What College and High School Educators Are Saying About ChatGPT

by Diana Drake

Welcome to the latest edition of the Essential Educator, a blog written by high school educators, for high school educators. It shares best practices for supporting and engaging students through business education. Today, Wharton Global Youth offers practical Wharton School information on using generative artificial intelligence in the classroom — and shares the reflections of our own Educator Advisory Board on the AI revolution that is transforming how you teach. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. 

Since the release of ChatGPT in November 2022, our academic colleagues at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania have been researching, contemplating, analyzing and discussing this emerging new world of artificial intelligence chatbots, which are nothing short of astounding in what they can do — from writing entire essays to creating original artwork in the style of your favorite artist. Stay tuned for more on the extent of their powers.

The education community – at all levels – is in a tailspin as it figures out how to accept, monitor and potentially embrace ChatGPT’s game-changing capabilities. And now, competing products like Microsoft’s Bing and Google’s Bard are getting in on the action. What’s to stop a student from feeding the chatbot its assigned essay questions and submitting the AI-generated responses? What does this mean for the future of individual thought and creativity – and teacher assessment?

“I can’t defeat it. I can’t make it go away. So, I must find a way to help my students use it responsibly.” -Gerri M. Kimble, Hoover High School, Alabama

Wharton Global Youth just had an interesting conversation with Wharton’s Christian Terwiesch about this revolutionary technology and how high school students can use it to stimulate their thinking.

Few members of the Wharton community are more excited and curious about the potential of generative AI, however, than Ethan Mollick, an associate professor of management and academic director of Wharton Interactive, which develops business games and simulations in such areas as entrepreneurship and leadership.

In his blog One Useful Thing, Professor Mollick writes, “I don’t need to start this post with the usual predictions that AI will transform our classrooms. It is obviously happening. Students are cheating with AI. Students are getting help with AI. I have required AI for all my classes this semester, and I hear more instructors are doing the same. GPT-4 tutors are being launched by large organizations (both Khan Academy and Duolingo currently have them). The world is changing fast.”

Indeed. And Mollick’s blog and LinkedIn posts are keeping pace. High school educators should check out his recent piece on Using AI to Make Teaching Easier and More Impactful. And when you’re done with that, dive into the even more recent How to Use AI to Do Practical Stuff: A Guide.

Hearing from High School Educators

As we’ve started to talk with high school teachers about navigating the implications and opportunities of generative AI, our Wharton Global Youth team, (which partners with high school educators to deliver our business and finance programs, competitions and content to pre-college students), turned to members of our Educator Advisory Board for inspiration. Our EAB, comprised of business and finance educators from high schools across the country, meets monthly.

We asked: How do you and your students feel about ChatGPT and other similar AI chatbots? Are you starting to embrace them or hope they’ll go away? Below are some of their responses. Maybe one or more of them resonates with you? Or perhaps you have some ideas to contribute to the conversation? Please do so in the comment section of this article. We would love to hear how you are confronting the generative AI revolution!

With that, here’s what other high school teachers are saying:

“I personally have always been open to new technology and am approaching ChatGPT the same way. I can’t defeat it. I can’t make it go away. So, I must find a way to help my students use it responsibly. One area my students struggle with, for example, is creating emails to community partners. Teenagers don’t always have the right words or experiences to craft an extremely professional email — which is completely normal — they’re 15, 16, and 17 years old. I am not against students seeking the assistance of artificial intelligence to help spark thoughts on ways to appropriately reach out to a business professional. Just like with anything we teach our kids, we remind them that their words are important.” –Gerri M. Kimble, Hoover High School, Alabama

“I think like every advancement in technology, the education world should embrace it, but keep an eye on it; figure out how to best introduce it to the classroom and within the curriculum. Naturally, I feel like there will be growing pains (like the first year my school did a 1-1 student-to-tablet initiative), but as long as we as educators keep an open mind, it should all come together eventually.  As with most things, I feel like the students will be ahead of faculty in knowledge about these technologies, but it will be our job to show them how they can leverage this knowledge with their academic pursuits.” – Andrew Wakelee, AIM Academy, Pennsylvania

“While skeptical at first glance, I now see my professional self coming around to the potential uses of this new tool. When I think of the time I spent crafting the perfect rubric to grade a non-traditional assessment and now discover that ChatGPT can create a rubric quickly, that’s a teacher win in my book! If ChatGPT can help save some brain bandwidth so teachers can devote more time interacting with students and less time typing on a keyboard to create things needed for class, I see this as a game changer.” -Lisa Bender, Take Charge Today (retired Maryland high school teacher) 

“Personally, I’m super curious about emerging AI and how it can be used to help IEP students and others who struggle to put their thoughts and ideas into words. In the future, I will probably focus on how I can help students use ChatGPT to their advantage and teach about the fine line between plagiarism versus using AI to assist in difficult writing tasks. I don’t think it’s helpful for teachers to flat-out ban emerging technology like ChatGPT or to ignore it completely, but I also understand that it’s very hard to keep up with these changes when they’re happening so rapidly. I’m hoping I’ll find time to do some investigating this summer so I can figure out how to proceed with integrating AI in my classroom instruction, especially in my 12 CCC classes since we serve a lot of students with IEPs in written communication.” –Jordan Sheldon, Rockwood School District, Missouri

“I’ve been playing around with ChatGPT quite a bit. I’ve used it to generate summaries for lessons, Q&As for assignments, and trivia questions. I’m cautious though, because I’ve found it only to be about 70-80% accurate, so I’m not completely reliant on it. I can’t take it at face value and run with it. I do need to build in some time for fact-checking, just to be sure.” – Jacqueline Collins, Mansfield High School, Massachusetts

“My kids are definitely talking about it, and I just used it in class for a mini-lesson. We talk about earnings reports in my investing class. If you just look at a 90-second clip from CNBC, there’s so much jargon. So, we did a little experiment. I played the 90-second clip for the whole class. I split up kids in two groups and I gave them the transcript of the video. One group had to go out in the hallway and put the transcript into ChatGPT and ask questions about it — and ChatGPT taught them. And I taught the other half of the kids in the classroom about the video we just watched. Then both groups did a nine-question quiz about it when those seven minutes were up. My kids scored 15% better than the ChatGPT kids (to be fair, I knew what questions I was testing them on, so maybe I talked a little bit to the quiz). I think all these things can be used for good and not for evil. I want to teach students about it, and I feel like we’re doing them a disservice if we just block it and don’t educate them about it. It sounds like this is here to stay. I don’t think it’s going to replace us; we have to learn to work alongside it.” Alex Lamon, Livingston High School, New Jersey

“This really intrigues me because it’s forcing me to be a better educator; to ask something that cannot be answered through some automated device — questions that have to go deeper. It is forcing me to be more careful with how I frame my questions in my assignments. I don’t look at it as pushing us out, I look at it as pushing us up. It is encouraging me to really hone my skills as an educator.” – Katharine Chambers, Manchester High School, Connecticut

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