The following article:
New York Times, January 2023: ChatGPT, the buzzy chatbot developed by OpenAI that is capable of writing cogent essays, solving science and math problems and producing working computer code.
You certainly will have noticed the rise of AI (artificial intelligence) and chatbots. In fact, you will most likely have used them in one way or another. In a previous Geography Factsheet, this author used the same technology in order to help come up with some ideas for a topic!
At the time of writing, ChatGPT is the main disruptor. However, Google has recently released an early version of its AI – Bard. There are also other chatbots emerging, including Jenni AI, Jasper AI, and Writesonic. In educational circles, these chatbots are causing some strong and divided feelings. One view is that, when used in the right way, AI can be a friend to learning and an amazing tool for students, and is not something to be feared. An alternative position is that teachers might be tricked, and that students may present work produced directly from the chatbot while pretending it was created by them.
ChatGPT is a powerful chatbot, built on top of OpenAI's GPT technology. GPT is short for “generative pretrained transformer”. The chatbot can handle a wide range of text-based requests, from simple questions and answers to more complex tasks.
Google Bard, on the other hand, uses Google's Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), and can offer real-time responses based on current research pulled from the internet. That means it should be more up to date compared to ChatGPT, which is trained on data prior to late 2021. Remember that both of these AIs don’t understand what they are actually producing. Their outputs are essentially a series of statistical probabilities turned into a sequence of works or phrases.
ChatGPT was trained on a massive dataset of text, including Wikipedia, books, articles, documents, and content scraped from the open internet.
Bard was trained on Infiniset, a data set including Wikipedia, documents, and conversations and dialogues from the web. Bard will supposedly search the web in real-time to find the most recent answers to questions and latest research.
Overall, Bard is designed to improve research and understanding across education, business, and other fields, while ChatGPT is more focused on text functions, including summarising and synthesising. In practice, they are actually quite similar. It’s going to be a good idea for you to evaluate both of them, if possible. Which of the two AIs is your preferred option?
Arguably, one of AI’s super skills is to use the tool as a language expert. It can help you to improve your writing, which can be useful in a range of situations, especially for helping to improve writing long answers.
Let’s start by assuming that you have already written and typed up an answer to an extended writing essay which is level marked.
You can request (prompt) a range of instructions that will potentially help improve the writing quality of your original work. These can include:
Trial and error is key here. There are lots of prompts that can be used, and different AIs and chatbots will give outputs. Try, review, and work out which technology is best for your case.
A chatbot is really programmed to synthesise and summarise information. While it may appear “clever”, the bot is not a critical thinker. Nonetheless, AI tools like ChatGPT have potential to become an important tool for writers who want to hone their critical thinking skills along with their communication skills.
A trawl of some blogs and forums where researchers are engaging with ChatGPT reveals the following use-cases:
Looking for other opportunities and ways of using AI from blogs and forums, and making a shared class/group list of potential instructions, may be of benefit to you.
In the case of summarisation, it is advisable that you use the AI only for basic summarisation of text or a topic. Since the Chatbot is usually constrained by the word limit provided, it can miss out important points in a discussion, since it has no way to really summarise importance. This is illustrated by reference to the recent Turkey/Syria earthquake.
The following prompt was used:
List 5 reasons, in order of importance, as to why the 2023 Turkey earthquake killed so many people?
ChatGPT was unable to answer since it suggested the event was in the future! This is an edited response from Google Bard:
The answers are certainly reasonable, but a geographer would likely put them in a different order, starting with reason 5. Reason 3 seems somewhat irrelevant. The AI typically gives a generic answer, and in this case it has written about why big earthquakes often kill lots of people. This is one example of how the output looks convincing, but it is also possible to provide some deeper and more challenging instructions, e.g. “act as a statistician”.
Using ChatGPT, the instruction could be written as follows:
I want to act as a statistician. I will provide you with details related to statistics. You should have knowledge of statistics terminology, statistical distributions, confidence interval, probability, hypothesis testing, and statistical charts. My first request is “I need help calculating how many people in Manchester regularly visit green spaces”.
The response provided is shown below:
Try to test this statistical function with some of your own suggestions.
AI can also summarise lengthy information from the internet that is in a published form. For example, the following prompt could be used in Microsoft Bing with the “chat function” (it’s actually running ChatGPT):
TLDR: [followed by the link to your article or research paper]
A chatbot is not going to be able to write your NEA, and nor should you want it too. That’s because it can’t do your fieldwork or analyse graphical/cartographical information.
You should also be aware that, in all aspects of your NEA, independence must be maintained. If you use AI, then that needs to be acknowledged. The misuse of AI tools will be considered malpractice (JCQ, March 2023).
But there are some supporting activities that a chatbot may just be useful with – linked to different parts of the enquiry process. These include:
In terms of supporting the framing of research questions around a possible topic area then this input would work well:
Develop three possible research questions on the following topic: “The influence of social media on place identity and representation”.
The AI responded:
The AI was then prompted again:
Based on the second research question, develop three further research questions on the topic of social media influence on perceptions and experiences:
The AI then refined its initial output:
Academic writing is a formal style of writing used at university. It’s something that your NEA should try to utilise as well. This is important for academic writing because it will prevent you from repeating the same words over again, and make your writing less personal, as the focus will be on an action rather than who did it.
Some examples of AI instructions/prompts to improve the quality of written work include:
Share your discussion or analysis as a prompt and ask for a challenge.
“The Jury's out”
Explain your argument or analysis as a prompt and ask for ten questions.
Mark my work
Share your conclusion as a prompt and ask for criticism.
Improve my writing
Share your introduction as a prompt to improve the text below, for publication on a scientific article. Use scientific language.
Insert your prompt (e.g. section of analysis) and ask for a summary in an academic style.
Insert your prompt (e.g. section of your analysis) and ask to “summarise this text in a more formal style”.
Give me your conclusions
“What are your conclusions after reading the following text:”
Shorten my paragraph
Paste your text in as a prompt and create a request that the text is reduced to a specified number of words or characters:
“Shorten this text to 100 words: “
There are some serious considerations to think about in relation to using AI. In particular, AI must be used as an assistive tool, not as a primary source of writing. AI language models do not know, think, or write like humans. They are, in many people’s eyes, “prediction engines”, or, at best, glorified encyclopaediae. Again, they do not in any way understand what they are producing / writing.
Some cautionary considerations of AI:
What do you think are the ethical considerations of using Chatbots with the NEA?
This author would argue that when used in the right way, chatbots can be a great tool to support learning rather than something to be feared. In the context of an NEA, technology can be used to augment and supplement some aspects of research, question development, and synthesis of findings. It’s important to stress, however, that a proper research and literature review should always be carried out, and you should overly rely on the information produced by a chatbot. The technology helps with writing edits, reviews, and giving you a “second pair of eyes”.
In the end, you must adhere to the usual rules around writing and the production of reports. Never pretend something is your own work if it is not, and always acknowledge the role of support in the form of a spell-checker or AI in the development of a piece of work.
Azaria, A. (2022, December) ChatGPT Usage and Limitations
Caulfield, J. & Solis, T. (2023, May) Using ChatGPT for assignments
f/awesome-chatgpt-prompts (github.com) (2023, July) Awesome ChatGPT Prompts
JCQ (2023, March) AI Use in Assessments: Protecting the Integrity of Qualifications
@Keenious (medium.com) (2023, February) ChatGPT in the Academic World
profkipp (youtube.com) (2022, December) Using ChatGPT for writing in research
Science Grad School (youtube.com) (2022, December) ChatGPT for Scientific Research...
The views expressed in this article are from the author and have not been endorsed by any awarding bodies. David Holmes works as a geography education and assessment consultant. He is also an author with a keen interest in fieldwork, GIS and the use of digital visualisation technology in geography. He can be contacted on [email protected], or visit www.david-holmes-geography.co.uk.