Artificial Intelligence (AI) has entered the world of writing, and it’s been making news. ChatGPT by OpenAI is one of the most talked-about technologies of the past year. It’s a “generative AI” tool that creates a text response based on an input prompt that you provide. GPT stands for “Generative Pre-Trained Transformer”. It transforms your written prompt or question into the generation of new text, and it can do this because of the large amount of training it received. It “learned” over time, using massive amounts of data from the internet, books, and articles, while being guided by human testing and feedback.
Have you tried it yet? We asked ChatGPT to write a piece on dysgraphia, and the results were surprisingly good.
More on that shortly.
For our community, ChatGPT sparks an
interesting debate. We advocate for the use of assistive technology for people with dysgraphia. This can be as simple as voice-to-text. Yet, in many cases, students are already being offered word prediction software (similar to the auto-complete on your phone). This technology has been embraced by schools for students with specific learning disabilities in written expression and reading who struggle with spelling and writing. Helping students to get the appropriate words into their essay levels the playing field so that they can share their knowledge of the topic they are studying.
AI assisted writing is really the next step. Instead of predicting the rest of the word, it’s predicting the next word. Over and over again. By the end, it predicts what you may have written. In fact, ChatGPT has been called, “one of the most advanced virtual writing assistants available.”
So, when we think about accommodations for dysgraphia, should ChatGPT be allowed?
There has been extensive debate in the education community about the use of AI assisted writing. Some of the largest school districts have banned ChatGPT. At the same time, notable editorials were written in the New York Times and L.A. Times about teaching with it instead. Cheating on assignments is of primary concern. The New York City Department of Education said that using it “does not build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for academic and lifelong success.” But others disagree. A recent piece from the American Psychological Association discusses how to use ChatGPT as a learning tool when teaching psychology courses.
A notable example in the APA article is a teacher requiring her students to use it for their first draft and then revising and editing that text for the second draft. One could argue that when using voice-to-text, a similar editing and revision process is a huge part of the critical learning. In one case, revisions are focused on grammatical editing and in the other on content editing, but it’s still an important process for the student to master to produce effective writing.
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So what did our ChatGPT dysgraphia piece look like? You can read it here. We were impressed that the definition of dysgraphia it provided harmonized with our own. (This is not a straightforward topic, as we have spoken about in the past.) There was nothing truly incorrect that it wrote. All of the suggested ways to help a student with dysgraphia were valid. We were pleasantly surprised that it suggested emotional support and praise for students, which is an important component of support that is often forgotten. Notably, the piece concluded by stressing the importance of individualization and personalized plans for each student, which is something we also truly believe in. There were definitely some strong elements in the AI-written piece.
On the flip side, it wasn't perfect. Although the seven suggestions look correct at a high level, when you dig into them, there should be some refinement. The third item about keyboarding is overlapping with the second, which suggests alternative (non-handwritten) methods of response. Plus, there are plenty of important concepts that are missing - including services like occupational therapy for handwriting and helpful resources such as spacing paper or graphic organizers.
Plenty of positives, but some negatives too. Definitely room for human improvement.
As a community who widely embraces assistive technology, AI assistive writing is an interesting new option. We intend to watch it very closely and share lessons learned. The Dysgraphia Life team looks forward to your stories about how you are implementing it in your lives and your schools.
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Have you implemented ChatGPT or other AI writing technologies in your school? We would love to share your experience with the dysgraphia community. Send us your story at email@example.com.