Thursday, March 30, 2023

Shocker: ChatGPT Just Makes Stuff Up...Even About Us

 On the way to school today, I got to thinking about how if AI bots like Bard and ChatGPT are using what's available online to learn about subjects, then they are probably doing the same thing to learn about us. When I opened up ChatGPT and Google's Bard for comparison and asked, "Who is Andy Losik?" I got similar responses saying that both are language learners and don't have information on everyone in the world. However, when I went the language route and asked Chat GPT (Bard again declined the request) for a bio on Andy Losik the teacher and author, the results were astoundingly shockingly a seventh grader giving an oral book report on a book that doesn't exist, just making it up as it goes along.

Let's take this paragraph by paragraph and spot the errors.

Andy Losik is an experienced elementary school teacher and published author, known for his innovative teaching methods and dedication to inspiring young learners. He was born and raised in the United States and attended college at Michigan State University, where he earned his Bachelor's degree in Education.

First of all, gross...just kidding Sparty. Actually, Michigan State has a great education program but I received my Bachelor's in Early Childhood Education from Hillsdale College. Now, all of that stuff about being innovative and inspiring? I think if we are going to knit-pick errors, then we should also applaud ChatGPT when it is spot on with its analysis. Just kidding. That is all subjective fluff that the machines must have learned are parts of every edtech bio.

After graduation, Andy began his teaching career as a second-grade teacher in a public school district in Michigan. He quickly developed a reputation as an energetic and passionate educator, known for his ability to connect with students and create a positive learning environment. Over the years, Andy has taught in various grades, from kindergarten to fifth grade, and has worked with students from diverse backgrounds

Wrong. I started my career teaching fourth grade in Arizona and I have taught students from Pre-K to 6th grade. While I have had all of the elementary grades in my technology and STEM classes, I have only been a classroom teacher in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. ChatGPT throwing in the "diverse backgrounds" seems like a gratuitous booster to the bio. My first two-and-a-half years were with very diverse classes in Arizona, but to be honest, the last 23 years haven't featured much diversity here in West Michigan. 

Andy's teaching philosophy centers around creating engaging and interactive learning experiences that challenge his students to think critically and creatively. He is a firm believer in the power of technology to enhance education and has integrated various tech tools into his classroom, including iPads and other devices, to help his students learn and grow.

Okay, so this is actually pretty close to what I would write about myself and it is interesting that the bot chose to mention iPads specifically. 

In addition to his teaching career, Andy is also an accomplished author. He has written several books on topics related to education, including "The Chromebook Classroom" and "The Google Infused Classroom," both of which have been widely praised by educators and students alike.

Well, I wish. So I have written a couple of books...none directly tied to Education. The first one was a silly novel about teachers who get framed for robbing a Las Vegas casino while on a trip to a classroom management workshop and the other is the biography of former NFL offensive lineman Jared Veldheer. I feel like I did some good things with both, but ChatGPT gives me glowing ratings. If you check out the ratings on GoodReads, there are two reviews and it's a split decision.


I had absolutely nothing to do with the two books attributed to me. These are just straight-up lies. I am a fan of both books and have probably tweeted about them or commented somewhere but "The Chromebook Classroom" is by good friend John Sowash and "The Google Infused Classroom" is by Holly Clark and Tanya Avrith. To me, this is egregious and frankly dangerous. If this "machine" is going to just fabricate whatever it wants, actual people are going to get cheated out of their own accomplishments by attributing them to someone else. Even scarier is when institutions start employing AI to create bios on candidates for everything from lines of credit to jobs. The world of misinformation will be an even more dramatic chaotic mess.

Andy's work has been recognized and celebrated by his peers and the education community. He has received numerous awards and honors, including being named Teacher of the Year in his school district and being selected as a keynote speaker at several national education conferences.

Nope. While I was the MACUL Teacher of the Year in 2009, I have never been "Teacher Of The Year" in my district. In fact, neither of the districts I have worked in even give that award. Yes, I have keynoted a few Michigan conferences, but I have never been asked on the national level.

Today, Andy continues to inspire and educate young learners, both in his classroom and through his writing. He is passionate about helping teachers and students alike to embrace new technologies and teaching methods that can improve the learning experience for everyone.

More fluffy stuff to wrap up the bio that is pretty accurate, but I hope this example shows that these AI chatbots just make stuff up to fill in the number of words specified. It's scary how flippantly misinformation, even about ourselves is generated. Like Public Enemy taught us, "Can't Trust It". 

Despite my initial shock, there are at least two positives I can think of for using this tool with students. First, if the bio were factual, it would be an excellent bio. Maybe instead of treating what ChatGPT gives us as finished products, we need to just look at results more like well-structured writing templates. All I really have to do with this is change the inaccuracies to factual information, and I have something very usable. This bio also makes it really easy to show your students just how unreliable ChatGPT is when asked to generate something factual. Have it create a bio for you and then fact-check it in front of your class. To channel Carrie Underwood, maybe next time they'll think before they cheat. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Long Live Tinker Ball

Way back when our elementary STEM classes were known as Infotech and focused more on technology and tying it to literacy, Tinker Ball was one our most accessed sites. The Smithsonian Institute's Lemson Center for Invention and Innovation created Tinker Ball and the game where you stack everyday objects one might find lying around a garage is one of the longest-running student interactive sites still active. 

Give Tinker Ball a go.