5 Ways ChatGPT and AI Can Help You in the Classroom

Aug 1, 2023

In a free webinar, the Van Andel Education Institute discussed 5 practical and teacher-tested ideas that use ChatGPT and AI to enhance your instruction, make your life easier, and unlock your students’ full potential.

As artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT revolutionize industries around the world, educators must adapt to stay ahead.

Led by Learning Solutions Specialist Ben Talsma, you can watch the half-hour webinar from the Van Andel Education Institute here and view the slides here, or read a summary of the key points below!

What AI Is

Artificial Intelligence tools give you superpowers. They can help you write, draw, or even code in ways you otherwise couldn’t — and they can do it quickly and easily. They allow you to create — the only limit is your imagination!

Some of the most incredibly powerful, versatile AI tools are text generators like ChatGPT and Bard, which generate text (even computer code) in response to prompts; and image generators like Stable Diffusion and Dall-E, which allow you to create any picture your heart desires. For younger students, extensions like Talk-to-ChatGPT can help make the tools more accessible.

Why (and Why Not) AI

Why Not:

  • You want the students to develop a specific thinking skill.
    • For instance, if you want students to work on writing a five-paragraph essay, you can have them do it by hand in class.
    • If you want students to be able to explain their reasoning, you can have them do it in conversation, unassisted by technology.
  • WARNING: Tasks that AI tools can do quickly and easily are likely to be far less important to students’ lives. Explaining their thinking might always be relevant because it gives others insight into their unique perspective — but writing a 5-paragraph essay is likely to become FAR less important. This is a great time to reevaluate your thinking about what skills to emphasize!

Why AI:

  • Teach DEEPER: Do things for your students that you simply couldn’t before.
  • Teach EASIER: Reduce the time you spend on mundane tasks, so you can focus on more important things — or so that you can improve your work-life balance!
  • Teach Students TO Use AI: Make sure that students have experience using these tools in meaningful ways.
  • Teach Students BY USING AI: Allow your students to learn in ways that they couldn’t before AI tools came along.

Teaching DEEPER and EASIER

  • Lesson Plans: Lesson planning has always included tons of busywork. Use ChatGPT so you can focus on content and pedagogy. A few tips: customize it using adjectives like “fun” or “meaningful”; specify what format you’d like (for instance, the 5 Es), and ask it to generate multiple different versions of the same lesson plan so you can choose the one you like best. You’ll get polished plans in a snap!
  • Resource Creation: Create your own written pieces, picture books, or even computer games — customized to your needs. Just prompt ChatGPT to create text, or Stable Diffusion to create pictures, that suit your needs. The only limit is your imagination!
  • Overcome Blocks: Stuck on a thorny teaching challenge? Use ChatGPT like a trusted colleague and brainstorm solutions together. For instance, ask it how to engage a student who is checking out, or how to help a student who doesn’t understand a particular concept. Ask it for multiple ideas so you can choose the one you like best!

Teaching Students TO Use AI and BY Using AI:

  • Collaborate with AI: Let your students use ChatGPT as a brilliant collaborator. They can brainstorm ideas together, get suggestions for revisions on their work, or overcome obstacles they’re encountering. When you require the use of AI tools, you shift them from being something forbidden to being a tool to be used wisely and well — a shift that can take place both in your mind and your students’!
  • Let Them Lead: You don’t have to do all the work when it comes to creating excellent uses for AI in your classroom; challenge them to come up with their own creative uses! Students can exercise flexible thinking as they explore how to use AI to level up their own learning — and they’ll take ownership of the process as they do!
  • Customized Tutoring: This has great potential to improve student learning: when students are confused about something in class, they can ask ChatGPT to help them understand it. They can ask it to simplify responses, to expand on specific points, to provide them with questions to test their understanding, or even to provide feedback based on their answers to quiz questions.
  • Model, Model, Model: Students learn from seeing examples — and ChatGPT can give you a plethora of them! Whatever concept you’re exploring, have ChatGPT generate examples for your students to examine. You can create some models that are better and others that are worse, and allow students to compare, contrast, and evaluate them. You can have them notice shortcomings and work to provide improvements. One great principle is to create “B+ Exemplars” — examples that show lots of great features, but allow students to make additional improvements.
  • Beat ChatGPT: For the rest of their lives, students will be asked to add value above and beyond what AI tools come up with — so this game is incredibly relevant! The concept is simple: give ChatGPT a prompt you want your students to be able to respond to, see what it comes up with, and use that as a model for your students to shoot for. They can analyze what it did well and where it can be improved, and work to create a response that improves upon the computer’s.
  • Get Authentic: Artificial Intelligence has given you a class full of superpowered students. They can write, they can draw, and they can even code. Now… what will you have them use their superpowers for? One great solution is to have your class work on authentic tasks that empower them to make a positive impact on your community or on the world. By engaging in authentic learning, students will use AI tools in authentic ways. If you’re looking for projects ideas, check out blueappleteacher.org!

Try it Out!

The best way to learn how to use AI is to open it up, play around, and be creative! You’ll discover an incredible number of uses for AI tools like ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion.

But sometimes, we all need a little (human) help. VAI offers training and support for schools who want to leverage the power of AI to help them improve.

If you and your school could use a little help implementing AI tools, let Van Andel Education Institute know!