- The recent development of ChatGPT — a sophisticated artificial intelligence chatbot that can search databases and create essays, poetry, computer code, lyrics and other works — has school leaders concerned that students now have an easy way to plagiarize their schoolwork.
- These fears emerged as New York City Public Schools, the nation’s largest school system, blocked access to ChatGPT on its network and devices in December, following requests from schools to do so.
- Meanwhile, a Princeton University student last week announced he had developed an app called GPTZero that can detect if an essay was written by a human or an AI chatbot.
Quickly developing AI technology is already beginning to pose major questions about where it fits into education — and whether it has a place in the classroom.
In New York City, the AI chatbot program was blocked “due to concerns about negative impacts on student learning, and concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of content,” said Jenna Lyle, the district’s spokesperson, in an emailed statement to K-12 Dive. While the tool may be able to provide quick and easy answers to questions, she said "it does not build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for academic and lifelong success."
Despite these restrictions, Lyle said, individual schools may request access to ChatGPT when students are learning about AI-related technology.
Educators' concerns swirl around the limited ability to detect an AI-generated essay or assignment. But the newly developed free GPTZero app offers a glimpse of hope for ferreting out whether homework was created by AI.
To Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, students should still have access to AI chatbots in school. Students are excited to use this technology, and they will find ways to use AI even if schools block access, she said. This technology is also rapidly shaping the demands of the future workforce.
While AI could lead students to not do original work, it also creates an opportunity for teachers to get more creative with assignments and assessments, Lake said.
“Now is the time to have the conversation with kids — it’s their future, it’s their jobs. Let’s talk to them about how they want to use these tools to get the most out of their learning,” Lake said.
There are simple ways teachers can integrate instruction on AI into lessons, such as discussing how the technology is used every day without students even noticing it. Common uses of AI can look like asking Siri a question on an iPhone or tracking online purchases, said Michael Martucci, a Florida school administrator who helped develop a statewide AI curriculum, in an October interview with K-12 Dive.
This can help students also understand how to use AI themselves to create their own apps or solve problems. When digging deeper into the subject, students can understand how machine learning runs AI and apply those skills to their own learning processes, Michael Daley, an associate professor and director of the Center for Professional Development & Education Reform at the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester, previously told K-12 Dive.
“Maybe assigning essays was not the right thing a long time ago and didn’t really measure the things we value in students,” Lake said. “Could we use this as an opportunity to really get to a deeper level with kids about how to write strong essays and have them critique essays that the AI bots are producing?”
But like all technological tools, AI can be used well or poorly, Lake said.
“It can detract from equity, it can promote equity,” she said. “The job at hand is to think about how can we use this tool well on behalf of kids to prepare them for the future?”