ChatGPT: Is AI Beneficial or Dangerous in the ELA Classroom?

Hailee Carman, October 2023
Chat GPT

As an educator, I firmly believe that hard work is the key to success. When I first heard of ChatGPT and its ability to write papers for students, in addition to completing other academic tasks, I was afraid that it would negatively impact student learning. I was fearful that students would use the artificial intelligence (AI) to write essays and complete homework assignments without using their own academic abilities and skill sets. I was stuck in this mindset until this summer. After attending a professional development about using AI technologies in the classroom, I realized that ChatGPT could be beneficial to all students in promoting their writing skills, enhancing their critical thinking and more! So with that said, learning about ChatGPT’s benefits inspired me to write this article. Here are four advantages of using ChatGPT in the classroom:

1. It provides valuable feedback for students.

I believe that all students should be aware of their strengths and areas of weakness in writing. This self-awareness is a great way for them to improve their writing skills. Additionally, while many teachers spend countless hours writing feedback on their students’ papers, ChatGPT can also provide this service within seconds. After writing a rough draft or outline, students can copy and paste their writing into ChatGPT. Before clicking the send message button, students can ask the AI to provide suggestions to improve the clarity of their writing. Students can ask the AI for a specific number of suggestions or even have ChatGPT ask them critical thinking questions that could improve their writing. Due to ChatGPT’s access to the vast internet and its ability to recognize patterns in writing, it will have insightful and specific feedback for each student.

2. It explains difficult concepts in a new way.

Unfortunately, not all students fully comprehend the information that we teach (and that is okay). However, ChatGPT can support student learning by reexplaining concepts that were covered in class in a different way! Students can type the topic they are struggling with into ChatGPT, and ask it to explain the topic in a different way. For instance, if a student does not understand what commentary means, they can ask ChatGPT to explain it in terms that they understand.

3. It creates opportunities for students to provide valuable feedback.

Just like ChatGPT can provide valuable feedback for our students, our students can do the same thing for ChatGPT. How? Give students a prompt and have them type it on ChatGPT. For instance, they can type: Write a short story about a lazy dog. Within seconds, ChatGPT will formulate and provide a response. After ChatGPT provides a writing sample, students can read through its response and provide feedback to improve the story. Furthermore, students can use a checklist to find elements that are missing from ChatGPT’s response. Students can then share the new versions of the story with their suggested feedback.

4. It suggests new books for students.

As an English teacher, I take pride in my vast knowledge of books. However, despite my best efforts, I have not read every single book that has been published. This can be unfortunate when students ask me for book recommendations, because I am not always able to recommend a novel that they end up enjoying. However, students can ask ChatGPT to recommend books. ChatGPT will use its database to find a selection of books that fit the interest of the student.

ChatGPT can be beneficial in the classroom by supporting students’ writing, enhancing their critical thinking, and providing book suggestions. However, it is important to note that ChatGPT has limitations and teachers should use their judgment before implementing it within the classroom. ChatGPT’s limitations include: an inability to explain complex or abstract ideas, an inability to discuss matters of your personal life, an inability to make decisions for you, and an inability to include direct quotations in essays. It’s also important to note that because ChatGPT is an AI, it is essential for the user to be specific with their prompts. ChatGPT cannot read minds, so it will answer the exact question that is provided and nothing more.

Editor’s note: Hailee will be facilitating a roundtable discussion about AI and ChatGPT at this year’s NYSEC conference. Click here to register and to learn more.

Hailee Carman is a middle and high school English teacher in New York. Her mission is to inspire a lifelong love of literature and language while also preparing her students for success in the digital age.

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