Recently a bunch of you have been asking, “So, Dave, what're your thoughts on ChatGPT? Is this the end of English? The end of teaching? The end of thought!?!?!?!?” And while I'm already exhausted by all the hot takes on this in the education world, I am willing to give some lukewarm takes after having thought about it for a while and tried the ChatGPT out a bit.
But first, I'm not an expert on cutting edge instruction. Such expertise holds no interest for me. I do not desire being the best or brightest or most successful. I am, instead, confident that I am a good teacher and confident that I get better every year. I am also confident that each of my students tends to experience an enjoyable and productive learning environment each time they're with me. I'm grateful for and satisfied with this.
So, ChatGPT. A few thoughts:
1) The hubbub is familiar, yet Everest still stands.
I remember similar buzzing when things like online courses were coming out. And then with individualized learning platforms. And then when all the Teacher YouTubers started publishing top-notch content that made my instructional abilities seem like those of a cognitively average cow. And then oh-my-goodness-the-noise-and-pressure during the shift to distance learning.
Through all of this, I've had one Everest for my work with students: in my classroom, we are all about becoming better thinkers, readers, writers, speakers, and people.
And so, in a world with ChatGPT cranking out cogent written responses to school prompts, guess what? That old Everest statement is as relevant as it's ever been, thanks completely to the fact that I made it to be plain and timeless.
2) “We can use it to guide thinking,” but I probably won't any time soon.
As I was saying, I'm not the cutting edge instruction guy, so I don't have plans any time soon to use ChatGPT with my students. But I hear the folks who are saying it could be used cleverly during parts of the brainstorming or drafting or research or discussion process, to which I say, “Cool.” I am positive that there are brilliant applications of this new technology in all kinds of classrooms. At the same time, I am positive that even in a ChatGPT world, the most common form of technology used by my students will still be the spiral notebook.
3) Credible teachers need to keep casting the vision about what school is for.
In the travels and conversations and research and writing that led to my coming book on student motivation, I've become rock-solid convinced of this truth: most students don't know what school is for. Most students don't hear enough adults speak of clear and compelling cases for school. And as a result, most students experience school as something done to them rather than a work of love crafted for them. (And indeed, in too many cases, school is the former, not the latter.)
In my classroom, that's one thing the Everest statement helps to remedy. I tell my students that we're doing this work of learning not simply because we'll use it someday — bleck — but because the journey of learning is going to transform us into people we'll never become if we forgo it. There's just no escaping the realities of how our minds change — through work done with care.
And so, will it be possible for a student to pass off ChatGPT writing for her own in school? I'm sure it will. But will such passing off do much for the growing of the student — for advancing her ability to flourish long-term? I don't think so.
These are the kinds of conversations with students that interest me most right now regarding ChatGPT. I want to have these conversations curiously, passionately — but not adversarially, not antagonistically, not from a place of “I'm afraid ChatGPT is outmoding my job.”
Because frankly, there's no cause for those latter things.
It's not us in contest with our students.
It's not us against them.
And there's not a technology around that can replace the power of a Credible teacher with students.
Teaching right beside you,
P.S. You know what'd be a great help in a ChatGPT world? Teacher Credibility signal boosters.
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