The Essay is Dead, Long Live the Essay!

The hottest topic of conversation in teachers’ staff rooms around the world this past week has probably been how Chat GPTshocked teachers! The computer programme writes essays and is able to answer advanced, high-level questions. What should we do now? Should we block the service? Make sure that students write only with pencils on paper or completely lock the computers with Trelson Assessment so that students do not have access to the Internet?

Teachers need to embrace technology and see it as an opportunity and not just as a problem. Chat GPT and artificial intelligence are here and are already very skilled. The development of artificial intelligence is rocketing and the more people who use it, the better it will become. Teachers will never win over technology and must instead find ways to join it. Teachers need to think about how they design their assignments and will probably, and hopefully, find out that traditional assignments that the teacher intended to assess must go to the grave. When you can’t be sure who has written the assignment, you can’t grade the text.

As usual, nothing is black or white when it comes to teaching and there are no absolutely perfect learning and teaching environment. However, there are more or less smart things to do. I believe in the combination of writing by hand, for example when taking notes, locking the computer and restricting access to the internet for writing tasks that require students to focus and use their brains, and the use of artificial intelligence when it makes a difference.

In order for learning to take place, the computer sometimes needs to be locked so that the student actually has to make an effort and think. Learning takes place when the brain and thinking are active.

Digital programmes that lock the computer must be really easy to use so teachers and students see the benefit of them. Trelson Assessment is just that! It takes less than two minutes to set up a task that effectively locks down the computer and helps the student stay focused and strain their brain for what the student is in school for: learning. You can also start Trelson via Google Classroom, which means that you can keep all your tasks in Classroom, send the student out in locked writing mode and then give feedback in Google Classroom just as you usually do. If you then want to use the possibilities of Chat GPT, you let the student use the first version of the text written in Trelson and paste it into Chat GPT. In this way, you let Chat GPT give the student feedback instead of you! By asking a question such as “can you elaborate on my answer?”  and then pasting the student’s answer into Chat GPT the programme automatically processes the student’s answer and improve the text. In the picture below you see a text written by a student with dyslexia. The student has written on a locked writing surface and has had the text-to-speech function switched on to be able to write a text at all.

The student receives help from Chat GPT, which corrects the original text. The student can work further with the content and dyslexia is no obstacle to writing a well-developed text.

Of course, you’ve read the student’s first draft so you can assess the text and then you let Chat GPT do the work for you! The student can use Chat GPT to develop the text, compare the texts, read the new draft and get writing help. It turns out to be a kind of formative friend who gives help. Another benefit is that you, as a teacher, reduce your workload as the computer helps you. You don’t have to write feedback every time, instead, you focus on some students at a time and let the computer focus on some.

As a teacher, you can also use Chat GPT to, for example, get suggestions for more questions. You may have a couple of questions in an existing quiz that you enter into Chat GPT and ask it to write several other questions and answers.

Lock the computer when you want the students to focus and think. Use technology to make things easier for you and your students when needed. Embrace the opportunities technology gives you, but don’t forget to use common sense and always keep students’ learning in focus.

/ Sara Bruun

Trelson Assessment