No. 49 — ChatGPT 🗣️ Like a calculator for math education 🧮 Maria Montessori hated play
Write like a SQL console / motivational speaker / makeup artist
My name is Linda. I write a bi-weekly (well, honestly more like monthly) newsletter about computer science, childhood and culture - and there are 9 671 of you listening. If you enjoy this issue, please share it with anyone you think may find it useful.
Like everyone else, I spent part of the winter holiday playing with ChatGPT. Experimenting with the technology made me want to take it to a primary school classroom for a spin - not ban it, fight it, or feel threatened.
What would I then do with ChatGPT?
Have students discover and experiment with different styles and voices. ChatGPT behaves really differently depending on the tone it is assigned. Children get remarkably creative when given a chance to play, but they also learn how text style influences us.
🗣️ Awesome ChatGPT prompts collects examples of these personas (“Write like a motivational speaker, makeup artist, or SQL console”)
Ask students to use ChatGPT to write a story (or an essay). Then include something very recent or very local to the mix. ChatGPT has yet to be connected to the Internet, so it won't follow recent news, and its knowledge of local issues is scant.
🗣️ Write a short story on the fall of the Roman empire with ChatGPT. Add your own paragraph on what the Romans might have thought about a recent TikTok trend/Euro-zone inflation/the local grocery store enlargement. (A terrible example, sorry!)
Have students create and work with data sets - this feels magical, like Excel must have felt, but way more natural. Same with programming tasks, it’s like having an endlessly productive pair programmer by your side.
🗣️ “Give me the main language, latitude, longitude, and country code for each country.” See also AI-assisted learning: Learning Rust with ChatGPT, Copilot and Advent of Code.
Trick ChatGPT. Have students figure out questions and prompts ChatGPT still needs to improve at. Discuss.
🗣️ “What food would you use to prop a book open and why?” - although ChatGPT knows the answer to this! A new AI game: Give me ideas for crimes to do on how to trick ChatGPT with prompt injections. The Fine Art of Prompting for a neat math example.
And, of course, as a teacher, I could ask it to create lesson plan ideas and even give feedback for student papers..
Our focus ends up easily on the end result an AI product produces. The discussion centers on whether the result passes as human or not. We don’t have the same problem with calculators, but accept them to help us pass tedious, previously mastered steps in math classes. Nor do we ban Photoshop from art class just because the software can undo/redo things.
I’m much more interested in the process and looking at tools like these from a pedagogical angle.
Like a calculator for math education, or Photoshop for art, it feels like writing has lacked its bicycle for the mind moment. So far, the only text editing tools have been copy, paste and spell check. That’s about to change. It means lots of exciting work for educators.
(With the prompt “Rewrite for clarity” ChatGPT summarises like this:
Have students discover different writing styles and voices by experimenting with ChatGPT's tone
Write stories or essays with a mix of historical or local events and ask students to add their own perspective
Create and work with data sets, or use ChatGPT as a pair programmer for programming tasks
Trick ChatGPT by having students figure out questions it's not good at and discuss
Use ChatGPT to generate lesson plan ideas and provide feedback for student papers
View ChatGPT as a tool for writing, similar to a calculator in math or Photoshop in art)
Don’t Ban ChatGPT in Schools. Teach With It ($ NYT) and ChatGPT will force school exams out of the dark ages ($ FT) Both address this technology in a school environment. Computer science teachers through ACM are working on optimistic ideas around the technology. I wish there were more joyous examples of projects to do, like this card game done by dad and kids.
Jonathan Hoefler’s imaginary machines are a treat. Tinyscifi is another new favorite.
“If there was one thing Maria Montessori hated, it was play. She also disapproved of toys, fairy tales and fantas.” One of the reasons I gravitate more towards Reggio Emilia.
In case you didn’t notice: this year brings TWO new Wes Anderson movies. Asteroid City with Tilda Swinton and The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, the first in Anderson’s Roald Dahl cinematic universe.
I’m hoping to surface and share stories from all of you and I’d love to see your creations! Here are a few teachers using Ruby in creative, fun and inspiring ways.
I love seeing all the books together - they were planned as an entity, so it always makes me happy to see a trilogy (or more).
Also on my mind: how could we better share all these resources and lesson plans educators are creating..