AI Writing Tools, Politics, and History

Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI), such as ChatGPT, are tools capable of generating new and original writing, images, video, audio, art, music, 3D models and computer code that are largely, but not entirely indistinguishable from what humans can create. Activities explore how students can learn to distinguish authentic writing by humans from materials that are AI-derived and contain false or bias information.

The November 2022 arrival of ChatGPT – an interactive artificial intelligence writing tool that generates natural language text-based responses to user questions and prompts in seconds – made an largely invisible technology (artificial intelligence) highly visible to millions of users.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already prevalent in our lives - recommendation algorithms on social media and streaming platforms, facial recognition used to unlock phones to autocorrect, and autocomplete features in email and text messaging apps. But AI tools often remain invisible - meaning that we don't spend a lot of time thinking about what they are and how they work (maybe we should!). 

ChatGPT (GPT stands for "generative pre-trained transformer”) has produced revolutionary changes in our relationships with digital tools and technologies. When launched publicly in November 2022, it gained more than 1 million registered users in just 5 days - becoming the fastest-growing technology platform ever (Harris, 2022). 

As a digital writer, ChatGPT almost instantaneously circles through its database of text to produce natural sounding sentences and paragraphs in response to a prompt from a user. It can write essays, draft emails, create a list of ideas for a birthday party, write lesson plans, offer step-by-step tutorials for solving math problems, write blog posts and articles, draft a cover letter or resume, suggest life hacks or financial tips, describe complex scientific processes to different age levels (e.g., describe string theory to a 5 year old), write code, and create content in multiple languages. It can even write a poem about golf in the style of Maya Angelou! 

Write a poem about golf in the style of Maya Angelou Golf, a game of grace and skill, Where one can find peace and thrill, A place where nature and sport unite, A pastime that brings joy to sight.  Beneath the sun, the greens do shine, And the wind blows with a gentle sigh, The fairways stretch out far and wide, And the flagstick stands proud and dignified.  With a club in hand and steady heart, We swing with all our might and art, And watch as the ball takes flight, A perfect shot, a beautiful sight.  Golf is not just a game of score, But a test of patience, will and more, For every stroke we make and take, Teaches us something that we can make.  It teaches us of life's ups and downs, And the joy that can come from small sounds, For golf is not just a game we play, But a journey that will never fade away.

Such results are amazing, blurring the lines between what humans can do that machines cannot. 

Take this quiz from the New York Times to see if you can tell if a fourth grader or the new chatbot wrote an essay. 

And, imagine what might happen in a future where news articles and media materials are written by AI...wait you don't have to imagine that, it's already happening (see CNET found errors in more than half of its AI-written stories). 

But, what are the implications for everyday citizens when politicians, campaign managers, and political staff can have AI writing tools draft press releases, campaign slogans, social media posts, blogs, and more? 

And, what impact might ChatGPT have on social studies/history, civics, and government learning if students turn to this tool (known for spewing misinformation and perpetuating harmful stereotypes) for help with their research? 

ChatGPT brings with it real complexities and dangers. Technology researcher and educator Torrey Trust has shown that the system is not always safe or reliable as a information source (see ChatGPT & Education slide deck).

If AI tools produce false or misleading claims, then people’s roles as democratic decision-makers are curtailed, distorted, even blocked.

Activity 1: Critically Interrogate ChatGPT Text

NOTE: Before you begin this activity, please know that ChatGPT is not to be used by children under 13 years old (see the privacy policy) and the Terms of Use state that the user must be 18 years or older to use the tool. Therefore, it is recommended that the teacher use ChatGPT to generate text for students to analyze, rather than asking students to use ChatGPT on their own.

Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

Critically Interrogate ChatGPT Text by Ramlochan Et al.

Activity 2: Explore Black History with ChatGPT

The "Exploring Black History with ChatGPT" choice board offers educators and students a way to develop their critical media literacy skills as they investigate text from ChatGPT and explore Black history in the United States (click here to make your own copy of the choice board to remix/use). Given ChatGPT’s potential for generating misinformation and biased information, these activities offer students a critical way to investigate how ChatGPT writes about Black lives and history, and potentially consider why this may be.

Exploring Black history with ChatGPT choice board

Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

Explore Black History with ChatGPT by Latchman Ramlochan

  • Here are the responses from ChatGPT for each of the prompts in the 8 boxes in the Exploring Black History choice board.

Additional Resources

This content is provided to you freely by EdTech Books.

Access it online or download it at https://edtechbooks.org/mediaandciviclearning/aiwritingtools.