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DPW 2024: teaching young people how to use ChatGPT

Last year, we dedicated a significant portion of our Data Privacy Week 2023 events to schools. In March 2023, one of our blog posts was about ChatGPT: a type of Artificial Intelligence (AI), a large language model that mimics a human response to questions and instructions on the basis of billions of data points from all over the internet.


In this blog post published on the occasion of Data Privacy Week 2024, we discuss the pros and cons of ChatGPT, and how it can be used as a tool to advance young people’s knowledge, learning, language and other skills when used ethically and in line with privacy principles. We conclude by pointing the reader to an online practical guide for teachers on the use of ChatGPT in their teaching.


ChatGPT: good or bad?

There are both pros and cons to using this extremely powerful and popular chatbot. Many privacy professionals and commentators seem to be split down the middle. While ChatGPT undoubtedly offers innovative, new approaches to learning and writing, experts in the field have also raised issues relating to the spread of misinformation, plagiarism, lack of consent from data sources, as well as potential serious data protection and privacy risks with respect to the exploitation and misuse of personal information. In March 2023, Italy’s Data Protection Authority temporarily banned ChatGPT due to concerns over the protection of personal information and lack of age verification, which could expose children to harmful content (remember that children must be 13 or older to be able to use ChatGPT!). The ban was lifted at the end of April 2023 while OpenAI were addressing the issues raised by the Italian regulator, which are without a doubt serious.


Some researchers have also argued that the language system has no idea what it says: in their expert opinion, it takes a living person and their lived experience to understand the world. In our 2023 blog post, we saw evidence that ChatGPT can sometimes provide incorrect or outdated information, so it is important to double-check the accuracy of the information that ChatGPT to provides to users.


Especially during Data Privacy Week, we should be mindful of the fact that there are privacy concerns associated with the use of AI language models. Some models may collect data on users’ activities and behaviours, and this data may be used for commercial and other purposes without the users’ knowledge or consent.


Despite the above, the reality is that AI language systems are here to stay; in fact, they keep evolving all the time. Therefore, we can realistically expect that in the near future, the use of extensive language models will increase and gain even more prominence. So, how do we learn to live with them?


Benefits of AI language models for children and young people: are there any?

When ChatGPT is used in line with the principle of protecting the personal information of children who must be 13 years or older, under the informed guidance and supervision of experienced teachers, it can serve as a valuable tool for children to learn new things, expand their knowledge, and enhance their language and other skills. Here are a few reasons why learning to use ChatGPT can be beneficial for children and young people:


  •        Improving language and communication skills: ChatGPT can help children improve their language skills by exposing them to new words, sentence structures, and idiomatic expressions. Children can also practice their writing and typing skills while communicating with ChatGPT.

  •        Encouraging creativity and imagination: ChatGPT can be a source of inspiration for children. It can generate ideas, prompt creative writing, and spark imagination.

  •      Enhancing learning and knowledge: ChatGPT can provide children with instant answers to their questions and help them learn about new topics. It can also provide them with personalised recommendations for books, videos, and other learning resources.

  •      Encouraging critical thinking and research-oriented skills: ChatGPT can help children learn how to ask good questions, think critically about the answers they receive, and research topics they are studying and/or interested in. It can also teach them how to evaluate information and sources.

  •     Building confidence and independence: ChatGPT can provide children with a safe and non-judgmental environment to practice their communication skills. It can also help them build confidence in their ability to learn, explore new ideas independently, and express themselves in writing.


While it can be tempting for young people to rely on ChatGPT and not develop their own critical thinking, learning to use ChatGPT can be a fun and engaging way to enhance children and young people’s problem-solving and language skills, spark creativity, and learn about the world around them.


A teacher’s prompt guide to ChatGPT

Curriculum advisor at the New South Wales Department of Education in Sydney, Australia, Andrew Hertf, develops resources that empower teachers and leaders by promoting accessible and high-quality professional development for enhanced learning outcomes. He has produced a short instructional teachers’ guide to using ChatGPT. It has seven parts: High Expectations; Explicit Teaching; Effective Feedback; Use of Data to Inform Practice; Assessment; Classroom Management; Collaboration. The guide also contains specific examples and strategies for using ChatGPT.


The original concept of the guide was based on the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) “What Works Best” framework: a set of practical recommendations for teachers from the Australian Government. The guide, which is available online free of charge and easily adaptable to the local context in Bermuda, teaches educators how to effectively incorporate ChatGPT into their teaching practice and how to make the most of its capabilities in order to enhance student learning. Importantly, It is crucial to understand the limitations of ChatGPT and to use it responsibly.


If you have any questions or concerns about using ChatGPT, talk to a trusted adult or a teacher. Remember to always prioritise your privacy and safety online.


You can also reach out to PrivCom via our Contact page.

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