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ChatGPT plagues educators


WORLD Radio - ChatGPT plagues educators

A new technology is leaving educators divided on how to help young people use it wisely

A ChatGPT prompt is shown on a device near a public school in Brooklyn, New York, Jan. 5, 2023 Associated Press Photo/Peter Morgan

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday, January 31st, 2023. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad to have you along today. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up on The World and Everything in It. Artificial intelligence.

The debate over AI has made its way from the offices of computer scientists into classrooms. Students have more technology at their fingertips than ever before, but educators are divided on how to help young people use it wisely.

WORLD’s Lauren Canterberry reports.

LAUREN CANTERBERRY, REPORTER: Jason Thacker teaches philosophy, ethics, and worldview at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky. This winter, he added a new section to the plagiarism and cheating policies on his class syllabus. It explained his expectations about artificial intelligence and programs that automatically generate text.

THACKER: There is some temptation I see and why students might be tempted to use that but we need to say, full stop, that any attempt to pass off work of someone or something else’s as your own is deceptive. And that is the definition of plagiarism.

Today’s artificial intelligence, or AI, can answer test questions, write essays, and figure out math problems in seconds.

In November, the artificial intelligence research company OpenAI launched ChatGPT. The AI program can hold conversations, create computer code, and write in a variety of styles. OpenAI trained the program with data gathered from books, internet articles, and human feedback.

As ChatGPT gained popularity, educators began raising concerns about cheating.

New York City schools blocked the ChatGPT website on school devices and networks in January. Shortly after that, some universities in Australia caught students using AI to write essays and switched to handwritten exams. In the United States, colleges are scrambling to adjust curriculum and policies to account for AI tools.

Thacker says simply banning the technology won’t work.

THACKER: In certain situations, it would be beneficial to ban a technology like this, but reality is you're not going to ever truly ban it. You're never going to be able to keep students from using it because if you banned it on school computers the next thing you know they're using their smartphone tablets or they're using it at home.

In response to cheating concerns, a Princeton University student created the app GPTZero to detect whether an essay was written by a human or AI.

But cheating is an age-old issue. Some teachers say the problem can only be addressed by convincing students that honest hard work benefits them more than taking an easy route to good grades.

Kyle Kellogg is a high school chemistry teacher in San Antonio.

KELLOGG: There have always been ways for students to try to get around and cut corners. And technology has made that easier for them in a lot of cases but it’s about the idea that it’s a people business and so trying to form relationships with students allows them to then understand I want what’s genuinely best for you.

Theoretically, ChatGPT can generate responses to prompts that might pass as student work. But many experts say the program still lacks the ability to go beyond basic information gathering.

The company that makes ChatGPT admits that it sometimes produces incorrect responses and does not cite its sources.

As educators wrestle through ethical concerns, some teachers are using the same AI tools to help in the classroom.

They use ChatGPT to create writing prompts, or assign older students to analyze the tool’s responses in search of errors or biases.

Luke Phillips is an administrator at Pepperdine’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology. He says ChatGPT can do things earlier AI programs could not.

PHILLIPS: It’s a lot of these things that have always been really human centric that it can actually create. You have a technology that can write songs and things that historically only humans have ever been able to do.

Regardless of how the technology fits into school curriculum, Phillips says it is important for students to learn about programs like ChatGPT.

PHILLIPS: We as educators are educating students about how to be prepared for a post, you know, 2023 world where these things are realities. You know, I think we do all of us a disservice if we don’t incorporate this kind of learning in the classroom.

Jason Thacker also heads up research in technology ethics for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He says the deeper question is not just about whether students should have access to AI. Instead, teachers must guide them to question the technology’s influence and become learners, not just consumers.

THACKER: We assume that technology is a tool that we use for good or for bad, but reality is that technology is also changing us. It’s shaping us in many ways, shaping our understanding of God, shaping our understanding of ourselves, shaping our understanding of the world around us and how we interact with one another.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Lauren Canterberry.

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