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AI Homeschool: How ChatGPT Can Help With Writing

By June 3, 2024No Comments

Homeschool families can and should use ChatGPT and other AI platforms to teach their children writing skills!

Tabitha Burt, MPE homeschool graduate and conference speaker on AI Homeschool and ChatGPT
Tabitha Burt, MPE homeschool graduate and conference speaker.

Why? Because it’s like the “calculator in our pocket” we were all told we wouldn’t have when we grew up.

“You still need to learn to do basic writing, but people expect it (ChatGPT) to take the place of a lot of writing functions,” says Tabitha Burt, MPE homeschool graduate, in a 2024 conference workshop, “ChatGPT & AI: A Homeschool Grad’s Perspective on How to Teach Writing.”

Tabitha shared some of her insights about ChatGPT based on her experience with the free 3.5 version, which isn’t connected to the Internet and doesn’t use any information after 2021.

With her permission, we’ve shared some of the highlights from her workshop – all written by a human, not ChatGPT!

What To Know About ChatGPT Writing

ChatGPT, or Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer, differs from a calculator in two ways:

  • We tend to use a calculator for more difficult math functions, but we often do basic math calculations in our heads.

ChatGPT is the opposite. “You want to do more complicated writing projects yourself, and then the easier writing projects can be done with ChatGPT and save you time,” Tabitha says.

  • Math is objective, but language is subjective.

“Math never changes. 2 + 2 always equals 4. But with language it changes over time, and it depends on what region you’re in, what how old you are and what period of history it is,” Tabitha says.

For way of illustration, Tabitha explored two words: “naughty” and “silly.” Naughty used to mean “having naught” or being poor. Over time, it changed to mean lacking in morals or moral character.

AI Homeschool ChatGPT

In the same way, silly used to mean happy or blessed, innocent and harmless, worthy of sympathy, lacking sense. Today it just means funny, Tabitha says.

“It’s harder for ChatGPT and other language software to grasp these intricacies of language because it changes so often.”

How To Teach Your Child To Recognize AI Writing

Don’t restrict ChatGPT because it will be around no matter what, Tabitha says. Instead, train your children how to use it responsibly and make their own writing even better!

Try going over the AI platform together with your child and generate some sample sentences and paragraphs. The more you read its writing, the more you can spot it in everyday life.

Humans naturally vary their sentence length and sentence structure. They also use quotations, which is something ChatGPT can’t do easily.

The chatbot also struggles to use adjectives naturally. Users have also commented on the limitations of its uniform punctuation in deciphering complex grammatical structures and rules. Watch out for example paragraphs like these:

George Washington Carver’s impact on the South was nothing short of a dazzling transformation, akin to the burst of colors and a vibrant spring garden with the landscape now bursting with nourishing and versatile crops. Carver’s impact was akin to the crescendo of a beautiful symphony, rejuvenating the Southern spirit and sowing the seeds of prosperity, innovation and a brighter tomorrow.”

Additionally, teach your children to identify “writer’s voice.” Reading books from different authors will help!

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For example, try comparing different passages from Mark Twain, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Dr. Seuss. You may want to keep the author’s identity a secret until after reading the passages. Then ask your child to identify which author wrote what.

4 Ways To Use ChatGPT & AI In Your Homeschool Writing

  • Use it for “big-picture” items like a brain dump.

Tabitha uses it when she’s experiencing writer’s block, e.g. writing a paper and “I know what I want to say, but I don’t know how I want to say it.”

“I’ll take everything I’m thinking and dump it in ChatGPT and have it write me a paragraph about it,” Tabitha says. “Then I’ll read that paragraph, and I never use it. I just read what it says, and then I’m unstuck and I can keep going.”

Another way Tabitha uses ChatGPT is with transitions: “If I have topic A and topic B and I don’t know how to get between them, I’ll just ask it to write me 5 or 10 transitions. And it’ll help me with it.”

  • Generate essay titles, topic ideas, and other starting points.

Another way ChatGPT can help budding homeschool writers is to suggest topic ideas or titles.

For example, Tabitha typed, “What are some unusual topics for kids’ papers about the Civil War?”

The chatbot promptly suggested medicine, pets, technology, music, entertainment, and spies – many of which can pique a child’s interest, Tabitha says.

“If they pick their own topic, they might be more inclined to put all their all into it and make it the best it can be.”

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  • Keep ChatGPT as a tool, not a substitute for old-fashioned research.

Tabitha told the story of a judge’s aide who spoke at her local community college class about ChatGPT. Apparently a lawyer had used ChatGPT to try to find legal case studies, but it had generated fake ones instead.

The judge rebuked the lawyer for using ChatGPT, reminding the lawyer that the AI platform hadn’t sworn an oath (like he had) to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!

In another example, Tabitha once tested ChatGPT to see whether it could provide her with references for an essay about J.R.R. Tolkien. While ChatGPT did cite an author who had written books about Tolkien, the date of publication and actual content of the “article” it generated were false.

  • Use citations independently of ChatGPT.

The AI platform has difficulty with citations, so Tabitha encourages teaching your children how to cite correctly to avoid any charges of plagiarism.

Ethical and Functional Issues With ChatGPT

As more people use ChatGPT, Tabitha notes judges of essay and other literature contests need to start recognizing and putting boundaries on AI-generated content.

One strategy is to request only handwritten papers, but this has its disadvantages when writing longer essays that require a lot of editing.

Instead, she says, judges should consider requiring quotations or other “human” tasks ChatGPT hasn’t mastered.

chatgpt and ai homeschooling

Plagiarism is another popular complaint against ChatGPT, as it was trained using Internet articles written by humans who weren’t paid for their contributions to the platform.

“One could make the argument that it’s unethical to use ChatGPT at all,” Tabitha says. “If your child is never taught to write and they just use ChatGPT for their writing assignment, they’ll develop a reliance on it and they won’t want to be able to write on their own.”

If the chatbot suspects you of saying something it considers hate speech, it will refuse to answer. However, that hasn’t stopped enterprising users from trying to reverse engineer it into saying something unethical.

“I did get it to write a haiku on hotwiring a car,” Tabitha says. She also cautions users about Playground AI, which generates images that could involve nudity and other questionable content.

Also, Tabitha says, have a family bookshelf. The more children read and enjoy writing for its own sake, the more equipped they’ll be to use ChatGPT and other AI tools in a responsible way.

“As long as kids are interested in the project and confident in their own abilities, they’ll be able to do a great job,” Tabitha says. “So basically, kids won’t want to use ChatGPT. They’ll know it is limited and they’ll have confidence that they are better.”

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