Chat GPT is the natural language processing technology that has launched a thousand think pieces, with some of the more dire prognostications predicting the end of various aspects of the education system as we know it. From English class to homework to college admissions essays, Chat GPT has been characterized as delivering a deathblow to these entrenched and familiar educational practices. It’s understandable that the emergence of Chat GPT has sparked speculation of this sort, but the hysteria around its emergence is obscuring the very real and transformative applications of this technology, especially with respect to educational equity.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, calls for equity in education have become more urgent and widespread. Many educators and policymakers are motivated and committed to retooling policies and rethinking practices in pursuit of closing the achievement gap. However, despite Herculean efforts from classroom teachers and unprecedented investments from local officials across the country, we have yet to fully achieve this dream.
While Chat GPT alone cannot single-handedly solve such a complex issue, it can serve as a powerful tool for bringing about meaningful change in the systems and structures that have historically favored certain groups of students over others. By shifting our perspective and seeing Chat GPT as a starting point in our pursuit of more equitable educational practices, rather than as a threat to the status quo, we can begin to appreciate its potential to support neurodiverse students, students from marginalized populations, and students from non-traditional families. It is important to recognize that achieving true equity in education requires a comprehensive approach and cannot be accomplished by any single tool or solution. However, Chat GPT can play a crucial role in helping us work towards a more inclusive and equitable education system.
As classroom teachers and school leaders, we are not responsible for the root cause of these inequities, but, as is our moral imperative, we are responsible to combat them. Chat GPT may not be a silver bullet, but it does add a practical and powerful tool to our arsenal. If used appropriately, Chat GPT can serve as a powerful multifunctional learning device to level the playing field between our most disadvantaged and privileged students. Let’s take a look at a few of Chat GPT’s functions that can help educators continue the critical and pressing work of addressing systemic disparities in our classrooms and schools:
- Cost-Free Tutoring: SAT/ACT tutors typically charge between $45 and $100 per hour and have been shown to increase students’ scores by up to 20%. It’s no surprise, then, that The College Board recently found that “students from families with an annual income of more than $200,000 scored an average of 388 points higher on the SAT than those from families making less than $20,000 annually.” These same students also tend to have an advantage when it comes to preparing for tests and quizzes in school. Often, these students have at least one adult at home who can introduce them to test-taking strategies or simply serve as a study partner to prepare for an exam. Chat GPT possesses the capability to simulate this role for less advantaged students. Chat GPT provides free individualized and responsive tutoring programs that are tailored to meet any student’s needs across all subjects and grade levels. By inputting just a few keywords, Chat GPT can generate customized questions or prompts for students preparing for exams, allowing them to get additional practice in a simulated test-taking environment. It can also create flashcards, practice tests, and even give personalized feedback and suggestions on additional study topics. Most importantly, however, in an age when our most privileged students have started to hire “homework therapists,” Chat GPT can provide students with resources and techniques for managing stress and anxiety during exam season, including tips for relaxation, visualization, or positive thinking. By providing personalized practice materials, study aids, and test-taking strategies, Chat GPT can help us address the well-documented inequities of testing culture.
- Cost-Free Learning Support: Many of us struggle with executive functioning, but these struggles can be especially pronounced for neurodiverse and 2e (twice exceptional) students. These students often have to expend a great deal of effort just to prepare to learn, which can leave them cognitively fatigued by the time the learning begins in earnest. While some of these students may receive learning support services, many are underserved and left to develop strategies on their own. Chat GPT can help mitigate these challenges by providing students with tools and strategies to manage their time and prioritize tasks. For example, Chat GPT can offer tips for creating a study schedule, break down large projects into smaller, more manageable chunks, and generate visual organizers to help students create and complete their to-do list. Chat GPT can even be set up to send reminders or notifications about upcoming deadlines, appointments, or other important events. Beyond organization and personal management tools, Chat GPT can also generate outlines for papers or projects to help students organize their thoughts and summarize longer readings or lectures to help students recall and retain information. By using Chat GPT, neurodiverse and 2e students can develop the executive functioning skills they need to minimize roadblocks and reveal their true academic potential.
- Cost-Free Social Skills Training: Chat GPT can be especially beneficial for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including students with Asperger syndrome. Students with ASD, in particular, may struggle with social communication and interaction, which can make it difficult for them to build and maintain relationships with their peers. However, a study has suggested that with the help of AI programs, children with ASD can improve their communication and social skills by almost 30%. One reason that AI programs can be effective tutors for children with ASD is that they can repeat instructions, stories, and answers numerous times without getting tired. By using Chat GPT to provide simulated practice conditions, students can receive personalized feedback and guidance on social communication and interaction, as well as practice with how to assertively advocate for their own needs and preferences. Chat GPT can also be used to provide practice in managing emotions and resolving conflicts through the creation of role-playing scenarios. For example, Chat GPT could present a scenario in which a student has to ask a teacher for an extension on a project deadline, or negotiate with a peer to complete a group project. Through role-playing using Chat GPT, students can practice expressing their needs and feelings, and learn how to navigate potential objections or resistance in an increasingly confident and replicable manner.
Despite the sensationalized headlines surrounding Chat GPT, it’s important to recognize that it is not reinventing the wheel in education. It is simply a tool that is speeding up the already ongoing transformation of the education system. Chat GPT alone cannot achieve our educational goals, but it is a valuable resource in working towards a more equitable and inclusive education system. By utilizing Chat GPT to its full potential, we can make previously unrealized progress towards realizing this vision.
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