I host a monthly networking breakfast, Issues and Insights, in Kitchener-Waterloo. In February, our topic was ChatGPT. I was curious about people’s experiences with it, how they were using it, and if they even were aware of it. If they knew about it, were they concerned or excited about the possibilities it provides?
As we enjoyed our breakfast, some people shared they had no idea what it was. Others knew about it but, interestingly, downplayed its significance. Our conversation inspired this newsletter.
In my last newsletter, I introduced ChatGPT and shared my thoughts on how it could be used to support learning and development and the learning design process. I used the ADDIE design process as the backdrop. If you missed it, you can read the newsletter here. I want to build on that newsletter and the conversation we had at Oscars last month to zero in on how ChatGPT can be useful.
Three ways to use ChatGPT
I see three main ways to use ChatGPT.
- Question and answer
- Creating something new
- Thinking partner
Let’s look at each way individually
Question and answer
One of the most obvious ways to use ChatGPT is to answer questions. It can be used much like Googling something. I’ve seen some interesting examples on social media recently – explain the top 10 responsibilities of an instructional designer, written in Biblical language. There’s fun in this as people experiment with what’s possible.
You can also ask more ‘serious’ or factual questions. For example,
- Who is the 36th President of the United States?
- Which provinces joined the Dominion of Canada when it was formed?
You can ‘have a conversation’ with ChatGPT to learn additional details.
One of the criticisms of using chat GPT as a source of answers is its reliability. I’ve seen several posts on social media highlighting this limitation. You can ask for references or sources, which it will provide, but even those references can be questionable. The reliability can feel pretty secure if the conversation is about well-known facts, like my above two questions. When questions stray from factual to opinion, it feels less reliable and the sources less trustworthy.
I think ChatGPT’s effectiveness as a Q&A search engine to replace Google has its limitations. Google (and other search engines) excels because it provides links so you can fact-check more easily.
Creating something new
ChatGPT can also create something new. Using the example above, a high school student could ask ChatGPT to write a short essay on the founding of the Dominion of Canada. I tried it and the essay it produced was pretty good. I’m not recommending this. I have two high school-aged kids, and I understand why teachers and educators are concerned. Interestingly, ChatGPT has a new page on Educator Considerations to address some of these concerns.
Another example of creating something new is writing a song, poem, or book. I asked it to create a short poem based on the essay it wrote earlier.
In eighteen sixty-seven,
Four provinces stood as one,
A new nation was created,
The Dominion of Canada had begun.
The Fathers of Confederation,
Worked tirelessly to unite,
A nation born of diversity,
A beacon shining bright.
A federal system was established,
A new era of governance begun,
A proud and hopeful people,
A country built to stun.
But in the midst of celebration,
We must also not forget,
Indigenous voices silenced,
Their struggles we can’t neglect.
So let us honor the past,
While moving towards the light,
A Canada built on respect and justice,
A nation shining bright.
As an author, I can see the potential and the concern about ChatGPT’s ability to generate new content. The internet and social media often can feel so crowded already. How much more crowded will it become with the ease of creating new content to share? How will those of us who have ‘original’ thoughts be able to shine through the fog and find a voice for our unique perspectives?
A third area where ChatGPT can be used is as a thinking partner. This is where I see tremendous opportunity for AI and this platform to shine. Here are three examples:
Example 1 – Refining presentation summaries
I just finished submitting several proposals to speak at upcoming conferences. In my submission, I had to distill my presentation idea into a punchy 40-character session title and create a 100-word description. Chat GPT can help with activities like this. It can take a long, maybe boring, description and refine it and help me write it more engagingly.
Example 2 – Marketing course descriptions
I had coffee with a colleague last week. We talked about the challenges of implementing courses and getting employees to sign up and take them. We talked about taking a marketing approach instead of a communication approach, which means selling our courses internally. My colleague shared that she hired a marketing consultant to help them. The course enrollment increased by 80% over the year when they were consciously taking a marketing approach. I’m not suggesting ChatGPT could replace all the work the marketing consultant did. But, it can help on a smaller scale. As learning professionals, we can use ChatGPT as a thinking partner to make our course descriptions more engaging and enticing for employees.
Yes, we know the program is well-designed and adds value, but employees won’t know that unless they sign up. Our challenge is getting them to take that first step.
Example 3 – Writing a book
Finally, ChatGPT can be a thinking partner in writing a book. I’m not suggesting it write the book or even chapters, but it can help in the book-writing process.
I am currently thinking about my next book. I have a couple of ideas, one of which is the business of training – how learning and development managers can effectively manage the training function. I shared my initial chapter ideas and asked if anything was missing. Interestingly, it identified one I hadn’t considered but that a colleague had flagged when we had coffee this week.. If I don’t have coffee meetings planned with colleagues, ChatGPT could step into that role.
Once my topics and main ideas are refined, ChatGPT could help me refine my writing. I can write a paragraph and ask ChatGPT to simplify it. Admittedly, I’m notorious for writing in a passive voice. I’m pretty sure ChatGPT could help with that!
I think ChatGPT and other AI tools are here to stay. We need to figure out how to use them effectively and ethically. As a productivity hack, there is huge potential. As an aside, I know I’ve focused on ChatGPT in this newsletter, but there are other AI and general productivity apps. I’ve written a book and have been writing these monthly newsletters for over two years. And yet, I don’t feel like writing comes naturally to me. I’m extroverted and prefer talking to writing. I experimented with this newsletter. I ‘wrote’ the first draft by talking into Otter.ai. Then writing became mostly editing my spoken version. I’m not sure if Otter.ai is an AI tool, but it’s become a productivity app for me as ChatGPT has become.
In case you missed it
I’ve shared some additional posts online. I’ve been exploring training from an organization’s perspective and learning from an employee’s perspective. Here they are in case you missed them.
- Formal training vs. Informal learning – (video link)
- Time vs. Priority – (video link)
- Bench strength vs. Development – (video link)
Training that Clicks book – I’ve written a book about virtual training. You can find out more at www.trainingthatclicks.ca
I also posted about my book-writing journey on LinkedIn. Follow this hashtag #bookbyhannah to follow along.