Many people have tried ChatGPT over the last few weeks. The new chat programme from OpenAI has elicited a wide range of reactions - from amazement, to enthusiasm, to concern. Many students also report that they are already using ChatGPT. How should teachers deal with this development? The experts at the Austrian Safer Internet Centre took a closer look at the challenges of using the new tool, and give tips on how to use AI programs in the classroom.
Artificial intelligence as an aid in everyday school life?
Artificial intelligence (AI) has long been part of our everyday lives: search engines deliver results based on previous online behaviour, voice assistants fulfil music requests and navigation systems avoid traffic jams. Ultimately, there is AI behind all these tools, even if users are not always aware of it.
ChatGPT is a chatbot that uses AI to answer all kinds of questions. The main focus of the developers was to create a "human" conversation, which means that the chatbot tries to answer every question, even if there is no valid database for it. Pupils have also discovered the chatbot as a practical helper in everyday school life, for example to get an overview of a chapter of material, to get summaries of books and plays, to prepare presentations or to program small programs. Teachers are also using the software, for example to create teaching materials or for teacher training.
The challenge of evaluating information
Anyone using the current version of ChatGPT should be aware that while the bot is good at reflecting general knowledge, it often gives incorrect answers to more specific questions. Facts can be mixed up or references even be invented just to make a text sound plausible and "human". In addition, the database of the current version dates back to 2021, so the bot cannot provide more up-to-date information. The exact sources of the data are also unknown.
The chatbot is programmed to sound as "human" as possible. The challenge here is that the texts often seem more credible than the results of a Google search - even if, for example, the sources have been made up. This can make it even more difficult for teachers and students to evaluate the information found and to practice source criticism in the classroom.
How can schools deal with chatbots & co?
Programs like ChatGPT can change the way students and teachers learn and use information, much like the digital encyclopaedia Wikipedia did a few years ago. A key question for use in the classroom is whether and to what extent such chatbots influence young people's motivation to solve problems independently. The support of a bot can be useful for pre-structuring texts, explaining complex facts in simple terms or solving complex maths problems - but a tool can never replace human thinking.
It is therefore advisable to think about the possibilities and limitations of a chatbot, especially when it comes to educational tasks.
Source criticism becomes a crucial skill
Given the apparently good quality of AI-generated texts, it is becoming increasingly important to address the issue of source criticism in the classroom. Source criticism is not easy for children and young people, as it requires appropriate reference points and background knowledge to be able to classify them. It is therefore necessary to learn and practice how to compare content with other sources, how to check sources for credibility and how to recognise false reports. Saferinternet.at offers a lot of support for teachers and educators, including checklists and tips for use in the classroom.
Tips for teachers on how to use ChatGPT and other AI tools
As with all new tools that create a real "hype" among students, the same applies to AI applications such as ChatGPT: active discussion in the classroom is better than banning them. The Austrian Safer Internet Centre experts therefore advise you to:
- Don't ignore them. Students will use these tools anyway. Deal with the opportunities and risks of AI-based programmes now and show them.
- Don't ban. A ban takes away the opportunity to actively engage with the issue, and also to show the weaknesses of AI.
- Share. Discover the possibilities and limits of AI applications together in the classroom and develop rules for everyday school life together.
- Use. Discover together in class the possibilities and limits of AI applications and design rules for everyday school life.
Find more information about the work of the Austrian Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline, and youth participation services – or find similar information for other Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.