Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Checking Out ChatGPT

Unless you have been living under a rock or have banished daily news of all forms, you have heard about the latest platform in Artificial Intelligence: ChatGPT. ChatGPT is all over the news and has been almost daily for the last 3-4 months. 

ChatGPT was created by OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research lab in SanFrancisco created in 2015 with the goal of creating "friendly AI." There's a whole history lesson there, where you can learn all about it at Taskade's article "What is OpenAI?—Its History and How ChatGPT Is Changing the World."
ChatGPT launched November 30th, 2022, and it had over a million users in a matter of 5 days.
As educators, the buzz about it and what to do about it started almost instantly. Will it lead kids to cheat? Is the college essay dead? Should schools block this or embrace it? I will share a later post that will discuss some of the merits in the classroom that teachers can take advantage of AI & ChatGPT as a timesaver for busy teachers. 
When it first came to my attention (probably about the start of the new year), I tried repeatedly to get on to see it in action and I kept getting messages that the system was at capacity and they'd get back to me if I left an email address. I did, but they never did. 
I finally got a chance to play with ChatGPT mid-February, when they opened it up if you create an account. For now, it is free. Here's what you see when you login:
One of the first things I did was look into their FAQs. See if there wee any tips, tho the biggest one I knew: the more specific you are in what you ask, the better ChatGPT's response will be. 
One of the pieces that did strike me, however, was their general question of "Can I trust that AI is telling me the truth." This information is a good beacon to continually come back to:
Okay, so now that I was in, I start posing questions. My first question on February 19th was the following, just to see what it would post:
"Write an environmental education blog post for teachers 
about the 5 top eco win of the past year."
It was crazy quick how fast the information spit out!!! Full disclosure: this is verbatim what ChatGPT spit out in less than 2 minutes.
"As educators, it's important for us to stay up-to-date with the latest environmental news and progress. This past year, there have been some exciting wins in the fight against climate change and for environmental conservation. Here are the top five eco wins of the past year that we can celebrate and share with our students.

1. Renewable energy overtakes coal in the US

For the first time in over 130 years, renewable energy sources generated more electricity than coal in the United States. This is a significant milestone in the transition towards a clean energy economy, and it shows that renewable energy is becoming more economically viable than fossil fuels. This is a great opportunity for teachers to teach about the benefits of renewable energy and the importance of investing in sustainable energy infrastructure. 
2. Global agreement to protect 30% of the planet's land and sea by 2030

At the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China, more than 100 countries agreed to protect 30% of the planet's land and sea by 2030. This commitment is a significant step towards protecting biodiversity and preserving critical ecosystems. As teachers, we can use this as an opportunity to teach our students about the importance of conservation and the impacts of human activities on our planet.
3. Amazon rainforest deforestation hits a 10-year low
Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest decreased by 70% from August 2019 to July 2020, hitting a 10-year low. This is a significant win in the fight to preserve one of the world's most important ecosystems. As teachers, we can use this as an opportunity to teach our students about the importance of rainforests and the impacts of deforestation, as well as how we can support efforts to protect these critical ecosystems.
4. China commits to reaching net-zero emissions by 2060
China, the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, announced its commitment to reaching net-zero emissions by 2060. This is a significant milestone in the global fight against climate change and shows that even countries with high emissions can take meaningful action to reduce their impact on the planet. As teachers, we can use this as an opportunity to teach our students about the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the role of countries and individuals in mitigating climate change.
5. Plastic bag bans and restrictions continue to expand globally 
Countries around the world continue to implement bans and restrictions on single-use plastic bags, reducing the amount of plastic waste that ends up in our oceans and landfills. As teachers, we can use this as an opportunity to teach our students about the impacts of plastic pollution and the importance of reducing our plastic use.
In conclusion, the past year has seen some significant eco wins that we can celebrate and use as opportunities to educate our students about the importance of environmental conservation and sustainability. By sharing these wins with our students, we can inspire them to take action and work towards a more sustainable future."
Holy guacamole! That was a lot, and it was fascinating--both from the eco-win standpoint but also the speed and capability of the AI side of it. But, given my question above of "is it telling the truth," I decided this might be a good next follow up question in the same thread: 

"Include the citations where this information came from."
Again, almost faster than a blink of the eye, here is the response I got. I will say, it threw me off a smidge with the conversational tone:

"Sure, here are the sources for the information in my previous response:
Renewable energy overtakes coal in the US:Source: US Energy Information Administration. "Electricity in the United States". Retrieved 17 Feb 2023,
Global agreement to protect 30% of the planet's land and sea by 2030:Source: Convention on Biological Diversity. "Kunming Declaration: Adopted at the Fifteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity". Retrieved 17 Feb 2023,
Amazon rainforest deforestation hits a 10-year low:Source: Mongabay News. "Amazon deforestation fell by 70% in the past year". Retrieved 17 Feb 2023,
China commits to reaching net-zero emissions by 2060:Source: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. "China Commits to Carbon Neutrality before 2060". Retrieved 17 Feb 2023,
Plastic bag bans and restrictions continue to expand globally:Source: UN Environment Programme. "Plastic Waste: What you need to know". Retrieved 17 Feb 2023,"
With the exception of the Mongabay reference which I hadn't ever hear of before, these are some legit resources! [However, I have heard others on message boards report that this is not always the case--so do your homework!!]

I proceeded to ask a slew of other questions, more specifically about integrating ChatGPT in the classroom, but like I said, more on that later. It also left me pondering a slew of moral and philosophical questions and implications, making me wonder where this will all take us as a society. Didn't take long for me to feel like my head was completely spinning!
In a big way, it reminded me of falling down the rabbit hole of YouTube and the stereotypical "crazy cat videos." Posing question after question to ChatGPT is like that!
Just like an open tube of toothpaste, once it's squeezed and the toothpaste is out, there's no putting it back in. Same holds true for Pandora's box. Now that we have this capability, it's out there, and the technological advances will only continue to "speed racer" at double or quadruple the speed. AI is not going away! The slew of controversial conversations will only continue. Is it okay to use it as brainstorming or cutting through the writer's block, as long as we go in and edit it? I don't know. Would we accept that explanation from our students. Doubtful. That probably should be the guide. Is it okay to use it for thank you notes or resignation letters... or is it dumbing us all down? Seems like there are lots of parameters to figure out.
As all of this AI continues, let's just all hope we ALL make decisions to use this type of tech for the power of good, not the force of evil!!! 

Images from: Screenshot from when you first login to chat (Taken 2-25-2023), OpenAI/ChatGPT image from with Image Source: Amarujala

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