Media, Technology, and Education
Artificial IntelligenceCluster PedagogyIntegrated ClustersOpen Educational ResourcesTechnologyWriting

A ChatGPT Assignment

chatgpt home page

When I last taught Media and Cultural Studies six years ago, students worked on an Open Education Resource (OER) for the class. I wrote about this experiment in our new Cluster Learning Model at the time and would still consider it a success. I’m teaching the class in the Fall for the first time since then and I plan to continue this work, with some adaptations.

I have created an OER for the class with introductory material that I have written or adapted from other OER. In the major work of the semester, students will write additional chapters that are focused on individual media. For example, a group of students will investigate the newspaper industry, looking at the current industry landscape, its business model(s), the challenges faced by the industry, the future outlook for the industry, and so on. Once they understand the industry, they will write a chapter for the OER for future students to use.

Like many educators, I’m interested in the role that artificial intelligence in general and ChatGPT in particular will play in assignments like this. I think we do a disservice to our students if we try to ignore the technological developments happening outside of the classroom while we are inside of the classroom. For example, I encourage students to use Wikipedia in their research as a starting point, explaining the various parts of a Wikipedia entry and how to use them as a jumping off point for further research. I think it’s important to help students understand these technologies, their strengths and weaknesses, rather than ban them outright from our classes. I know some students will want to use ChatGPT in writing their chapters for this class. So rather than ban the use of the tool, I am working on an assignment that will help them understand the role such tools can play in writing.

Here’s my plan. I chose Games as my example medium and used ChatGPT to answer a series of prompts. For example, I asked ChatGPT “What is the function of the game industry in society?” The response was:

The game industry serves several important functions in society, extending beyond mere entertainment. Here are some of the key functions:

  1. Entertainment and Recreation: The primary function of the game industry is to provide entertainment and recreation to people of all ages. Games offer a diverse range of experiences, from casual and relaxing games to immersive and challenging ones, catering to various preferences and interests.
  2. Cultural Expression: Games can reflect and express cultural values, stories, and traditions. They often incorporate elements of art, music, storytelling, and design, creating unique experiences that resonate with players from different backgrounds.
  3. Education and Learning: Many games are designed with educational purposes in mind. Educational games can help improve cognitive skills, problem-solving abilities, critical thinking, and knowledge retention in a fun and interactive manner.
  4. Social Interaction: Multiplayer and online games enable social interactions among players worldwide. Gaming communities foster friendships, teamwork, and collaboration, providing a sense of belonging and connection for players.
  5. Stress Relief and Mental Health: Games can serve as a form of stress relief and relaxation, offering an escape from daily challenges and pressures. Engaging in games can be a therapeutic activity, promoting mental well-being and emotional balance.
  6. Technological Advancement: The game industry drives technological advancements and innovation. Game developers often push the boundaries of hardware capabilities, graphics, artificial intelligence, and user interfaces, which can subsequently be applied to other industries and fields.
  7. Economic Impact: The game industry contributes significantly to the global economy. It generates revenue through sales, subscriptions, and in-game purchases, creating job opportunities for developers, artists, designers, marketers, and more.
  8. Community Building and Events: Gaming events, conventions, and competitions bring together enthusiasts, professionals, and developers, fostering a sense of community and celebration of gaming culture.
  9. Storytelling and Immersion: Games have evolved to offer immersive storytelling experiences similar to books and movies. Players can become emotionally invested in the characters and narratives, fostering empathy and understanding.
  10. Research and Training: Serious games, a subset of games designed for a specific purpose other than entertainment, are used in research, simulations, and training programs in various fields, such as healthcare, military, and corporate training.

Overall, the game industry has a multifaceted impact on society, contributing to entertainment, education, culture, technology, and economy, while also influencing individuals’ social lives and mental well-being.

An interesting observation is that all but one of my prompts resulted in a list similar to the one above. The full set of prompts and responses is here in the OER for the class. I will ask students to investigate each of the items in the lists to determine sources for the information. I think this will mean that if any of the information is not true, students will figure that out. As a class, we will then determine which three (or five?) items in the list are most important and then in small groups, students will flesh out those most important items, citing their sources. We will put these paragraphs together to create a fleshed out chapter about the game industry. Then, students will choose a new medium (newspapers, books, TV, films, etc.) to investigate. They will start by creating prompts for ChatGPT about each area they need to write about (business model, challenges, future, etc.) and then go through a process similar to what we used for the Games chapter to write the chapter on their medium. Along the way, we will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of ChatGPT and similar tools.

I’m curious about how others are handling the opportunities and challenges presented by AI tools. And I would love some feedback about how you think the assignment that I’ve described might go.

The featured image is a screenshot of the ChatGPT home page captured on August 2, 2023.

Article written by:

I am currently Professor of Digital Media at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH. I am also the current Coordinator of General Education at the University. I am interested in astrophotography, game studies, digital literacies, open pedagogies, and generally how technology impacts our culture.

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