projects that require little brain power but a lot of your time.
Best Ways to Help Your Students Engage With (and Learn From!) ChatGPT
Despite ChatGPT and AI’s inherent flaws, your students most likely still have access to it in their free time. Some may even have access to it during school hours, depending on your classroom’s technology policies.
Instead of pretending that ChatGPT doesn’t exist and hoping it never becomes a problem, why not be the one to start a discussion about it with your students?
Particularly in a STEM classroom, you might already be talking about subjects such as AI generated content and AI chatbots with your class. If you aren’t, maybe it’s time to start.
Teach Students About the Science Behind AI
Discuss the science behind artificial intelligence with your students and let them try out ChatGPT as a hands-on classroom example.
You can steer your classroom discussion towards the limitations and possible risks of AI technology. Then, have them use ChatGPT for themselves, and see if they can come up with some observations about its positive and negative traits.
Let Students Compare Their Work to ChatGPT
Give your students a brief writing assignment, and give ChatGPT the same assignment. It’s true that ChatGPT can write entire cohesive essays, but how does a chatbot’s writing skills and critical thinking skills compare to the real thing?
You can let your students grade the ChatGPT essay or compare and contrast their own with the AI-generated text. The options are practically endless. What’s important is that students understand the tool’s uses while also seeing its limitations.
Use ChatGPT for Math
Have students generate answers to math problems using ChatGPT, then ask your student to write or explain the answer. ChatGPT might be able to list off the solution to a multitude of questions — but does a chatbot really know what it’s talking about?
Sometimes, knowing the question and the answer can help your students intuit new ways of looking at or talking about a problem. And once they’re familiar with ChatGPT, they can do this part all on their own.
Use ChatGPT for Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving
Ask ChatGPT to come up with a topic or project idea, then encourage your students to critique it or make it better. A big part of STEM learning is asking bright and thoughtful questions, but sometimes we all need a little spark of inspiration.
You can have your students generate a project or experiment idea using ChatGPT, but only use this as the starting point. Do your students already know information that conflicts with ChatGPT’s idea? Is ChatGPT’s idea overused or complicated?
By encouraging your students to think through these questions, they’re developing critical thinking skills. Let them hone their academic instincts by showing artificial intelligence up.
AI is Part of STEM Learning
There’s so much more to the discussion around AI technology than just a yes or no answer. It isn’t all good, just like it isn’t all bad. As teachers and educators, you’re likely already asking yourself the difficult questions everyday in order to better equip your students. Help your students think for themselves, but don’t let this piece of technology go to waste.
ChatGPT is only the beginning of huge advancements in AI tools and technology. So where will today’s teachers and educators steer the conversation? And where will today’s students take it next? ChatGPT and education might not have a perfect relationship but they can certainly coexist in your STEM classroom.
Want to expand STEM learning opportunities in your classroom? Check out SAM Lab’s STEAM and coding solutions for elementary and middle schools.
Shaunda Douglas is a former educator with over 15 years of experience in all levels of education. In her free time, she reads, plays with her dogs, watches baseball, and loves a good nap.