Since debuting in late 2022, ChatGPT has dominated the conversation in education. But it’s not alone in the artificial intelligence large language model game. Google unveiled its AI writer Bard (opens in new tab) recently and OpenAI, which makes ChatGPT, released a more advanced version of the technology called GPT-4 (opens in new tab) that the company is using to power ChatGPT Plus, the subscription version of ChatGPT.
Like many educators, I’m both worried about the ways in which these technologies can be used by students to cheat and also intrigued by their potential utility as teaching tools. I’m also curious about how they function.
Here’s a look at how Bard and ChatGPT Plus matched up after being given some simple prompts that students or teachers might try. Both tools were up to various tasks, but I found that ChatGPT Plus consistently provided more depth while Bard was better at being succinct and citing sources.
ChatGPT Plus vs. Bard Round 1: Writing a Book Report
My Prompt: Please write a book report on To Kill a Mockingbird for my 9th grade English class
Winner: ChatGPT Plus
My take: Both ChatGPT and Bard did a decent job of recounting the novel’s story in a standard if not particularly deep or inspiring manner. However, ChatGPT Plus seemed to make more of an effort to format its response into a book review format than Bard did and had a slightly longer response, all of which gave it a slight edge. Of course, a counter argument can be made that the AI that does less to help a student potentially cheat is the real winner in this round, but if I’m judging solely by book report quality, ChatGPT’s was a bit stronger.
The Beginning of ChatGPT Plus’ Response:
Title: To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Genre: Fiction, Coming-of-Age, Social Injustice
"To Kill a Mockingbird" is a classic American novel written by Harper Lee. The book was published in 1960 and has since become one of the most widely read and studied books in American literature. Set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the 1930s, the story follows young Scout Finch as she navigates life and learns important lessons about morality, empathy, and justice. The novel explores themes of racism, social inequality, and the nature of human goodness….
The Beginning of Bard’s Response:
To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by Harper Lee that was published in 1960. It was instantly successful and has become a classic of modern American literature. The novel is set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Great Depression. The story is told by Jean Louise ("Scout") Finch, an intelligent and precocious girl who ages from six to nine years old during the course of the novel. She and her brother, Jeremy Atticus ("Jem"), are raised by their widowed father, Atticus Finch, a well-respected lawyer…
Round 2: Explaining Black Holes
My Prompt: Can you explain the physics of black holes to me?
The Winner: Bard
My take: Once again, ChatGPT’s answer was a longer and more in depth. It also definitely had more stylistic flair, however, Bard cited its source, a major improvement over ChatGPT Plus’ unsourced answer. I’m not knowledgeable enough about the actual answer to this question to assess each one’s scientific quality, but evaluating both AI chatbots as resource tools for students, it’s clear that the tool that cites its source wins.
Sure. A black hole is a region of space where gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape. The boundary of no escape is called the event horizon. Although it has a great effect on the fate and circumstances of an object crossing it, it has no locally detectable features according to general relativity. In many ways, a black hole acts like an ideal black body, as it reflects no light.
Black holes of stellar mass form when massive stars collapse at the end of their life cycle. After a black hole has formed, it can grow by absorbing mass from its surroundings. Supermassive black holes of millions of solar masses (M☉) may form by absorbing other stars and merging with other black holes. There is consensus that supermassive black holes exist in the centres of most galaxies. The presence of a black hole can be inferred through its interaction with other matter and with electromagnetic radiation such as visible light.
The physics of black holes is still not fully understood. However, we do know that they are incredibly massive and have a strong gravitational pull. This gravitational pull is so strong that it can even bend light. Black holes are also thought to be very hot, and they emit a lot of radiation.
Black holes are one of the most fascinating objects in the universe. They are still a mystery to us, but we are learning more about them all the time.
Sources: 1. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_hole (opens in new tab)
Start of ChatGPT Plus’ Response:
Black holes are astronomical objects with an extremely strong gravitational pull, so powerful that nothing, not even light, can escape from it once it crosses a certain boundary called the event horizon. They are formed when a massive star reaches the end of its life cycle and collapses under its own gravity.
Here's a simplified explanation of black holes:
1) Formation: Black holes form from the remnants of massive stars. When a star at least three times the mass of our Sun exhausts its nuclear fuel, it can no longer produce the outward pressure needed to counteract its own gravity. As a result, the core of the star collapses, and the outer layers are expelled in a supernova explosion. If the core's mass is large enough, the gravitational pull becomes so strong that it continues to collapse until it forms a black hole.
2) Anatomy: A black hole has three main components: the event horizon, the singularity, and the accretion disk.
a) Event Horizon: This is the boundary around the black hole beyond which nothing can escape, including light. The event horizon is also sometimes called the "point of no return."
b) Singularity: At the center of the black hole is the singularity, a point where all the mass of the black hole is concentrated, and gravity becomes infinitely strong. Our current understanding of physics breaks down at the singularity, so it remains a topic of ongoing research.
c) Accretion Disk: Material, such as gas and dust, that comes near a black hole but doesn't fall directly into it can form a spinning disk around the black hole called an accretion disk. As the material in the disk spirals inward, it heats up and emits radiation, making the disk visible to astronomers....
Round 3: Writing a Lesson Plan
My prompt: Can you create a lesson plan for me on the American Revolutionary War that is suitable for high school freshman?
The Winner: ChatGPT Plus
My take: The deeper I get into comparing these two chatbots the more I feel like Bard behaves like a student who meets the criteria of the assignment without leaving out anything obvious while ChatGPT Plus seems to go the extra mile. Both are still kind of surface level in their approach, but ChatGPT Plus is going deeper and providing more substance.
Start of ChatGPT Plus’ Response:
Lesson Title: The American Revolutionary War
Grade Level: 9th Grade (High School Freshmen)
Duration: 5 days (1 week)
Subject: U.S. History
Students will gain an understanding of the causes, key events, and consequences of the American Revolutionary War, as well as the key figures and principles that shaped the United States during this period.
-Textbook or supplementary readings on the American Revolution
-Access to internet and library resources
-PowerPoint or other visual presentation tools
-Art supplies (colored pencils, markers, paper)
Day 1: Introduction and Causes of the American Revolutionary War
1) Begin with a brief overview of the American Revolutionary War, explaining that it was a conflict between the thirteen American colonies and Great Britain from 1775 to 1783.
2) Discuss the causes of the war, focusing on topics like taxation without representation, the Boston Tea Party, and the Intolerable Acts.
3) Assign a reading from the textbook or supplementary materials on the causes of the war.
4) In-class activity: Have students work in small groups to discuss the causes and create a visual representation (e.g., a mind map or poster) of the events and issues that led to the war.
5) Homework: Students will write a one-page reflection on which cause they believe was the most significant and why.
Start of Bard’s Response:
Sure, here is a lesson plan on the American Revolutionary War that is suitable for high school freshman:
Lesson Plan Title: The American Revolutionary War
Grade Level: 9-12
Time: 45 minutes
-Students will be able to identify the causes of the American Revolutionary War.
-Students will be able to explain the major events of the American Revolutionary War.
-Students will be able to analyze the impact of the American Revolutionary War.
-Whiteboard or projector
-Markers or pens
-Handouts on the American Revolutionary War
-Copies of the Declaration of Independence
-Copies of the Constitution of the United States
-Begin by asking students what they know about the American Revolutionary War.
-Explain that the American Revolutionary War was a war between the thirteen British colonies in North America and Great Britain.
-The war lasted from 1775 to 1783, and it resulted in the independence of the United States.
2) Causes of the American Revolutionary War:
Next, discuss the causes of the American Revolutionary War....
Round 4: Helping With Math Homework
My Prompt: 5a² - 6b² when a = 3 and b = -2 is equal to:
My take: I got this question from CueMath.com and both Bard and ChatGPT Plus got the answer correct and did a nice job of explaining it. ChatGPT Plus’ answer was characteristically more in-depth except this time it didn’t seem deeper to me and an argument could be made for Bard’s more succinct answer.
Round 5: Creative Writing
My Prompt: Can you write a parable about the dangers of new technology but set it in ancient Greece?
My Take: This was the most lopsided round and shows how far ahead ChatGPT Plus is when it comes to generative creative works. Bard provided a short retelling of the Icarus myth, meanwhile, ChatGPT Plus wrote this seemingly new parable of mechanical horses and human complacency in ancient Greece. It is, I think, a fitting end to this story on new technology and its perils and potential. Here it is:
Once in ancient Greece, in the thriving city of Athens, there lived a renowned inventor named Philemon. Known for his brilliant mind and innovative creations, he was respected and admired by the people. One day, Philemon unveiled a new invention he believed would change the lives of the Athenians forever: a mechanical horse.
This mechanical horse, crafted from bronze and fitted with intricate gears, was designed to carry passengers with incredible speed and without tiring. Fascinated by this marvel, the people of Athens eagerly welcomed the new technology, and soon, the city's streets were filled with these magnificent creatures.
The inventor, basking in the adoration of the people, saw his invention as a gift to humanity. He marveled at how his mechanical horses enabled the citizens to travel greater distances, reach neighboring cities with ease, and conduct trade more efficiently. He believed he had singlehandedly ushered in a new era of progress and prosperity for Athens.
However, as time passed, unforeseen consequences began to surface. The once-proud breeders of real horses, who had long provided their noble steeds for the Athenians, found themselves struggling. Their horses, once revered for their strength and beauty, were now deemed obsolete, replaced by Philemon's creation. Many breeders were forced to abandon their lifelong trade, and the once-valued bond between man and horse began to fade.
Moreover, the people of Athens grew complacent and idle. The convenience of the mechanical horse led many to abandon the physical activities they had once enjoyed. The Athenians no longer felt the need to walk, run or engage in sports, as their mechanical steeds carried them effortlessly wherever they wished to go. Slowly, the city's once-vibrant spirit of athleticism and competition began to wither.
Witnessing these changes, Philemon was struck by a profound sense of guilt. He realized that his invention, though intended to improve the lives of his people, had unwittingly robbed them of their virtues and traditions. The bond between man and horse, the pursuit of physical excellence, and the pride of the horse breeders – all had been sacrificed at the altar of progress.
Determined to right his wrongs, Philemon gathered the people of Athens in the city square. There, he confessed his mistake and urged his fellow citizens to reflect on the consequences of embracing new technology without considering its potential impact on their society.
He reminded them that progress should not come at the expense of their cherished values, and that they must weigh the benefits of innovation against the preservation of their cultural heritage.
Humbled by Philemon's wisdom, the people of Athens took his words to heart. They began to integrate the mechanical horses more thoughtfully into their lives, using them for specific tasks while preserving their traditions of horsemanship and physical activity.
And so, the people of Athens learned a valuable lesson: while innovation can bring about great advancements, it is essential to consider the broader implications of new technology and strive for balance between progress and the preservation of what makes us truly human.
- 4 Ways to Use ChatGPT to Prepare for Class (opens in new tab)
- What is GPT-4? What Educators Need to Know About ChatGPT’s Next Chapter (opens in new tab)
- What is Google Bard? The ChatGPT Competitor Explained for Educators (opens in new tab)
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