As a history teacher, I recently finished reading “The Guns of August” by Barbara Tuchman https://amzn.to/3l80lUt and I was captivated by the detailed account of the events leading up to World War I. The book provides a comprehensive analysis of the causes and events of the war and highlights the crucial decisions that ultimately led to its outcome., that I know use in my teaching of World War 1.
One of the key conclusions I drew from the book was the impact of the transfer of two German corps to the Eastern front on the failure of the Schlieffen Plan. The Schlieffen Plan was Germany’s strategy for a quick victory in the war and was based on a right wing advance through Belgium and into France. However, the transfer of two corps to the Eastern front to counter the Russian mobilization, weakened the right wing advance and left a gap in the German line.
This gap was eventually exploited by the French and British forces, leading to the failure of the Schlieffen Plan and the prolonged trench warfare on the Western front. This transfer of troops was a crucial decision that altered the course of the war and ultimately contributed to its prolonged duration.
The book also highlights the failure of French intelligence to ignore the evidence of the right wing advance by the Germans. The French were so confident in their own plan of attack that they disregarded the clear signs of the German advance, which led to their eventual defeat at the Battle of the Marne. This highlights the importance of intelligence in war and the consequences of ignoring crucial information.
In summary, “The Guns of August” provides a detailed analysis of the events leading up to World War I and highlights the impact of key decisions on its outcome. As history teachers, it is important that we educate our students on the lessons of the past and the impact of crucial decisions in shaping the course of history. The failure of the Schlieffen Plan and the failure of French intelligence to ignore the evidence of the right wing advance serve as important reminders of the consequences of underestimating the enemy and the importance of intelligence in war.
If you wish to read it to expand your knowledge of the lead and events of the first month of World War 1, I highly recommend it. It is available through my affiliate link: https://amzn.to/3l80lUt
With all the discussion around ChapGPT, what can it for history teachers? Let’s start by asking ChatGPt, what it think it can do for us?
What does ChatGPT have to say for itself if we ask it:
“ChatGPT can assist history teachers in a variety of ways. Some examples include:
1. Generating engaging and interactive lesson plans: ChatGPT can be used to create interactive and engaging lesson plans that incorporate historical events and figures. 2. Creating quizzes and assessments: ChatGPT can be used to generate quizzes, tests, and other assessments that can help teachers evaluate student understanding of historical topics. 3. Providing historical context: ChatGPT can be used to provide historical context for events and figures, helping students to better understand the significance of what they are learning. 4. Generating discussion prompts: ChatGPT can be used to generate discussion prompts and other activities that encourage students to think critically about historical topics and events. 5. Researching historical figures and events: ChatGPT can be used to assist teachers in researching historical figures and events, providing them with a wealth of information to incorporate into their lessons. 6. Providing primary sources: ChatGPT can be used to generate primary sources, such as speeches, letters, and diary entries, which can be used to bring historical events to life for students. 7. Creating virtual tours: ChatGPT can be used to create virtual tours of historical sites, allowing students to explore historical locations from the comfort of their own classroom. 8. Translating historical texts: ChatGPT can be used to translate historical texts, making them accessible to students who do not speak the original language. 9. Summarising historical events and figures: ChatGPT can be used to summarize historical events and figures, providing teachers with a quick and easy way to introduce new topics to their students. 10. Providing additional reading materials: ChatGPT can be used to generate additional reading materials for students, such as biographies, articles, and primary sources, which can be used to supplement classroom instruction.”
That is a good range of different activities that you can experiment with. I am going to focus on a couple such as 2 Creating quizzes and assessments, 6 Providing primary sources & 10 Providing additional reading materials. These example below were created in about 30 – 60 seconds from the prompt into the AI.
But how do those work in practice, far more than I’m going to cove win this post. As a history teacher the most time consuming activity is locating primary resources and scholarship to support our programs. So how have I been experimenting with ChatGPT to solve that problem.
Say I’m after a response on the fall of singapore that can include primary and supporting histography.
My first query:
“what was the impact on the Fall of Singapore according to historians “
Not a bad response., but I could have gotten that from a quick goggle search (thought it would have taken longer). And as I say to my students where is the evidence to support those arguments.
“what was the impact on the Fall of Singapore according to historians with quotes from historians”
A bit more of what I was looking for. But how do I know they are the quotes from those historians and bit just made up with them name placed in there. I need to able to check the references myself. How do I find them. Simple, we ask for referencing. I will ask for Chicago style as it’s my preferred style.
“what was the impact on the Fall of Singapore according to historians with quotes from historians with Chicago referencing and page numbers “
Better. So that how you can put together a possible response to a question.
Yes students can do that as well. How we can use this to our advantage.
Suggested task / activity: Debate the A.I.
We generate such a response very quickly, I meaning about 30 seconds. Then we can have the student debate the AI. Have them critique the response and evidence. Does it hold up, are there different views, does it leave out other possible interpretations. The AI draws on public data, it does make mistakes (found some assuming ones) and finding and correcting them is a key historical skill in critical thinking for our students to develop. It would further reinforce their own knowledge.
We can also use it to quickly locate starting point resources. Lets look for the existing histography not he Fall of Singapore.
“list the histography of the Fall of Singapore with full Chicago referencing “
But we may want to focus on the best.
“list the histography of the Fall of Singapore with full Chicago referencing “
Look at the disclaimer it give to its list, the best is subjective.
Or I can just look for 3 quotes from historians on the event.
So we can understand the power of the quotes. Does it work on primary sources. Lets find out.
“primary source quotes on the Fall of Singapore with Chicago referencing “
Very handy stuff…. That is recent events with numerous sources, can we delve further back. What about the Battle of Hastings and a primary source quote.
We know the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle had an entry, can we find out what it said?
I know medieval historians will look at that. And say hold on, that is not the same translation as found in the British Library. So we revert to what historians do. We collaborate the primary source. Are there other variations in the translation by different historians, and so on.
We can focus on specific historians.
It can also help us quickly locate the histography of historians, if you are studying Germany, the work of Ian Kershaw is a must use. But do you know all his works on the topic. Yes you can try other sources, but a 30 second search will give most of what you need. You can even ask for a summary os his argument (Not shown)
Lastly, looking to generate some quick revision questions, what can it produce.
“write a list of 10 sample student questions on the Fall of Singapore”
You;ll find that it’ll follow similar patterns in question style if you ask for the same of another topic. though I have noticed the same question the next day will produce a different style of question. Not sure why yet.
We have our questions, but can it answer them. So I ask it.
“write a short answer to each of the following questions: What were the main reasons for the fall of Singapore in 1942? How did Japan’s military strategy contribute to the British surrender at Singapore? What impact did the fall of Singapore have on the British Empire? How did the fall of Singapore affect the population, both British and Asian? What role did the Malayan Campaign play in the fall of Singapore? How did the fall of Singapore change the course of World War II in the Pacific? How did the British government respond to the fall of Singapore? What were the conditions like for prisoners of war following the fall of Singapore? How did the fall of Singapore impact the relationship between Britain and its former colonies? What lessons can be learned from the fall of Singapore in terms of military strategy and defense?”
Are you happy with the short response, I’ll let you decide for yourself.
What I have shown here is just the surface on what ChatGPT and other AI system will reign to us.
While it is a text based AI, it can create tables and other features you can create in a basic word processor. As seen by the table below.
DAP is founded
The German Workers’ Party (DAP), the precursor to the Nazi Party, is founded by Anton Drexler.
Hitler joins DAP
Adolf Hitler joins the DAP and becomes the party’s leader.
The party’s name is changed to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP)
Beer Hall Putsch
Hitler and the Nazis attempt to overthrow the German government in the Beer Hall Putsch, but the attempt fails and Hitler is arrested.
Hitler is sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the Beer Hall Putsch, but serves only nine months.
Hitler publishes “Mein Kampf” while in prison, outlining his political ideology.
The Great Depression begins, leading to economic hardship in Germany and increasing support for extremist parties like the Nazis.
Hitler appointed Chancellor
The Nazis, now the largest party in Germany, gain power and Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany.
The Enabling Act is passed, giving Hitler dictatorial powers.
Death of President Hindenburg
Hitler declares himself Führer and combines the office of Chancellor and President.
The Nuremberg Laws are passed, stripping Jews and other minority groups of their civil rights.
Invasion of Poland
Germany invades Poland, marking the beginning of World War II.
This is a brief summary of the key events in the rise of the Nazi Party, there are other important events that happened, but this should give you a general idea of the rise of the Nazi Party.
ChatGPT is not without its faults and limitations. However, it brings more to history teachers than it can take away. However, it has more potential to enrich our programs.
Our students will be using this tool as there has been enough news around it, that they will know about it. For most students, the quick answer will provide someone around a basic C grade response in middle school. It will change how we assess some aspects of the courses.
However, we need as educators to use these tools, as they will only become more common and easily accessible. Importantly we need to teach our students to us these tools. These are the skills they need to develop as they move from schooling to the workforce.