AI in the classroom: Academic integrity vs. human learning
MUKILTEO, Wash., April 28, 2023—With AI tools such as Caktus AI and ChatGPT on the rise, the growing need for school districts to develop formal policies for the use of artificial intelligence in the classroom is reigniting ethical discussions around academic integrity and human learning.
Initially launched on November 30th, 2022, ChatGPT quickly became one of the fastest-growing platforms, with over a million users by December. Developed by OpenAI, the open language model has been trained on vast amounts of text data, allowing it to respond to requests in a coherent and appropriate manner. The AI language model can write essays, develop quantum physics, and even write code.
Many students have found ways to use ChatGPT’s capabilities, and other AI tools on assignments and homework by inputting prompts and questions. Students can generate entire essays and solve math problems in seconds, all without having to expend any effort.
“I think [AI tools] can be beneficial in certain places,” said Harpreet Parhar, an English teacher at Kamiak High School. “[But] I think it does not belong in the high school classroom, where [students] are still practicing and developing [their] skills.”
Although AI in the classroom, such as ChatGPT, has created a lot of buzz with Kamiak High School teachers and students, so far no formal plans in addressing any ethical issues by the Washington Education Association nor the Mukilteo School District have taken place.
“The school district does not have a specific policy about AI-created schoolwork.” Bradford Diane stated, the director of public relations at the Mukilteo School District. “Policies tend to be broader, so they cover the core topics and issues rather than specifying specific tools. It’s not likely that AI-generated work will be addressed in policy due to its specificity.”
While the Mukilteo School District does not have a formal plan, they clarified “that ChatGPT is not blocked on our ‘servers,’ but access [of ChatGPT] is denied through our internet filter to combat malicious content (e.g., malware),” Diane affirmed.
However, nothing prevents students from exploiting AI tools at home for their assignments.
As fast as AI has been growing, it seems AI detection tools have also been progressing just as fast. Programs such as GPT zero have amassed over a million users, and claim to classify human-written articles 99% of the time, and AI-written articles 85% of the time. A software available to most educators, Turn-it-in, also recently came out with an AI detection tool, but the accuracy has not yet been fully tested by Kamiak teachers.
“I’ve already had cases and examples where students have been misusing [ChatGPT],” Kamiak English teacher Justin Kang shared. “But overall, people said the same thing about calculators, about how we were going to lose the ability to compute, and math in general. But we now know that calculators have only enhanced the way that we understand mathematical concepts.[…] So I see ChatGPT, the same way. It is scary, in some sense, to think about all the misuse that can happen. But at the same time, there is so much good that can come out of [it].”
With AI growing at a rapid pace, and tools such as Microsoft’s Bing AI, Google Bard, Notion AI, and an AI co-pilot coming soon to google docs, there is an upcoming challenge for school districts and teachers to monitor AI abuse in sites like Google Docs and Notion. However, lots of students have been using AI for productivity reasons, and not at all to cheat in academic settings.
“I think it’s a productivity tool as long as you are learning something from it,” said Ruslan, a student at Kamiak High School. “The AI doesn’t create a finished product, but it’s really good at giving you a starting point.”
Students aren’t the only ones who have been using AI, with some teachers at Kamiak already incorporating ChatGPT into their lesson plans.
“I’ve only recently started to use it and incorporate it into our classes as of about a month ago,” Kang told the Lynnwood Times. “It’s cool to almost have that incorporated in our classroom, because students can start to see examples that are generated by someone or something else. Having really concrete-level examples, and seeing many examples in front of you, can be very helpful.”
But not all of academia are on the same page, several schools and universities are treating any use of AI as the same as plagiarism and academic dishonesty.
“Technically speaking, [it] does not actually count under Academic Dishonesty because it only covers the areas where it is stolen from someone and not something […],” expressed Kang. “I actually can’t pursue it further as academic dishonesty because it is not part of the policy.”
Kang continued to say that he believes teachers have a responsibility for the ethical use of AI technology with students.
On an ethical basis, another Kamiak teacher agrees with Kang, however, is concerned that AI may develop a learning deficiency in students.
“If you’re using [an AI] tool, you’re basically neglecting yourself the opportunity to enhance [your] ability and to be able to do the work yourself,” Parhar said. “So, I think it’s doing yourself a disservice.”
While AI tools can certainly be useful in the classroom, there is no doubt that in an ever-increasing technologically driven world, students—the adults of the future—must be able to think critically. Ultimately, balancing technology and traditional problem-solving methods will be a key to helping students succeed in the classroom and beyond.
“It can be a tool, it is a tool, but how we use it and when we use it is really important to think about,” said Parhar.
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