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ChatGPT for Beginners: How to Master Prompting - EdTechist
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This guide is designed to show you how to master prompting with ChatGPT. I originally started this earlier this calendar year, but like with most teachers, the chaos of a school year will usually result in reducing other tasks in life and this is how this post got delayed until now. It’s still worth publishing, so I hope you find it useful!

Within the expansive and ever-evolving domain of artificial intelligence, ChatGPT has emerged as a market leader, renowned for its adaptability and designed to simplify and enhance a broad spectrum of tasks. In the classroom, ChatGPT and the wider field of Generative AI can create code samples, acting as a companion in coding challenges, to structuring independent learning and personal coaching, assisting users to learn new skills or improve upon existing ones. If you are a teacher who wants to unlock the full capabilities of ChatGPT and how it can benefit your professional daily tasks, then this guide has been meticulously crafted with the needs of a teacher in mind.

The video from Anson Alexander on YouTube, offers a detailed pathway to engage with ChatGPT in the most effective way possible. This involves a detailed exploration into the nuanced art of prompt crafting, which will quickly become a critical skill required for many fields of employment. Prompting is a method that creates a specific scenario for AI to ensure its’ response are precisely tailored to meet your specific requirements. As a quick example:

Prompt:

Create a speech by Nikita Khrushchev about the dangers of American aggression during the Cuban Missiles Crisis.

Response:

Comrades, distinguished guests,

Today, I stand before you as the leader of the Soviet Union during a time of great tension—the Cuban Missile Crisis. Our world teeters on the precipice of annihilation, and it is my duty to address the grave dangers we face.

Let me be clear: peaceful coexistence remains our ultimate goal. We do not seek war, but we cannot ignore the aggressive actions of our American counterparts. The United States, driven by its imperialist ambitions, has encircled us with military bases, threatened our sovereignty, and now, they dare to challenge our presence in Cuba.

Why Cuba? Because Cuba dared to choose its own path—a path toward socialism, independence, and self-determination. The Cuban Revolution, led by our esteemed comrade Fidel Castro, shook the foundations of imperialism. The people of Cuba, through their heroic struggle, cleared their land of North American brigands and built a new life based on socialist principles.

And yet, what did the imperialists do? They fumed with malice. They could not bear the idea of a small island nation defying their hegemony. They feared the power of ideas—the idea that a people could rise against oppression and chart their destiny.

So, they concocted a crisis—a crisis that brought us to the brink of nuclear catastrophe. They accused Cuba, our ally, of threatening their security. But let us not forget the truth: it was the United States that had missiles stationed in Turkey, aimed at our heartland. It was the United States that sought to undermine Cuba’s sovereignty.

We responded with resolve. We positioned our missiles in Cuba—a mere 90 miles from Florida. Not as an act of aggression, but as a deterrent. We said to the imperialists, “We will bury you if you dare to attack us.” We stood firm, and the world held its breath.

But let us not forget the lessons of this crisis. Let us learn from it. We must seek sensible compromise. We must prevent the lunatics from pushing us into oblivion. We must continue our struggle for peace, for socialism, and for the betterment of humanity.

In conclusion, comrades, let us remember the heroism of Cuba, the courage of its people, and the importance of solidarity among socialist nations. Let us work tirelessly to prevent the unthinkable—a nuclear war that would consume us all.

Thank you.

While I’m not a history teacher and can’t comment on the overall accuracy of the response, a quick internet search tells me that Khrushchev did consider the US blockade to be “an act of aggression” (here), so if you’re a history teacher,  you may already be using ChatGPT as a tool to provide new source material to help prepare your exam classes for this part of a GCE exam. If not, hopefully this will show you how new source material could be generated very quickly to assist in this area. Even if there are inaccuracies or exaggerated bias, this would still provide students with the opportunity to analyse and respond to questions built around the source material.

As we move into exploring the core principles and skills that are essential to master the art of ChatGPT prompting, it will become evident that a strategic approach to interaction with this AI tool can significantly raise the quality and relevance of its output. Let’s start by exploring the first steps and advanced strategies that will equip you with the knowledge to maximise the usefulness of ChatGPT, enabling you to leverage its full potential for a wide array of applications.

Getting Acquainted with ChatGPT

Your adventure with ChatGPT begins with understanding how to access it. The platform offers two versions: the free ChatGPT 3.5 and the more advanced, premium ChatGPT 4.0. For those just starting, the free version provides a solid foundation, offering substantial capabilities that are perfect for beginners.

To start using ChatGPT, you will first need to create an OpenAI account. Follow the instructions here:

  1. Navigate to the OpenAI website here: https://openai.com.
  2. Scroll down and click on ChatGPT under the FEATURED menu as shown here:

Figure 3.1 – OpenAI landing page

  1. Then you need to click on TRY CHATGPT

Figure 3.2 – ChatGPT landing page

  1. On the next page, you need to fill out the form to sign up for an OpenAI account. This is the same account you can use to access the OpenAI Playground and generate your API keys.

Figure 3.3 – ChatGPT landing page with Log in and Sign up options

  1. Now you can start using the ChatGPT web app. Once you have found the ChatGPT web app, click on it to launch it. You will be able to interact with ChatGPT and perform various natural language processing tasks directly in your web browser.

Familiarising yourself with the UI

The web interface of ChatGPT is pretty intuitive to use. Before starting to write your prompts, you can easily try some examples provided by the service:

Figure 3.5 – Sample prompts provided by ChatGPT

Then, you are also instructed about the main capabilities of ChatGPT:

Figure 3.6 – Capabilities of ChatGPT

Among the capabilities, it is highlighted how ChatGPT is capable of maintaining memory throughout the conversation. In the previous chapter, we went deeper into the math behind GPT and saw how important the memory retention component is: now you can appreciate this mathematical complexity in action.

This capability of ChatGPT is also an example of few-shot learning, which we are going to learn more about in the following chapters.

Organising chats

A time-saving feature that ChatGPT exhibits is the possibility of having multiple open threads or chats. In fact, when you start writing your first prompts, ChatGPT will automatically initiate a new chat and name it with a relevant title. Have a look at the top-left corner of the following screenshot:

I am text block. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

I am text block. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Getting Acquainted with ChatGPT

Here are some steps to get acquainted with ChatGPT:

  1. Try It Out: This is probably the most important one – try it out! Visit the ChatGPT website and start a conversation. Think of it like writing a text message – ask a question and see what you get in response! I would recommend starting with something that you know the answer to. That way, you will be able to evaluate the answer for accuracy. Remember that Chat GPT has access to information up to September 2021, so there may be limitations to what it produces or information may be out of date if something in your question changed after this date.
  2. Experiment with Prompts: ChatGPT responds to prompts you provide. Try different prompts to explore its capabilities. You can ask questions, request creative writing, or seek assistance. The more information and context you give it, the stronger and more relevant the response will be. This takes practice, so look up some of the prompt libraries to help get exactly what you need at the beginning. As your knowledge develops, so will your ability to create the prompt you need…without prompting! (sorry).
  3. Understand Its Strengths and Limitations: ChatGPT is trained on vast amounts of data from the web, which allows it to generate text that resembles human writing. However, it may occasionally produce incorrect or nonsensical responses. Be aware of its limitations and use it accordingly. This is why I advised to start with something you know well. If you know what the answer is supposed to look like, then you can better evaluate the relevance and usefulness of the response.
  4. Explore the Prompt Library: There’s a collection of 300+ basic ChatGPT prompts that can help you get started. These prompts cover various topics and use cases.
  5. Provide Clear Instructions: When interacting with ChatGPT, be specific in your prompts. Clear instructions lead to better responses. For example, if you want a summary of a news article, ask ChatGPT to summarise it – but remember its limitations!

Remember that ChatGPT is continually improving, and user feedback helps enhance its performance.

The Art of Effective Prompting

The core of your ChatGPT experience hinges on effective prompting. This skill involves meticulously crafting your requests to the AI, ensuring you provide enough detail to guide it towards the desired outcome. When you’re precise about the task, context, examples, and tone or format you prefer, ChatGPT can generate responses that are significantly more aligned with your needs.

 

Leveraging ChatGPT Across Diverse Tasks

ChatGPT’s versatility allows it to assist with a wide array of tasks. Whether you’re tackling coding challenges, learning a new language, plotting business strategies, or seeking personal development advice, the key is to furnish ChatGPT with detailed prompts. This specificity enables the AI to provide tailored assistance, enhancing the effectiveness of its responses.

A great example that a colleague told me about recently was using AI for nothing to do with teaching. She had booked a holiday and used ChatGPT to plan their itinerary to get them from the airport they arrived at to the airport they were departing from (which was in a neighbouring country) and the activities for each day. This plan gave them recommended information as to what to visit, where to stay and where to eat.

Great examples aren’t limited to the classroom!

I use Chat GPT to create written content in my senior classes’ notes. This is computing-focused and

Refining Responses Through Reiteration

Sometimes, the first response from ChatGPT might not hit the mark. This is where reiteration and repetition comes into play. By providing feedback or asking follow-up questions within the same chat, you can help ChatGPT refine its understanding and improve the accuracy of its responses.

This helps you extract the type of response you are looking for and also enables you to learn more about the type of prompts that need to be given to Chat GPT for it to give you the response you are looking for. This part of ealrning aout Chat GPT is the trial and error part – what works and what doesn’t? What gives you greater accuracy or what gives greater depth? This is where your learning and understading of how to work the platform will take place.

 

Building a Prompt Library

For frequent users, creating a library of successful prompts is a game-changer. Tools like Prompt Box facilitate the organisation of these prompts, which enables you to categorise and reuse them for similar tasks in the future. This not only saves you time but also enhances the efficiency of your interactions with ChatGPT both now and later.

 

Customisation and Privacy Considerations

Anon Alexander’s guide also touches on the importance of customising your ChatGPT experience. Setting up custom instructions allows ChatGPT to remember your preferences for future interactions, making the AI more personalised to your needs. However, it’s crucial to remain fully aware of privacy. While interactions with ChatGPT are generally private, they may be reviewed for quality improvement. Thankfully, options to disable chat saving are available for those seeking additional privacy measures. Whatever you do, keep common sense alive and active when using Chat GPT – if you were using it to write a student report, do not mention the student by name or other aspects of privacy that might involve a dispute at work (in which you might be using a prompt to write a formal/official email) or that would identify your school. As pointed out earlier, the ability to disable chat saving does exist, but treat that in the same way Alexa listens to everything you say near it (because it ‘needs’ to listen in case you mention its name); or how Google ‘might have’ stored your private browsing data, but have magnanimously agreed to delete it, or a host of other instances in which tech companies have been caught doing somethiing they shouldn’t with data that has been hoovered up from their platforms, software or devices that are so prominent in our lives.

Just be careful and you ‘should’ be OK.

 

Engaging and Learning with ChatGPT

Engaging actively with ChatGPT is not just about getting tasks done; it’s also a learning opportunity. Experimenting with different prompts and observing the AI’s responses can provide invaluable insights into the nuances of effective communication with AI. This process is not only educational but can also be quite enjoyable, offering a hands-on way to improve your prompting skills. Which in turn can be used with your colleagues, or in class with pupils.

By following these guidelines, beginners can navigate their way through using ChatGPT with greater ease and efficiency. The journey from accessing the platform to mastering the art of prompting involves a blend of experimentation, learning, and refining strategies to communicate effectively with the AI. As you embark on this journey, remember that each interaction is a step toward mastering the capabilities of ChatGPT, making it a valuable ally in various tasks and endeavours.

 

Final Thoughts

As with a lot of things in It, the key is practice. I have also said this in a number of posts – more times than not you won’t be able to break the tool you are using. So if you’re reading this, feeling a little anxious or nervous about using it, don’t! There is simply nothing to worry about – you will quickly realise the scope of how AI can help in your subject area and begin to incorporate it into much of your daily tasks.

There are a number of platforms being developed for different outputs of AI. Dall.E 2 is an AI system that will generate images from text. I have used this for a number of images on this site as it gives me a greater scope than using royalty free images that you might find on Pexels.com or any other site that is royalty free. There’s nothing wrong with those images – they are high quality and show a high lvel of skill from the photographer, but from a web design point of view, I want my site to be unique as much as possible and these images are another resource I can call one.

So my advice is to get started. If you feel better playing with Chat GPT when no one is around, then do that. You can download the app on your phone and try it there – you’ll get pretty much the same experience and learn the same skills. Where the user experience drops here is that when I want to create content, there are a few extra steps to take in getting the content from my phone to another platform (like MS Word or whatever software I want to present the information on) which can be a little mroe time consuming.

Other than that, you will love how much AI can help you in your daily tasks. TeachMate AI is an AI platform built specifically for teachers and it is marketed as being able to help teachers write reports – which coming into June might be quite apealing to some!

 

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