As AI continues to defy norms and reshape professions, the makers of ChatGPT have released a guide for teachers looking to use the AI chatbot in the classroom.

In a blog post titled ‘Teaching with AI’, AI unicorn OpenAI laid out a range of recommendations for educators to aid their students’ learning with ChatGPT.

“Like the internet, ChatGPT is a powerful tool that can help educators and students if used thoughtfully,” said OpenAI.

The company provided a series of education-tailored prompts designed to generate ChatGPT content for educators – from coming up with lesson plans to creating personalised AI tutors.

One such prompt instructs ChatGPT to roleplay as an instructional coach helping a teacher devise a lesson plan for their class.

“You are a friendly and helpful instructional coach helping teachers plan a lesson,” reads the prompt.

“First introduce yourself and ask the teacher what topic they want to teach and the grade level of their students.”

The prompt then advises ChatGPT to check the learning goal for the lesson, whether students have existing knowledge on the topic, and ultimately create a customised lesson plan which includes a “variety of teaching techniques and modalities”.

Following OpenAI’s suggested prompt, this journalist was able to create a lesson plan on introductory Pythagoras Theorem for fifth graders, complete with direct instruction, interactive understanding-checks, class discussion, in-class activities and follow-up homework – all in less than two minutes.

Other prompts – which you can find and test out yourself via OpenAI’s website – enable ChatGPT to roleplay as a student for practice tutoring, or create “explanations”, “examples” and “analogies” for a given topic based on learning level.

ChatGPT in real classrooms

OpenAI further shared a collection of real-world stories from educators using the tool to “accelerate” student learning.

In one such example, Helen Crompton, Professor of Instructional Technology at US university Old Dominion University, encourages her graduate students to use ChatGPT as a “stand-in” for given personas, such as debate partners or recruiters interviewing them for a job.

Meanwhile, at the University of Johannesburg, Head of Research Anthony Kaziboni encourages students to use ChatGPT for translation assistance and English writing improvement, and at Spain’s Universidade da Coruña, professor Fran Bellas advocates the use of ChatGPT as an assistant in crafting quizzes, exams and lesson plans for classes.

Mary-Lou O’Brien, Director of Digital Innovation at Sydney independent school Redlands, told Information Age that students and teachers have found new learning opportunities and improvements through AI.

“We’ve seen educators using the tool to improve workflows and planning as well as assist and enhance classroom teaching and learning,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien suggested the burgeoning use-cases of ChatGPT in education demonstrate “the potential for AI tools to enhance learning experiences and prepare students for the future workforce.”

“The potential uses vary greatly,” said O’Brien.

“I believe we’ll see exponential growth as the tools are incorporated into existing systems and structures, creating possibilities many have never imagined.”

Is AI ready for schools?

OpenAI was also quick to point out ChatGPT’s limitations – particularly when it comes to making assessment decisions.

While the company encouraged the use of ChatGPT in generating feedback or providing “additional insight” on how a class is doing – it suggested the biases inherent to machine learning models deem them unsuitable for assessment decision purposes.

“Models today are subject to biases and inaccuracies, and they are unable to capture the full complexity of a student or an educational context,” said OpenAI.

O’Brien applauded OpenAI for producing its guide, stating it demonstrated “recognition of the impact ChatGPT has already had on the education sector”.

“I think the guide is honest in its presentation, as it openly acknowledges the pitfalls of generative AI tools, around potential inaccuracies, bias and potential for plagiarism,” said O’Brien.

“We acted quickly last November to produce information and training for staff and at that time there was little information available.

“It quickly became obvious that to engage with it effectively and ethically, we needed to design our assessments differently and communicate our expectations to student and families.

“The guide will be a useful resource for school leaders and educators to provide guidance and support.”

University of New South Wales Professor of Artificial Intelligence Toby Walsh told Information Age that while artificial intelligence platforms such as ChatGPT make for “fantastic tools”, there are some “fundamental challenges” to consider.

“We saw that with the pandemic: the digital divide, the number of kids in Australia who don't have even access to any digital devices,” said Walsh.

“These tools aren't going to be of use to them at all if they've not got a digital device that they can run them on.”

As demonstrated during the advent of at-home schooling during the pandemic, discrepancies in technology and internet access can negatively impact learning outcomes – particularly when certain technologies are integrated with wider education systems.

OpenAI further pointed to the issue of “hallucination” – the phenomena where ChatGPT confidently provides a user with incorrect or misleading information – though Walsh suggests ChatGPT’s tendency for hallucination may be nothing more than an early growing pain.

“The hallucination is going to be a temporary problem – they’re already less of a problem than they were at the start,” said Walsh.

“For example, the way it's been incorporated in Bing means that there’s lots less in that setting, because what it's doing is actually summarising and synthesising information together.

“GPT-4 is already less of a hallucinator than GPT-3.5 was. And GPT-3.5 was less of a hallucinator than GPT-3.

“It is something you have to be aware of today, but in a year's time I don't think it's going to be much of a challenge,” he explained.

Cynthia Gusman-Nolan, Gateway to Industry Schools Program (GISP) Project Manager at the Australian Computer Society, said when AI is acknowledged as “a tool for increased critical thinking”, learning can happen at a great rate.

“Honestly, the vast majority of teachers are amazing and when generative AI first hit the mainstream back in January during school holidays, teachers were already gathering together to discuss how best to use it,” said Gusman-Nolan.

“In the same way that the introduction of calculator into schools back in 1970 was being challenged as a tool that will allow students to cheat, and reduce their mental abilities, so too is generative AI being reviewed in the same way.

“Rightfully so – that is, if teaching and learning does not evolve with it.”