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Want to Try ChatGPT?

March 1, 2023
9 Great Ways for Teachers to Get Started

As a leader of Charter School Growth Fund’s new Innovation Team, Ian Connell is constantly searching for promising new classroom tools and techniques. So, when ChatGPT came out, he quickly recognized its potential to buy back valuable time for overburdened teachers. A recent Ed Week survey reported that less than half of a typical teacher’s work hours are spent on actual instruction. Connell believes the best initial leverage point is deploying the new AI to tackle administrative tasks.

“When you think about burnout and the unsustainable workload of teachers in the last few years, here’s a prime way to free up teachers to focus on students or even get some work life balance back,” he says.

Ian Connell
Ian Connell

Connell cautions that teachers should view ChatGPT as an assistant or “co-pilot,” not as a substitute for their personal attention and expertise. “It can get you 80% of the way on most administrative tasks,” Connell estimates. “But you still need teachers to engage very intentionally.”

In other words, it’s a great head start but not a great finisher. Connell believes the best way to responsibly integrate this new tech into classrooms is for teachers to start using it. “It’s good for teachers to develop an appreciation and familiarity of the pros and cons of ChatGPT,” he says. “That way they can create effective guardrails for when students begin to use it.”

Connell’s Top ChatGPT Tips for Novices:

1) Lesson Planning and Sequencing Units

“Most teachers have lesson plans done at the start of the year. But sometimes you need to readjust. Maybe you have to cut your 90-minute lesson down to 65 minutes. Or maybe you need to change the pace of instruction based on student progress. ChatGPT can break down a complex body of data and sequence it into 10 lessons of a certain length, with specific parameters. It streamlines a time-consuming chore in a matter of seconds, allowing teachers to focus on the high-level work of tailoring units to their classroom’s needs.”

2) Designing Project-Based Learning

“There’s tons of research on the benefits of PBL, but many teachers don’t have time to plan for it. ChatGPT could put together a science project about weather that integrates five unique concepts, for example. It can unlock teacher time by doing some of the legwork.”

3) Customized In-Class Writing or Discussion Prompts

“ChatGPT can instantly generate whatever prompts teachers need—incorporating articles, themes, or other components, and at different grade levels. It could give you the basis for a Socratic discussion. It just lowers the cognitive load for teachers, so they can spend time on more meaningful aspects of the lesson like digging into second and third-level questions.”

4) Real-Time Quizzes and Checks for Understanding

“Let’s say there is a reading assignment, but every kid has a different independent reading book. In about a minute, ChatGPT can generate customized standards-based quizzes for 30 kids that are specific and relevant to each story, providing tailored data on student learning for a teacher to review.”

5) Personalized Learning Goals for Students

“If you have a student who is lagging in a certain area, you could tell ChatGPT what material needs to be covered and have it outline an appropriate set of goals. Differentiation is so hard and takes so much time. ChatGPT can help teachers think through how to adjust instruction for kids who are learning at different paces.”

6) Learning Extension or Acceleration

“Teachers often focus on kids who are behind. But what about students who are running fast? This is a huge area where ChatGPT can generate ideas for pushing students forward and think of new ways to extend their learning.”

7) Grading and Providing Feedback on Writing

“Most teachers wish they could give more writing feedback. Here’s a place where you really need to co-pilot, but it’s a huge opportunity for kids to get feedback quickly. It takes more sophistication, but ChatGPT can even be prompted to evaluate student writing against a rubric or sample.”

8) Synthesizing Progress Reports

“A lot of teachers have to give presentations to colleagues on grade-level teams about how students are progressing. ChatGPT is the tool to synthesize a lot of data into the format you need. Of course, you have to be very intentional about the inputs and review the product carefully. Don’t just take it as is.”

9) Communicating with Parents, Caregivers and Stakeholders

“When teachers need to email parents, there may only be a few sentences of specific information to share. But getting the tone, context, phrasing and pleasantries just right turns out to be a high mental load. Now you can ask ChatGPT to ‘write a pleasant email about these two bullets.’ It’s like having a junior executive assistant to draft your email. You still have to edit it, but it gets you pretty far.”

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