Teen using Chat GPT

How ChatGPT Affects You and Your Homeschool

Help! There’s a Robot in My Classroom!

What is ChatGPT?

If you’ve been listening to the media recently, you may have become aware of the artificial intelligence (AI) chat bot, ChatGPT, and the chaos it has created in all levels of education.

This is not the first time that AI has managed to produce a working chatbot-–if you’ve ever tried to get help from on online chat service at Amazon or Best Buy, you’ve likely already learned to tell the difference between getting auto-generated responses from a robot and interacting with a Real Live Person.

However, ChatGPT is causing a stir because it’s almost frighteningly good at imitating human conversations. Perhaps its personality is a bit boring and snarky, but it isn’t immediately apparent that you’re speaking to a robot. Oh, and also, ChatGPT claims that it can produce original thought, writing unique poems, essays, and perhaps even exam papers.

What can ChatGPT do?

For many teachers, this is The Nightmare—a robot that can pass any homework assignment without plagiarizing!

Before you panic, however, let’s investigate what ChatGPT is actually capable of. Below you can read some of the prompts I put into the AI chatbot, read its responses, and judge for yourself whether this will change your life forever.

Experiment 1: Poetry

I decided to start off with the difficult stuff right away and asked ChatGPT to write a poem about cherry trees in spring.

The chatbot wasn’t the fastest at generating this poem, but it is actually rather decent! I was pleasantly surprised at the images used (bursting branches, shaking souls, etc.), and the bot was able to hold to a relatively consistent rhyme scheme. (The lineation leaves much to be desired, but this isn’t so far off what I’ve seen from many middle school and high school students.)

Chat GTP Poem Homeschool

As the first poem went so well, I put the same prompt in again to see if ChatGPT really could come up with something unique every time. Again, the word choice isn’t fabulous, but the bot did select a different rhyme scheme and pulled in a few new images that all related to the springtime theme. So far, so good for AI!

Chat GTP Poetry

Now, being a glutton for punishment, what did I try but asking for another poem! This is where I started to get a bit bored. True, another poem was generated, but something about the voice began to pale— the same approach, the same expected images. Yet, the poem would still probably pass a middle or high school poetry writing class, so another success for the chatbot there.

poetm written by chat gtp

Experiment 2: Essay Writing

Since the chatbot delivered on its promise insofar as poetry goes, I thought it was time to try out some essay prompts.

I began small, simply asking for a thesis statement on a relatively common theme from Hamlet. ChatGPT was able to take my request and come up with a basic, yet serviceable, thesis statement. I would say that there isn’t much of an argument in it, certainly nothing too original, but it still would get a student started on a rough draft.

Chat GTP example thesis statement

I decided to expand into paragraph territory, asking for a whole paragraph on the same theme. The chatbot wasn’t able to use any quotes from the text itself (usually a requirement in this type of writing), nor did it incorporate any sources, but it was able to source the names of some of the major characters and reference some of the events from the play, even referencing character development throughout the course of the plot.

Example of Chat GPT opening paragraph

Time for the next step! I asked ChatGPT to write a three-paragraph essay on the same theme, still using Hamlet as my experiment. These results reflected the shortcomings of the paragraph—no use of the text itself, no secondary sources—but again the basic structure was present. Much of the content was repeated, even though this was meant to be a new text. Somehow, the internet sources ChatGPT is pulling from are obsessed with the human psyche, so take that as Disturbing if you will.

Chat GPT example of essay

Generated text:
William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a play that explores the theme of madness in a profound and multifaceted way. The play’s central character, Hamlet, feigns madness as part of his plan to uncover the truth behind his father’s murder and avenge his death. However, as the play progresses, it becomes increasingly unclear whether Hamlet is truly insane or merely acting. This ambiguity serves to heighten the sense of tension and suspense in the play, as the audience is left to wonder whether Hamlet’s madness is genuine or a carefully crafted facade.
In addition to Hamlet’s madness, the play also features other characters who exhibit varying degrees of insanity. Ophelia, Hamlet’s love interest, is perhaps the most tragic example of madness in the play. Following the death of her father and her subsequent rejection by Hamlet, Ophelia’s mind becomes unhinged, and she descends into a state of complete and utter madness. Her behavior and rambling speeches serve as a stark contrast to the composed and rational characters of the play, highlighting the destructive power of unchecked emotions.
The theme of madness in Hamlet serves as a means for Shakespeare to explore the complexities of the human psyche and the dangers of unchecked emotions. Through the various characters who exhibit madness throughout the play, Shakespeare highlights the fragility of the human mind and the ease with which one’s sanity can be lost. Moreover, by blurring the lines between sanity and madness, Shakespeare invites the audience to question the very nature of reality and the extent to which our perceptions of the world are shaped by our own biases and beliefs. Overall, the theme of madness in Hamlet is a powerful and thought-provoking element of the play that continues to resonate with audiences today.

I tried running the same prompt again, but somehow this time the chatbot gave me four paragraphs? Not so good at following directions…. (But perhaps this is an attempt at authenticity! I know more than a few students who would have done the same.)

In terms of content, there was little difference between the two essays. They were still obsessed with the human psyche and the three characters of Hamlet, Ophelia, and Claudius. (Those seem to be the only three on offer in ChatGPT’s sources.)

AI example of Hamlet essay

Generated text:
William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet is renowned for its exploration of the theme of madness, which is central to the story. Throughout the play, various characters exhibit different forms of insanity, serving to highlight the complexities of the human psyche and the consequences of unchecked emotions and desires. Hamlet, the tragic hero, feigns madness as part of his plan to uncover the truth behind his father’s death and enact revenge upon his uncle, King Claudius. However, as the play progresses, Hamlet’s sanity becomes increasingly questionable, and his behavior becomes more erratic, suggesting that his feigned madness may have turned into true insanity.
Another character who succumbs to madness in Hamlet is Ophelia, Hamlet’s love interest. Following the murder of her father, Polonius, and Hamlet’s subsequent rejection of her, Ophelia’s mind deteriorates, and she begins to exhibit signs of madness. Her behavior becomes erratic, and she starts to sing nonsensical songs, becoming a tragic victim of the world in which she finds herself. The madness of Ophelia highlights the vulnerability of women in the male-dominated society of the time, and the way in which their mental health could be affected by the actions of men around them.
Finally, King Claudius, the play’s main antagonist, exhibits a kind of moral madness. His guilt and desire for power drive him to increasingly immoral and desperate actions, as he attempts to maintain his hold on the throne and avoid exposure for his crimes. The madness of King Claudius serves to highlight the corrupting influence of power and the way in which it can drive individuals to act in ways that are destructive to themselves and those around them.
In conclusion, the theme of madness in Hamlet is a powerful and compelling element of the play, serving to explore the complexities of the human psyche and the consequences of unchecked emotions and desires. Through the characters of Hamlet, Ophelia, and King Claudius, Shakespeare creates a world in which madness is both a tool and a consequence of the actions of individuals, highlighting the tragic nature of the human experience and the destructive power of unchecked desires.

Overall, the prose is somehow more lacking than the poetry, which was a bit of a surprise to me!

Experiment 3: Foreign language

Can ChatGPT help in a foreign language class? Well, it will certainly have a go! I tried running two relatively basic prompts into the AI bot.

First, I asked it to compose a paragraph in Spanish about a summer vacation. It didn’t turn out to be the worst— it is indeed about a summer vacation and in Spanish, but going to the beach and eating delicious food at restaurants is hardly thrilling originality. Again, however, it gets the job done!

Example GPT homeschool assignment

Time to try another language popular with the homeschool community! Can ChatGPT help with Latin homework? Again, it is about as good as the Google translate from which it probably learned its stuff.

Chat GTP homeschool example

Experiment 4: Catholic Apologetics

At this point, I wanted to see how good ChatGPT would be at answering thought questions, so I decided to ask it some basic questions that might come up in a Catholic apologetics course.

I was rather pleasantly surprised to find that AI isn’t as much of a heretic as one might have expected! The pattern of a dull writing style persisted, but the answers were relatively clear and stuck more or less to the question topic.

Example of Chat GPT homeschooling

Chat GPT example Catholic Church

Generated text:
The Catholic Church teaches that human sexuality is a sacred gift from God, and that it should be expressed within the context of a committed, lifelong marriage between one man and one woman. They believe that sexual intimacy is a unitive and procreative act that should be reserved for the marital relationship, and that any sexual activity outside of marriage is contrary to God’s plan for human sexuality.
The Church also teaches that every person is created in the image of God, with inherent dignity and worth, and that they should be respected and valued regardless of their sexual orientation. However, the Church believes that homosexual acts are morally disordered and contrary to the natural law, and that individuals with same-sex attraction should live chaste lives.
Furthermore, the Catholic Church teaches that contraception, sterilization, and abortion are contrary to God’s plan for human sexuality and the sanctity of life. They believe that the purpose of sexual activity is both to unite spouses and to be open to the gift of new life, and that any interference with this natural process is morally wrong.
In summary, the Catholic Church teaches that human sexuality is a gift from God that should be expressed within the context of a committed, lifelong marriage between one man and one woman, and that any sexual activity outside of marriage, as well as contraception, sterilization, and abortion, are contrary to God’s plan for human sexuality and the sanctity of life.

Example of Chat GPT on Catholic Teaching

Experiment 5: Patterns in grammar and math

As the final touch to my ChatGPT experimentation, I decided to see how it did at interpreting and enforcing the patterns that make up the rules for grammar and mathematics. As I expected, this is where the AI bot excelled—it even came up with summaries of the changes made and a relatively good explanation of why a formula would work.

ChatGPT example grammar

ChatGPT example algebra

Should I be worried?

After seeing AI’s ability to generate text and answer questions, you might be feeling a bit nervous, and you’re not alone in your apprehension!

The fact that ChatGPT is quite a powerful tool and also freely available online has caused educators around the world to wonder how many of the mid-term essays they will be grading this spring will be written by a robot rather than a student. As of now, it is unclear whether standard AI plagiarism checkers (such as Turnitin) will be able to accurately detect and flag ChatGPT’s work, although Turnitin has stated that they are working on improving their AI’s ability to catch AI writing generators.

I tried a few experiments myself, using the texts generated above and running them through Grammarly’s free online plagiarism checker.

Result for my second-generated Hamlet paper: passed!

ChatGPT homework results

Result for my Spanish vacation paragraph: pass with honors!

Chat GPT Spanish homework results

Results for “do Catholics worship Mary?” question: passed!

Chat GPT Catholic Theology homework results

But, you may be thinking, “This is wild! How has education come to be a battle between whose AI is better, the teacher’s or the student’s?” If so, then you might agree with me that this entire conversation is indeed a bit crazy! Let’s all take a step back—take a moment to remember why you started homeschooling in the first place. 

Although these tools are out there, and they may be snazzy beyond our grandparents’ wildest dreams, they are not actually about education in the classical sense. They do not lead students into a world of wonder and beauty, nor inspire them to holiness. If your goal in education consists only in the production and assessment of formulaic academic work, then you should be very worried about ChatGPT and all the leaner, meaner machines that will come after it. If, however, you want to educate your children as human persons— if you want to include sanctity as an integral part of their education—then ChatGPT is just another cool toy to be set aside when it is time to get down to some real, human learning. 

What does this mean for me? 

If you have read this far, you hopefully will have a better understanding of the kinds of things that ChatGPT could be used to create, its limitations, and its ability to “impersonate” a student. However, as a home educator, you probably won’t be too bothered in your grading because, unlike many university markers, you know each student individually. 

For example, when ChatGPT first came out, my college-age brother came and asked me to give him a creative writing prompt, since I am now teaching it at a university level. I was surprised, as he notoriously Does Not Like Writing, but I gave him a standard character exploration prompt. However, when he arrived next day, slyly smiling up his sleeve, I took one look at the formulaic writing and instantly knew it was not his work. It didn’t sound like him— it wasn’t about anything of interest to him. It was quite obviously not the brother I know and love! Likewise, your knowledge of the student’s ability, development, and voice will also help you notice if any of your students try the same trick on you. 

Ultimately, this is going to be a matter of prudence. You as the educator will have to determine the correct kind of response should your students discover and try to use ChatGPT. However, I could encourage you to see this as a call to refocus on the point of our vocation as educators. If we are looking at our students holistically, calling them through inspiration and mentorship to develop into flourishing human beings, then ChatGPT’s impact on our mission becomes almost trivial. 

Perhaps knowing about this tool will help you reassess the kind of work you give your students, increasing the intellectual exercises that do not rely on the patterning and formulas that a robot could reproduce. Conversation with students—assignments that are interactive as well as simply intellectual—will foster the human learning that education is really about. 

If our goal is to make our children saints, how relevant really is a robot capable of regurgitating the internet? 

Note: All images are screenshots from one of the websites cited below.  All ChatGPT responses were recorded on 8 March 2023 from the free version of the chatbot on openai.com/blog/chatgpt/.

Works Referenced

“Academic Experts Offer Advice to ChatGPT.” Inside Higher Ed, 12 Jan. 2023, www.insidehighered.com/news/2023/01/12/academic-experts-offer-advice-chatgpt.

“ChatGPT passes exams with flying colors.” CNN, 26 Jan. 2023, edition.cnn.com/2023/01/26/tech/chatgpt-passes-exams/index.html. 

“ChatGPT passes law school exams despite mediocre performance.” Reuters, 25 Jan. 2023, www.reuters.com/legal/transactional/chatgpt-passes-law-school-exams-despite-mediocre-performance-2023-01-25/.

“ChatGPT can now pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam and Bar Exam.” Daily Mail, 24 Mar. 2010, www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11666429/ChatGPT-pass-United-States-Medical-Licensing-Exam-Bar-Exam.html.

“Turnitin’s AI Writing and ChatGPT Detection Capability.” Turnitin, 4 Nov. 2020, www.turnitin.com/blog/sneak-preview-of-turnitins-ai-writing-and-chatgpt-detection-capability/.

OpenAI. “GPT: A Language Model by OpenAI.” OpenAI, 11 Feb. 2019, openai.com/blog/chatgpt/

“Plagiarism Checker.” Grammarly, www.grammarly.com/plagiarism-checker.

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