ChatGPT created a lesson plan on the American Civil War, but educators who looked at it warned the subject might be more than AI can handle
- Insider asked ChatGPT to create a high school-level history lesson to test the accuracy of OpenAI's anti-cheating tool.
- The tool failed to detect the lesson plan created by AI, so we asked an education expert for his opinion.
When ChatGPT was released to the public in November, people across many industries — including education — either applauded the artificial intelligence tool's potential or condemned it.
Although schools in the UK and the US are hesitant to integrate AI into their learning models, OpenAI executives have asserted the program could be a tool for growth and teaching in the classroom, rather than academic dishonesty, Insider reported.
"I have used it to learn things myself and found it much more compelling than other ways I've learned things in the past," OpenAI CEO Sam Altman told StrictlyVC in an interview. "I would much rather have ChatGPT teach me about something than go read a textbook."
Insider put the tool to the test. We asked ChatGPT to write a 45-minute lesson plan for high school students on the American Civil War.
We also asked Rob Buelow, head of product in education at Vector Solutions, a software company that provides data insights for grade school and higher education, for his thoughts on the lesson plan.
Strong lesson plans – but ChatGPT couldn't stick to a time limit
Buelow told Insider that the requested 45-minute lesson plan was strong and had no factual errors. "There were specific recommendations on events with notable historical significance that are must-haves in a curriculum on the American Civil War."
"The prompt itself necessitated brevity and a 'Cliff Notes-level' recap," Buelow said.
The outline of the lessons allocated time for each section, such as five minutes for the introduction to the subject and 25 minutes for exploring the causes, key events and battles, as well as the impact of the Civil War.
But even though Insider asked for a 45-minute lesson, ChatGPT provided a total of 55 minutes. Still, Buelow added that 45 minutes is not a lot of time to cover the entire the American Civil War.
He highlighted that the AI-generated tool lacked sensitivity to specific topics.
"The presentation of topics like slavery, civil rights, and the 'fight for equality' struck a relatively neutral, apolitical tone," he said. "This exact lesson plan could be taught very differently depending on the teacher, so I am curious how a more robust lesson plan would look."
ChatGPT wouldn't really grab students
Buelow found the suggestions on how to engage students during the lesson superficial, and said they lacked inspiration and creativity. He said that a thoughtful instructor would probably want students to do more than recap after the lesson, contrary to what ChatGPT's lesson suggested.
But "this is a great example of how ChatGPT can create efficiencies for teachers that allow them to focus more on how they teach versus what they teach," he added.
Buelow concluded that there is an opportunity to leverage this technology to save time and support teachers in their workload. The tool can be used to "streamline basic tasks, and help build capacity amongst teachers who are currently overwhelmed with responsibility."
Many experts doubt that ChatGPT and other AI tools will be replacing teachers and human teaching plans.
"ChatGPT is designed, and extremely good at, putting together factual information in a formulaic fashion," Robert Harrison, director of education and integrated technology at ACS International Schools, told Insider. "But lesson planning is ultimately less about collating this factual information – there is plenty of that available already – and more about teachers designing creative learning engagements for a specific community of diverse students."
But Harrison agreed that as a tool to help teachers, ChatGPT could be valuable.
"Educators can use AI programs such as ChatGPT, firstly, as a tool for helping students understand what generative AI is, as well as its advantages, disadvantages and contributions," he said. "Secondly, it could be used to save time when planning or writing content, allowing educators to gain a quick summary, or first draft of, easily verifiable information such as a newsletter article on current issues in education."
Checking to see who's using AI...with an AI tool
Insider also tested OpenAI's "AI Text Classifier" tool, launched January 31, to help determine if text is AI-generated.
In the end, the tool, typically used as an anti-cheating device, failed to tell Insider with confidence that the Civil War lesson plan was AI-generated.
OpenAI has acknowledged the tool's limitations including mislabeling both AI-generated and human-written text, and mistakes if text is written by children or in a language other than English.
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