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A possible way to use chatbots in education
I am optimistic that chatbots can prove to be the most important innovation in education in my lifetime. But nobody, including me, knows how to use them yet!
Here is one random idea. I think that it would be useful for someone in college to learn American financial history. Here are a few prompts that I came up with to get started:
I want to learn about American financial history. At various points in history, what did people use for money? How were banks regulated? How did the government fund itself? I will ask questions, and I would like a one-paragraph answer followed by bullet points. First, how was the American Revolutionary War financed?
Using 10 to 20 bullet points, list what economic historians think were the important events and issues concerning money, banking, and government finance in the United States between 1775 and 1825.
Suppose you were writing a book on the role of land speculation in U.S. financial history, including events like the purchase of Manhattan, the Land Office, the free banking era, the northwest ordinance, the Homestead Act, the Florida land boom, and the 2008 financial crisis. Provide a list of suggested chapter titles.
The answers that ChatGPT-3 gave to these prompts were all useful starting points. I then delved deeper into topics like the Panic of 1837. When it gave me a brief description of the Panic of 1837, I asked for a list of sources, and it came back with a set that ranged from Murray Rothbard to Arthur Schlesinger. These could provide a basis for further probing into the event.
How to use this in a classroom? I could sit in front of students, give Chatbots prompts, and show everyone my screen. But that seems silly.
Better to have students do the prompting. Why not a teach-a-thon? Sort of like a hack-a-thon.
Put 50 students in a room, with big screens on all of the walls. Have the students work in teams of 3 or 4. At the end of eight hours, each team is to produce a document that covers American financial history.
Each group would have a private screen, in which to compose their document. Each group also would have a chatbot connection, but each of those screens would be public, projected onto the walls of the room, so that every group can see all of the groups’ chatbot conversations.
The public chatbot conversations would enable teams to pick up ideas from one another. Historical events that they might have overlooked. Or techniques for writing prompts that work better.
My hypothesis is that after such an 8-hour teach-a-thon, the students would know and remember more about U.S. financial history than they would after an entire semester of an ordinary class. In addition, they would learn a great deal about how to learn. They would develop skills that would be useful for pursuing other topics.
I think that we were already in a technological environment that favors autodidacts over traditional classroom learning. Chatbots take that to the next level.