AI tools can be used for a wide variety of educational purposes, including idea generation, conducting literature reviews, drafting, revising, and designing. They can be helpful tools for fostering critical thinking about AI-generated content or to introduce students to research processes in your field. In other words, they can be used as a tool to support or augment the writing, researching, editing, revisiting, or designing processes as opposed to simply replacing them.
While there are hundreds of free and subscription-based AI tools that can be integrated into your teaching and assignments, they can fall into three categories based on what the tools ultimately produce:
Many students and faculty alike are experimenting with AI tools right now, exploring the affordances of AI. Listen to CNDLS’ recent podcast episode on student and faculty perspectives on leveraging AI in teaching and learning to hear how students are using a range of these tools, and how faculty respond.
Generative AI tools create new content based on what they learn from their database(s). To make use of these tools, understanding how they work can improve how you and your students use them, or prompt them. We’ll explain ChatGPT as an example, below.
Though sometimes used interchangeably, ChatGPT and GPT are actually different pieces of technology. Built by the same research company, Open AI, the interactive chatbot app we know and use is ChatGPT. This chat platform is powered by GPT, a Large Language Model (LLM). Large Language Model refers to the technology that drives Natural Language Processing chatbots like ChatGPT, Bard, and Bing—LLMs “are trained on massive amounts of information scraped from the internet” and are designed to predict words based on likelihood, and cannot necessarily distinguish true information from predicted word sequences (Reidl 2023).
LLMs often “hallucinate” or offer information that isn’t true, nor can it be cited (Weise and Metz, 2023). But GPT models are continuously being improved. For example, while the industry standard is still GPT-3, newer versions such as GPT-4 will continue to be developed (Alston 2023).
Despite the tendency to hallucinate, text-based AI tools can still be extremely useful, if they’re prompted appropriately. "Prompting" in the context of AI refers to the specific language entered into a chatbot platform like ChatGPT. Also called “prompt engineering,” teaching students to skillfully craft input into an AI tool can help them learn how to ask useful questions of AI. To explore more on prompt engineering, see Alby 2023, Chen 2023, Huang 2023, Riedl 2023, Saravia 2023, and Weise and Metz 2023.
Here we’ve outlined what types of AI tools there are, and what they can assist with:
Help students with writer's block, develop potential theses, and revise their writing. Learn more about how these tools work—and therefore, how to best use them—on our AI Resources page.
Generate images based on natural text prompts. These can be used for creative projects in classes that might lend themselves to art and visual aids.
Create slide decks, presentation notes, and transcribe meetings. If you choose to use these tools to create lecture slides, they might be better trusted with design choices than content creation.
See also: this guide to generative AI tools and accompanying demo videos.
In Rebecca Helm’s class, students were first asked to prompt ChatGPT to write a four-paragraph essay on an expert-level topic of their choosing. Then, students were asked to write a companion piece analyzing each paragraph of ChatGPT’s essay.
In Janet Gomez’s class, students examine their perceptions of a female ruler, share their perceptions using visuals, and reflect on their biases on female leadership using AI.
All the tools named above are available for free, at least right now. Head to their home pages to get started (see tables above). And before implementing the use of these tools in your assignments or course altogether, consider the University’s policies regarding the use and citation of AI tools.
You can always contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or receive more immediate assistance by completing our consultation request form.
Alby, Cynthia. (2023). AI Prompts for Teaching: A Spellbook. [Document]
Chen, Brian X. (May 2023). “Get the Best from ChatGPT with these golden prompts.” New York Times.
Huang, P. (June 2023). ChatGPT Cheat Sheet. The Neuron.
Riedl, A. (2023). A Very Gentle Introduction to Large Language Models without the Hype. Medium.
Saravia, E. (2022).Prompt Engineering Guide. Democratizing Artificial Intelligence Research, Education, and Technologies.
Weise, K. and Metz C. (2023). When A.I. Chatbots Hallucinate. The New York Times.