Chat GPT and Inquiry Learning

By now you’ve probably heard of Chat GPT, and perhaps some of the issues it’s raising in the realm of the internet, especially in the world of education. While some people find Chat GPT to be quite controversial, there are also many interesting ideas emerging for how to utilize it in classrooms.

Chat GPT is an AI chatbot tool that was first developed by OpenAI in November 2022. Its main function is to replicate a normal conversation you’d have with another human. Virtually anything you ask Chat GPT to answer or find, it can do within seconds.

In the past few months, it’s received a lot of attention online, particularly in the world of education. So, the question is, how can we explore the functions, purpose, and future implications using inquiry-based learning? There are already several articles that dissect the problems with Chat GPT and offer ways to mitigate its intrusion. This article will focus more on the potential it carries, including its benefits and some ways to integrate it into the inquiry classroom.

4 Ways to Integrate Chat GPT into the Inquiry Classroom

Chat GPT can be a valuable tool in inquiry-based learning. It can provide students with a wealth of information and resources on a wide range of topics. Like using gaming and gamification, there are many fun and useful ways to incorporate Chat GPT in any educational setting. Here are a few ways it can be used in the inquiry classroom:

1. Generating High-Quality Questions

Questions are what drive inquiry learning. In order for students to be switched-on about their learning, the topic or question needs to be relevant to them. Questions should ignite student curiosity and motivate them to ask further questions. However, oftentimes students have trouble coming up with a question that is both broad enough to explore and narrow enough to really dig into. We’re written in-depth about the importance of creating high-quality questions and how to help students form rich driving questions to facilitate learning.

However, sometimes students just get stuck. This is where Chat GPT can come in handy. It can be used to generate questions on a given topic, which can help students identify gaps in their understanding. Due to its massive database of information, it can help prompt students to consider different perspectives on a topic. Furthermore, it can model the inquiry process by generating questions based on student responses. In turn, this can help students understand how to ask deeper, more specific questions that can guide their inquiry.

Some downsides…

While it’s still good practice to have some pre-developed inquiry questions to help struggling students, using Chat GPT can be a huge lifesaver when it comes to finding the perfect question. The only potential downsides are ensuring that the questions:

  • Are grade-level appropriate for your students: The questions might seem interesting, but perhaps may be a bit too ambitious for some students
  • Align with your curriculum topics and strands for that grade: For example, studying dinosaurs during a unit about light and optics isn’t the best match
  • Will mesh well with the expectations for your grade level: For instance, conducting an inquiry on Indigenous traditions would work well for a 1st grade class, but shifting the query to focus on water sustainability in Indigenous communities would be more suitable for an 8th grade class.

2. Analyzing the Quality of Inquiry Questions

In addition to generating helpful questions, Chat GPT can also analyze student responses. For example, if a student is inquiring about Space X capabilities, they would type in “inquiry questions about Space X”:

Once they’ve found a question they want to explore, they can then ask Chat GPT to analyze it. Here’s an example of an analysis for the question “What are the major challenges and risks involved in SpaceX’s efforts to make human space travel more routine and accessible?”:

As you can see, Chat GPT has deemed the question to be a good one, and explains the reasoning behind that determination:

  • It is open-ended, allowing for an exploration of the “technical, operational, and safety challenges that SpaceX must overcome”
  • The question can lead to further discussions on the “economic and regulatory challenges that SpaceX may face in achieving its goals”
  • It can provide insight into the company’s “progress and limitations in making space travel more accessible to the general public”

Of course, analyzing inquiry questions is part of the inquiry process. The skills of analyzing and evaluating are found in all corners of the Ontario curriculum and are transferable to many areas of life. Students need regular exposure to different questions and the tools to determine if they meet the criteria of a “good” inquiry question. Chat GPT, like many tools, should be used in the right context, at the right times.

3. Evaluating the Credibility of Chat GPT

In general, Chat GPT is a useful resource for finding information and answering questions. It was trained on a large dataset of diverse text sources (for example, books, websites, and other written materials). In addition, it has extensive filtering and quality control measures. This helps ensure that the data it learned from was accurate and reliable. It’s safe to say that Chat GPT has some amazing capabilities; however, there are some limitations.

In fact, there is a disclaimer on the main page stating that:

  • Incorrect information might be generated occasionally
  • Harmful instructions or biased content might occasionally be shown
  • Chat GPT has limited knowledge of the world and events after 2021

Like all language models, Chat GPT is not human. It is bound to make some mistakes. And, as the disclaimer states, it may not have access to the most up-to-date information or context needed to provide the most accurate answers.

In light of this, some might wonder how credible Chat GPT actually is, and whether or not it is reliable. This is a great inquiry because not only does it appeal to students who are curious about the way technology works, but it also flexes students’ critical thinking skills. Determining the credibility of something like Chat GPT encourages students to think critically about its purpose and its broad implications. Analyzing its credibility requires a deep dive into its functionality. Furthermore, it also requires a whole host of related computer science and AI knowledge.

An interesting experiment students can try with Chat GPT is to test its credibility through a series of questions about a topic they know well. This will help them assess whether Chat GPT is providing accurate and reliable information, or if mistakes are being made. Another cool thing students can do is ask Chat GPT to provide sources for its answers. Like with Wikipedia, students can then visit the direct source where the compiled information has come from.

4. Facilitate Scenario-Based Learning Simulations

Chat GPT can be a useful tool for scenario-based learning, which involves presenting learners with realistic situations and challenges and asking them to apply their knowledge and skills to solve problems. Here are some ways in which Chat GPT can be used in this context:

  • Simulations: Chat GPT can be used to create realistic simulations and challenges involving real-world scenarios. These include scenarios like customer service interactions, medical consultations, or legal disputes. Learners can interact with the chatbot as if they were interacting with a real person, and practice applying their knowledge and skills in a safe, low-stakes environment.
  • Feedback and Coaching: Chat GPT can provide learners with instant feedback and coaching on their responses to scenarios. The chatbot can analyze the learner’s responses and provide feedback on areas where they need improvement. They could also provide suggestions for alternative responses.
  • Customization: Learning goals and objectives of a scenario-based learning activity can be customized using Chat GPT. For example, it can be programmed to respond differently to learners based on their level of expertise or to reflect different cultural or linguistic contexts. For more information about the issue here is a great article on Substack that addresses the “un-biasing” of human feedback.

Useful and Fun Chat GPT Inquiry Ideas for Elementary and High School Students

1. How might chatbots make jobs disappear?

This is one of the most popular questions I’ve come across in my classes over the past few months. Students are curious to know the implications for jobs as AI technologies grow more useful, powerful, and omniscient. It’s important to remember that, just like any other automation technology, Chat GPT and other chatbots have the potential to eradicate certain jobs, or lessen their demand.

Students can choose a job type and explore the implications of Chat GPT on that particular line of work. For example, students can investigate customer service, data entry and processing, sales, translation, or administrative support jobs to see how they might be impacted by chatbots like GPT.

Alternatively, students can explore the potential AI has for creating job opportunities in areas like chatbot development, maintenance, and customization. This would require some knowledge of computer science and AI beforehand, but is a great option for students who have a more optimistic vision for a world with AI. 

2. What are the ethical and social implications of using Chat GPT in education, healthcare, or customer service?

Another popular concern among students is what the ethical and social implications of using Chat GPT are. While some students are happy to rely on AI to help them with schoolwork and other tasks, others question whether it is ethical to offload personal responsibility onto a chatbot. These questions are both valuable and relevant, as there are certainly ethical and social implications to consider.

First, the issue of privacy and data protection is probably the most pressing concern on most people’s minds. The use of Chat GPT in the fields of education, healthcare, or any profession with frequent public interaction is likely to involve the collection and processing of sensitive personal data. Some examples include health records, educational records, and call logs. There is a need to ensure that such data is protected and used only for intended purposes. But how can this protection be ensured?

Second, students might want to explore the issue of bias. As mentioned above, OpenAI has been accused of providing biased responses to users. According to the article referenced, OpenAi is working on a new model that allows users to “define your AI’s values, within broad bounds”, meaning users will be able to customize their version of Chat GPT.

Some students will likely be interested in exploring the potential implications of customizing a service based on individual values. For example:

  • How might customizing Chat GPT based on personal values introduce bias into the chatbot’s responses?
  • In what ways can Chat GPT manipulate users by presenting them with biased or misleading information?
  • Why is it dangerous to engage in chats with AI that has the power to reinforce existing biases and stereotypes?
  • How can users avoid creating echo chambers, in which they are only exposed to viewpoints that align with their own values?
  • What types of permissions would be required to customize Chat GPT based on a person’s values?

3. In what ways can Chat GPT be used to support language learning for new immigrants in Canada?

According to the Ontario government website, the province is home to some of the most multilingual student populations in the world. However, the level and accessibility of support available to students is a growing concern for many schools in the province. Even schools with strong support, such as the recent “language friendly” designation awarded to Glendale Secondary School earlier this year, some teachers and support workers find it difficult to support language learning for new students.

Conducting an inquiry into how Chat GPT can fill in some missing gaps is a useful and practical way to better understand the issue and consider solutions to solve the problem.

Currently, Chat GPT can help with:

  • Peer Review and Collaboration: When students have gathered information for their inquiry, and want to discuss or review what they’ve found, Chat GPT can be a great way to facilitate collaboration among students. In particular, students who are working on the same project can use Chat GPT to share ideas, ask questions, and provide valuable feedback to one another. This can help them work together more effectively and produce better outcomes.
  • Language Support: Chat GPT can provide language support to students and their families are not fluent in the local language. For example, it can be programmed to provide simple translations, or more complex explanations of legal or administrative language. In turn, this can make it easier for new immigrants to navigate their new environment. It can also support parents who don’t speak the language of their new country, but their child does.
  • Cultural Information: When moving to a new country, it can be difficult to adjust to your new surroundings. It can also be daunting to try and navigate a new city not only with limited language understanding, but also with a limited understanding of an unfamiliar culture. Chat GPT can provide information about a country’s customs, traditions, and social norms. This can be invaluable to new immigrants by helping them adjust more quickly and reduce culture shock.

Even with these great uses, there is potential for expansion. Students might like to design a “day in the life” of a new student and explore the ways in which Chat GPT could be used to help them navigate their first day of school. They could also explore how Chat GPT is currently used and create a recommendation for how to use it more effectively in the future, or in a different setting.

Key Takeaways:

1) Chat GPT is an AI chatbot tool. Its main function is to replicate a normal conversation you’d have with another human

2) Chat GPT can be a valuable tool in inquiry-based learning. It can provide students with a wealth of information and resources on a wide range of topics

3) Generating questions, analyzing pre-existing questions, and exploring future scenarios with Chat GPT are some of the ways to make use of this new technology in the classroom

Have you used Chat GPT in your classroom?

Leave a comment below about how your experience has been, or join the conversation on Instagram!

Cover photo by Airam Dato-on

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