My goal for this blog post was to have some organized thoughts about ChatGPT to share, but I think the best I can do is still just some disorganized thoughts. There is, of course, lots to talk about and think about, but I’ve been spending some time thinking specifically about the role ChatGPT could play in research. I’m going to spare myself from trying to write transitions and just go for some bullet points.
- Students can struggle with finding an appropriate source to build background knowledge on a topic. I experimented with asking ChatGPT to give me a paragraph about different topics students are researching, and the writing it produced was full of expert vocabulary, important ideas, and potential search terms. It could be useful for modeling how to use background sources, but also for helping students find a jumping-off point when they’re new to a topic.
- This is not an idea I came up with, but I’ve had fun playing with it: ask ChatGPT to write you the table of contents for a book about something. I was working with some colleagues on a course about media influences, so I asked ChatGPT to give me the table of contents for a textbook we could use. It gave a really solid outline of what we could think about. When using it for research, it could provide some guidance about what subtopics you could explore. You can also ask ChatGPT to expand on different chapters of your imaginary textbook!
- I’ve played a little with asking ChatGPT directly for search terms, and am still deciding what I think about it. Admittedly I’ve given it pretty vague prompts, so the search terms have also been pretty broad. I did notice, however, that it generated search terms that represented different political viewpoints – and it also encouraged me to be more specific in my research. 🙂
- I think prompt crafting is going to become an important skill. When I gave ChatGPT a vague prompt, I got unimpressive answers. As I refined my request, the responses got better. The advantage of ChatGPT is that I can keep asking for refinements to the previous response. This means that I need to clarify my own thinking so I can ask for what I want – either on the first try, or by evaluating the response and making further requests. Being clear on what you’re looking for (both for yourself, and when creating a search) is such an important skill and the conversational nature of ChatGPT could provide some practice.
I’m aware of the ethical and practical concerns around ChatGPT and AI (and my colleagues can assure you that I will share them at even the hint of an opportunity), but I’m also aware that our students will have access to these tools as they move through the world. I’m hoping we can skip the years of hand-wringing (*coughcough* Wikipedia *coughcough*) and instead help shape the conversation about how we can meaningfully and ethically make use of these tools.
So, how are you thinking about the role ChatGPT can play in your work?
“I’m hoping we can skip the years of hand-wringing (*coughcough* Wikipedia *coughcough*) and instead help shape the conversation about how we can meaningfully and ethically make use of these tools.”
YES!!! This is exactly what I’ve been thinking! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
What a timely and thoughtful post, Sara! Thank you – love the table of contents idea, I’ll definitely be trying it out 🙂
I have not had a chance to use it as it is so popular, but a few caveats from what I understand: the knowledge base is the free internet, so what is available for research would not include information from library subscription resources or non-digitized books..so we will still need to promote these materials…
and, if such material is available, or uploaded, I believe this would violate copyright. There are real issues here: https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/getty-images-bans-ai-generated-images-due-to-copyright-1234640201/
Yeah, as a source for finding information/sources/answers it has some serious limitations (in the early days I asked it “what are the shortcomings of ChatGPT?” but since it’s training data ends in 2021, it didn’t know it existed and so couldn’t answer the question). One of many reasons to search in multiple places!
I have 8th graders researching women’s rights in the US 1800-1840. Our databases (Issues and Controversies, Gale HS in Context, and Brittanica) are strangely thin on overview sources. Working with a vulnerable student (and being clear that she has to have explicit permission!), I asked Chat GPT for an outline. We loved the results as inspiration! Much easier than digging through databases (she won’t do that) or parsing the Wikipedia outline. Then we could chase sources based on those options. It really opened the way for this slow task-initiator.
Imagine this natural language technology on top of a great dataset, y’all!
Yes! That’s such a great way to use it with a student. I think part of how we shape the conversation around AI tools is by showing useful ways to use them.
We have created a tool for teachers that allows them to write reports for students using AI at
https://Teachers.Report – have a look and try the demo!