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    Should School Districts Be Using ChatGPT?

    July 11, 2023
    by Peachjar |

    As professionals in the communication space, it is not often you see exciting and groundbreaking tools like ChatGPT. As with most artificial intelligence tools, however, you may be asking yourself, “Is tech taking over the world?” “Will I still have a job?” or “What does this even mean for my district?” Understanding how a new tool works, as well as potential benefits and drawbacks, is a crucial first step; especially as you and your team navigate how to incorporate new tools into your workflows, if at all. 

    Matthew Jennings spoke with Curtis Campbell, Communications Manager at Puyallup School District, about ChatGPT and its benefits in school PR. Spoiler alert: You may be surprised by what they have to say. 

    Let’s first discuss what ChatGPT stands for. It stands for Chat Generative Pre-training Transformer. Instant clarification, right? *pause for laughter* Essentially, it acts like your typical chatbot but provides more of a human-like response to a prompt. To clarify even further, it is based on a deep learning language model that “evaluates the importance of the words or phrases in each input.” It generates text based on the information a user “chats” in and references various datasets of text that are readily available on the internet (think news articles, books, websites, etc). Users can input a description of what kind of content they need, along with parameters like tone or character count. Then it regurgitates its best response, again based on the user’s request and information the tool has access to. 

    Don’t worry, using ChatGPT is a lot easier than reading through that tech jargon. While talking to Matthew, Curtis recommended that everyone try the tool for themselves. We took his advice and asked ChatGPT “What are the benefits of after school programs?” and this is what it returned:

    After-school programs offer several benefits for students. Here are some of the key advantages:

    1. Academic support: Many after-school programs provide homework assistance and tutoring, helping students with their assignments and reinforcing their understanding of various subjects.
    2. Enrichment activities: These programs offer a wide range of enrichment activities such as arts, sports, music, dance, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and more. These activities can help develop new skills and interests beyond the regular school curriculum.
    3. Social and emotional development: After-school programs provide opportunities for students to interact with peers from diverse backgrounds, fostering social skills, teamwork, and cooperation. They also offer a supportive environment where students can express themselves, build self-confidence, and develop emotional resilience.
    4. Safe and supervised environment: After-school programs provide a structured and supervised setting for students, ensuring their safety and well-being during the hours when parents or guardians may still be at work.
    5. Reduced risk of negative behaviors: Research suggests that participation in after-school programs is linked to a decrease in risky behaviors such as substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, and involvement in gangs. The structured activities and adult supervision offered by these programs help keep students engaged and focused on positive pursuits.
    6. Improved academic performance: Students who participate in after-school programs often show improved academic performance, increased motivation, and better attendance rates. The additional academic support, individual attention, and opportunities for hands-on learning contribute to their overall educational success.
    It is easy to see how this tool provides a great starting point for resources you may provide to your district or staff. However, you can also note the nuances it does not quite catch, or specifics it lacks that you would add to fit your situation, procedures, and district. Artificial intelligence generative tools are just that—tools. They can add efficiency to your workflow by serving as templates, boilerplate resource banks and quicker copy for social media. However, Curtis highly advised against using ChatGPT to write speeches or any message you have a byline on. It also should not be used to write something like a superintendent’s message because that should be coming from the superintendent—written by you or the communications team in their voice. 

    ChatGPT is a tool that will continue to evolve as people use it and as technology advances. Regardless of how it works right now, it is exciting to look to the future. Not only ChatGPT, but the field of communications as a whole. With cutting edge technology, this field is shaping up to be a completely different place than when most of us entered it. 

    Communications jobs still serve a vital purpose no matter how sophisticated ChatGPT seems. It often misses the nuance of being human and is to be looked at in the perspective of a staff writer whose work has to be reviewed by the staff editor, as revisions still need to be made prior to publishing.

    Are you curious about ChatGPT access or if other school communications professionals have used it and found it helpful? For information on that and much more, check out our video.

    Categories: School Districts