This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Shannon Ahern, a 27-year-old high school math and science teacher based in Dublin, Ireland, who uses ChatGPT to help her teach. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
When I first learned about OpenAI’s ChatGPT last December, I was frightened.
As a high school math and science teacher, I had a bit of an existential crisis about my job. I pride myself in creating unique resources that play to the interests of my students, so when I saw that ChatGPT can do things like generate a math lesson in seconds, I thought: What am I here for? What’s my purpose? What’s unique about me now that anyone with access to AI tools can create a lesson in 30 seconds?
I was intimidated to try it out, but I knew that ChatGPT would only become more popular, and I didn’t want to be left behind. After using the chatbot to help with lesson planning and resource creation, I realized that I have nothing to worry about.
When I first used ChatGPT, I treated it as a joke; I asked it to write poems about the Pythagorean theorem and a song about math in the style of Taylor Swift. My students said they enjoyed them, which gave me the push I needed to keep testing it.
Since then, I’ve asked ChatGPT to write lesson plans, generate exercise worksheets, and come up with quiz questions. I even got it to generate a “fill in the blank” worksheet by feeding my lecture notes to the bot and telling it to remove keywords, a task that would’ve taken me ages to do manually. It also developed an interactive game.
As a result, my productivity has gone through the roof.
ChatGPT has saved me hours on manual tasks like lab generation and has significantly cut down my paperwork. Before using the AI, I stayed up late preparing class materials and would show up to class the next day feeling sluggish and tired. Now, I go to work feeling refreshed.
ChatGPT isn’t perfect, but it can save hours of time if used correctly
Still, I have noticed that ChatGPT sometimes calculates things wrong. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I would point out the error through an additional prompt, and the bot would correct it.
I also worried that my students would use it to cheat and plagiarize. But then I remembered that students have always been cheating — whether that’s copying a classmate’s homework or getting a sibling to write an essay — and I don’t think ChatGPT will change that.
While these concerns have led to school-wide bans of the tool around the world, I hope that ChatGPT doesn’t get banned by my school. ChatGPT is a fantastic learning tool that students can use as a private tutor. We are in the generation of AI, and students need to learn how to use it responsibly.
Still, I understand why some teachers are hesitant about using ChatGPT. Learning how to use a new piece of technology — especially for teachers who didn’t grow up with computers in the classroom — can be tough. But I do believe they will find the tool helpful.
After all, AI is going to take a lot of the things we don’t like such as admin work off our plates and free up time for creative lesson planning. We can even ask ChatGPT for advice in the same way we would ask a talented colleague if we needed help on, say, building an Excel spreadsheet. Like Google and Microsoft Excel, ChatGPT will eventually become a part of our instructional toolbox.
Most importantly, I don’t think ChatGPT will ever replace teachers or make our jobs harder. There will always be a need for us and the human connection that comes with in-person instruction.
I am always discovering new, creative ways to use ChatGPT and will absolutely keep on using it in the long run.