How to Use AI Chatbots to Aid Critical Thinking Rather Than Make It Obsolete
In related articles, we discuss how learners can use AI writing generators effectively as research tools, as well as how students can maintain rigorous standards with their AI-assisted academic projects.
Today, we provide an overview of some risks associated with using AI writers for school assignments, as well as guidelines on how to leverage them effectively as learning tools.
ChatGPT has arrived at the party. This sleek chatbot platform developed by OpenAI makes it painfully easy for students to cheat, write their college essays, and respond to take-home exam questions.
Naturally, students want quick solutions. They struggle with skill gaps resulting from pandemic learning loss, information overload, learning differences, and stress. They have every motivation to employ academic shortcuts.
Classroom educators are under intense pressure to help students make up for lost time, but may not have the resources to help each student raise their skills to grade level.
This natural language processing app creates near-instantaneous writing that appears at first glance to be comprehensive, sophisticated, and well organized. What student wouldn’t be tempted to hand in a poem, opinion piece, or critical analysis presented in this way?
Educators and parents have long been concerned about academic plagiarism, but AI-generated writing cannot be detected by plagiarism checking software. Now, it is easier than ever for students to pass off prefab essays as their own.
The problems with academic misuse of AI chatbots are even deeper than that.
Students with learning differences are facing a crisis where the allure of letting AI tools do the heavy lifting may feel too strong to pass up. Yet they may not understand how to create effective research inquiries, or recognize when a chatbot’s algorithm is integrating low quality or inaccurate content into its explanation. To make matters worse, neurodivergent learners may not appreciate the value of academic struggle, and how circumventing a healthy challenge ultimately serves to erode their confidence.
It’s riveting to read text that is rooted in an individual’s concrete perspective.
The guidelines below can help your student leverage the positive features of using AI chatbots for academic work, and avoid some of their pitfalls.
Guidelines I use in my practice:
If your student is using AI chatbots as a tool for research or writing projects, you can make these recommendations:
- Identify your unique priorities. Before using AI chatbots to conduct research or craft a piece of writing, it is important for learners to get clear on their own priorities and desired focus. A ChatGPT response to an initial inquiry may be too generic to be a useful starting place, other than offering a broad overview of relevant possibilities. It’s essential that students weed out inaccurate info or points that are not connected to their project’s focus. They must narrow what they think are the most important ideas to emphasize in their argument. Note to student: “A computer cannot tell you who you are, or what you believe.”
- Keep asking follow up questions. ChatGPT has a dialog interface which is not available through standard internet search. This back-and-forth feature allows learners to refine their research by drilling down. Rather than settling with the first summary that emerges from a chatbot, or seeing it as the definitive truth, students can be encouraged to notice where it could benefit from deeper investigation. They can pose additional queries in the same dialog thread, asking the algorithm to produce more specific commentary, or to take a different approach. The chatbot’s iterations can reflect increasingly more focused explanations. Prompt for student: “What information would improve the narrative coming from the chatbot?”
- Customize your angle. An AI chatbot’s iterative interface can engage learners’ active input, helping them identify what they find inspiring and relevant, sharpen their discernment, and clarify their own viewpoints. Students have likes and dislikes, preferences, and topics they consider snooze-worthy. They may not love every school assignment, but they can be guided to apply curiosity to their use of AI research tools. Their resulting academic exploration and work will incorporate themes they actually find interesting. Tip for student: “Discover how the topic matters to YOU.”
- Know your unique stories. ChatGPT’s output can be antiseptic, dry, and boring. Your student, on the other hand, possesses colorful thoughts, impressions, and inclinations. A slick automaton cannot compete with the subjectivity of human stories and memories. It’s riveting to read text that is rooted in an individual’s concrete perspective. At the end of the day, telling their own story empowers the student and affirms the value of their life experience in their learning process. Suggestion to student: “Avoid being generic. Personalize it.”
The bottom line: Students can use AI chatbots as a starting point for research, but must learn to integrate details that illustrate their own insights and experience, eliminate unsuitable information, and craft a response or piece of writing using their own reasoning and communication skills.
Students do not have to be passive, disempowered or outshone by AI chatbots. ChatGPT can help your learner explore, but it does not need to remove the sense of agency and empowerment that comes with being at the academic driving wheel.
Is your student looking for guidance in using research technology to maximize their academic confidence? Schedule a complimentary information session.
As an executive function coach and academic tutor, I specialize in helping individuals with learning differences exceed their goals for academics, organization, and college transition.