The sky is falling: ChatGPT in classrooms

What is ChatGPT? Depending on who you ask, ChatGPT is the downfall of education. (And man, haven’t we heard that before). Others believe ChatGPT (and other AI generator tools) are heralds of a new, more thoughtful education experience.

On a basic level, ChatGPT is an AI generator of text. The user plugs in a prompt word or phrase and the tool creates a text-based response. The tool uses a data set to create better (more targeted) responses. There even exists an AI generation tool in WordPress that people can use to (hypothetically) create blog posts.

How do I know I’m reading an AI generated text?

The following is AI generated using the WordPress feature:

It’s hard to know whether a text was created by an AI or a human, as they often share many characteristics that make it hard to distinguish between one or the other. However, AI generated texts are usually shorter than most human-written texts and they often lack subtle elements that can make a human-written text stand out, such as figurative language and complex sentence structures. AI generated texts are likely to have generic (non-specific) terms and may have inconsistencies in their use of tenses, voice, and other linguistic features.

Human again: While it’s hard, look for errors (grammar and syntax). Humans make errors that cannot always be replicated by computer/algorithms. I often misspell simple words on my writing instance; I spell because as “becuase” and have to go back to fix it.

What are the Limitations?

ChatGPT can create incorrect (nonsensical) responses. Sometimes, ChatGPT cannot create a response and does not respond to the same prompt multiple times (in the same chat space). The tool does not understand the user wants a different response and will reiterate the earlier given response.

Here is the second time I tried to generate a coherent essay:

“Sure, I can help you with an essay. In order to get started, I’ll need to know the topic you want to write about. Once you have a topic in mind, we can work together to create an outline for your essay, including a clear thesis statement and supporting evidence. From there, you can begin writing your essay, using your outline as a guide. I’ll be happy to provide feedback and guidance throughout the process. So, what topic do you want to write about?”

Ethical issues

The most important ethical issue for AI generation tools is copyright. This is a two-fold problem. First, what data set did ChatGPT use to create their generation machine? They say, “We trained an initial model using supervised fine-tuning: human AI trainers provided conversations in which they played both sides—the user and an AI assistant.” But realistically, this human input model could not account for the amount of potential topics required by live users. This input was combined with the “InstructGPT dataset”. How were instructor texts acquired? Did the owners of the texts give permission? For ChatGPT, the answer is hidden or obscure. For other AI generators, the answer is no (and lawsuits are already on the horizon).

The second copyright problem is ChatGPT can generate material that pushes the bounds of copyright (fanfiction). Fanfiction has always existed as a grey area. But now, with easier generation, we may see more legal action to protect works and brands.

The issue most educators are concerned with is plagiarism. Plagiarism is taking someone else’s idea and representing it as your own. Does using an AI generation tool count as plagiarism? This is a question that has to be decided by instructors and colleges. Many are already creating policy against such tools.

Will ChatGPT generate an essay?

No, it seems ChatGPT (the free demo version) will not generate a full, coherent essay. The tool will generate ideas and an outline. As a college English instructor, the proposed outline is good, really good. Other AI tools DO generate a full essay.

Below is the prompt I input with the ChatGPT response text.

User Input: textual analysis essay

Sure, I’d be happy to help you with a textual analysis essay. To get started, we first need to choose a text for analysis. This can be a literary work, a movie, a news article, a speech, or any other piece of written or spoken language. Once you have chosen your text, you can follow these steps to write your essay:

  1. Introduction: Begin your essay with an introduction that provides background information about the text and its context. This could include information about the author, the historical period in which the text was written, or any relevant cultural or social issues that the text addresses. You should also include a clear thesis statement that outlines the main argument you will be making in your essay.
  2. Summary: Provide a brief summary of the text, highlighting the key events, themes, and characters. This will give your reader a sense of what the text is about and provide a foundation for your analysis.
  3. Analysis: This is the main part of your essay, where you will analyze the text in detail. Depending on the text and your thesis statement, your analysis could focus on a variety of elements, such as:
  • Characters: Examine how the characters are portrayed and what their motivations are. Are they fully developed or are they more like archetypes? How do they interact with each other?
  • Themes: Identify the major themes of the text and how they are developed. What ideas or messages does the text convey? How do these themes relate to the author’s historical or cultural context?
  • Language: Analyze the language the author uses and how it contributes to the meaning of the text. Consider the author’s tone, word choice, sentence structure, and other literary devices such as symbolism or metaphor.
  1. Conclusion: Sum up your main points and restate your thesis statement in a new way. You can also offer some final thoughts on the text, such as its relevance to contemporary issues or its lasting impact on literature or culture.

Remember to support your analysis with evidence from the text. This could include direct quotes or paraphrases that illustrate your points. And be sure to use clear, concise language that is appropriate for your audience and purpose. Good luck with your essay!

User Input: twilight

Sure, I can help you with a textual analysis essay on the book “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer. Here’s a sample outline:

  1. Introduction: Begin with a brief overview of the book and its significance. Provide some background information about the author and the genre of young adult paranormal romance. Then, introduce your thesis statement, which should clearly state the main argument you will be making in your essay.

Example thesis statement: “Through its portrayal of gender roles and relationships, Stephenie Meyer’s ‘Twilight’ reinforces traditional patriarchal norms and reinforces harmful messages about women’s agency.”

  1. Summary: Provide a brief summary of the book, focusing on the key events, characters, and themes. This will give your reader a sense of the book’s content and provide a foundation for your analysis.
  2. Analysis:

A. Gender Roles: Analyze the gender roles that are portrayed in the book. How are male and female characters represented? Are these representations consistent with traditional gender norms, or do they challenge them? Consider how the author’s portrayal of gender reinforces or subverts patriarchal ideals.

B. Romantic Relationships: Analyze the romantic relationships in the book. How are they portrayed? Do they reinforce or subvert traditional gender roles and expectations? Consider the power dynamics at play in these relationships, as well as any messages the book sends about women’s agency and autonomy.

C. Vampire Mythology: Analyze the vampire mythology that is presented in the book. How does the book depict vampires? What does this depiction say about gender roles, power dynamics, and the nature of desire? Consider how the book reinforces or subverts traditional vampire lore.

  1. Conclusion: Sum up your main points and restate your thesis statement in a new way. You can also offer some final thoughts on the book, such as its relevance to contemporary discussions about gender and sexuality in popular culture.

Remember to support your analysis with evidence from the book, including direct quotes and examples. Use clear and concise language that is appropriate for your audience and purpose. Good luck with your essay!

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