‘What this technology can do is mind-blowing’: ChatGPT offers ‘quick wins’ for educators

Educator turned best-selling-author of The AI Classroom Dan Fitzpatrick shares his insight on AI in education and its potential to transform not just how students learn, but how they are taught.

“We’ve experienced more tech advancement in the current decade than in the past 100 years.”
—McKinsey & Co.

“We are in the most advanced technological times of our species,” announces Dan Fitzpatrick, former educator and newly minted best-selling author of The AI Classroom, as he kicks off his session “The AI Classroom: Teaching and Learning in the ChatGPT Era” at Bett UK 2023 in London. “We’ve put a man on the moon, invented the internet—hundreds of things have changed our world. And we’ll be getting all that or more in just the next 10 years.”

While Fitzpatrick notes that most industries in the world are already being disrupted by its technology, it’s education that he’s here for.

“In the AI revolution, you will create new realities simply by using words,” he says. “We live in a world where you’ve got to have a specific skill set. People train for a long time to develop creative skills and lots of other skills. Now we have the technology that allows you to essentially be a world-class writer or artist simply by asking AI to do it.”

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ChatGPT. While the idea that the technology can be used to compose a rap song, produce a carrot cake recipe in seconds or write an exam-passing essay is fascinating, there are plenty of practical uses for it that can help ease teacher burnout and stress.

Fitzpatrick, a former philosophy teacher who left the classroom a year and a half ago to work in digital strategy full-time, notes that when he was still in the classroom, Saturdays were his one day off a week—”my hobby day”—and Sunday was the day he’d essentially work from home. “I didn’t get paid for it, but that was the day I’d plan out my week. Once I’d settle down after dinner, the laptop would come out and I’d get started. We all do it, right? There was a study in 2019 that found teachers spend just as much time planning and creating content as they do in front of students. It cuts into our personal time. So the reason I call this technology a quick win is that today we can literally create what it used to take a full Sunday to do in about 15 minutes.

“The implications of that are huge. They’re massive. So where can we get some quick wins as educators and within education with AI? There are a lot.”


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The start of a revolution

Fitzpatrick emphasizes that what we see today from ChatGPT is not what we will have next year or five years from now. “It’s the reason I use the word ‘revolutionary,’ and I don’t use it lightly,” he says. “Because we are at the start of a revolution. One of the co-creators of ChatGPT, said back in February, ‘A year from now, we’ll look back fondly at the AI that exists today as quaint and antiquated’—because he knows what’s coming.”

In the meantime, Fitzpatrick lists just a few of the benefits educators can enjoy by using ChatGPT.

It can be used to create a foundation. “We can personalize it. It allows us to do a full lesson, including a multiple choice question assessment to see where students’ understanding is; to create a list of questions that will get more progressive as it goes on. You can literally tell it what you want.

“In my book, I give the framework of how to do that. A lot of people ask the question to ChatGPT and don’t like the response. If the question is generic, the answer will be too. So I’ve got a framework, The Prep Model, which allows you to get really specific so you get a really specific answer.”

It can help with administrative tasks. “We spend too much time doing administrative tasks as teachers. This tool can be used as an assistant. You still want to check over it for accuracy and proofread it, but the intention is right—it’s the same as your intention—which is one of the quick wins teachers are discovering right now. A lot are still sacrificing their personal time on this when they could be using it as an assistant.”

It sparks curiosity and helps with PD. “Do we do PD every six months when new tech comes out? That’s unrealistic,” Fitzpatrick notes. “So we have to get to the core of how we learn. In order to use this technology, we need to start with curiosity. The main limitation of ChatGPT is ourselves. So we have to build curiosity and imagination. Form really good questions.

“That’s why when people say literacy is over, I think the absolute opposite is true. There’s a false dichotomy between literacy and AI. With AI, you’re only limited by your own literacy. This is a chatbot. You have to go back and forth with it. Critical thinking? It’s vitally important.”

AI, he points out, learns from itself. As a result, Fitzpatrick says, “I genuinely wonder, will we ever get to the maturity stage with AI? Not if it keeps growing and growing over decades and decades to come. It’s like the internet. There’s always more innovation on the internet, and there is always going to be more.

“It’s really important because a lot of people see ChatGPT as just another tool. But it’s like electricity—it’s the power you’re going to use to create ever better tools, more progressive tools. It’s not like an iPhone, for instance. Who queues for an Apple phone outside the store anymore? It doesn’t happen. I hate to break it to you but the innovation has slowed down and the new phones aren’t too dissimilar from the one you bought two years ago. It’s reached maturity now.” ChatGPT, on the other hand, continues to innovate and grow with no limitations in sight.

The time to embrace it, Fitzpatrick notes, is now, for both students and teachers. “If we go to these skills not just for students but also teachers, then when the new technology comes out we’re prepared to deal with it without having to be spoon-fed how to use it and what it means. It gives them agency to be innovative themselves.”

 

 

Lori Capullo
Lori Capullohttp://DistrictAdministration
Lori Capullo is the executive editor for ETC Network's Education Group, including District Administration and University Business. A graduate of the University of Florida, she has been an award-winning editor in South Florida for more than 30 years and is a world traveler for life.

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