Since OpenAI's ChatGPT came out in December, AI-generated plagiarism has become a concern in academia. Teachers and school boards all over the country are trying to decide whether to be cautious or take advantage of the potential of AI writing tools.
Teachers are both worried and excited about the fact that ChatGPT and other chatbots can write about any topic in almost any style. Want to write a sonnet in the style of Shakespeare, or maybe a limerick? How about a 500-word English paper on what the blue curtains in The Great Gatsby mean in terms of the book's themes? You can even have tools like Quillbot rewrite the essays ChatGPT gives you so it doesn't look too obvious.
No one thinks ChatGPT can write essays that would win valedictorian, but as Mike Pearl of Mashable writes, "ChatGPT knows just enough to be dangerous."
Some teachers are excited about how AI writing could improve learning outside of the narrow topic of school essays, while others are hesitant to use them in the classroom. Here's a look at how teachers and schools all over the country and on the internet are dealing with ChatGPT:
The ChatGPT bot can't be used in New York City schools.
The New York City Department of Education has banned the use of ChatGPT by students and teachers on district networks and devices. This seems to be the first policy against the use of AI bots in schools. The Washington Post says that it hasn't been made clear whether or not using ChatGPT outside of school is allowed or not.
In a statement to The Washington Post, Jenna Lyle, a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Education, said, "The tool may give quick and easy answers to questions, but it doesn't build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for academic and lifelong success."
The NYCDOE is the first to take action, and many other states and school districts are still deciding how to handle ChatGPT. But in some schools, teachers have taken steps to keep their classes safe even though there hasn't been an official decision from the district.
According to a report from the San Francisco Standard, teachers at Oceana High School in Pacifica, California, have told students not to use AI-writing software to do their homework. Some teachers, like Andrew Bader, told the Standard that they might ask students to turn in "hand-written or multimedia assignments that students can't copy and paste from AI."
Some sites, like writer.com, have made tools that can spot AI writing, like the AI-content detector or GPTZero, which is an anti-ChatGPT tool.
And for what it's worth, OpenAI says it's working on a way to digitally "watermark" its text outputs. This means making sure the text has signs that it was made by AI that a robot can spot but a human can't.
Teachers all over the internet, but especially on TikTok, have different opinions about whether or not they like ChatGPT. Some teachers like how the chatbot helps them make lesson plans and other materials for their students. In one of his TikTok videos, Dan Lewer says, "Notice how my ideas help teachers do their jobs better, but don't do their jobs for them. Good teachers can't be taken over by bots. Yet. ?"
Tyler Tarver, another teacher on TikTok, told his followers that he thinks ChatGPT "lets you support and engage every student, no matter how good they are." To show this, Tarver had AI write a part of the script for the video he was making at the time. In another TikTok post, Tarver said, "Kids can just tell it to do what they want, like write a 500-word essay on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." But when he recommends ChatGPT, he talks a lot more about how it could be used in the classroom. He says that it can do things like make lesson plans for teachers and help students with their discussions.
In these videos, there isn't a clear answer to the question of how AI will change the classroom forever. Teachers are both hopeful and unsure. Based on how people responded on TikTok, teachers on the app see ChatGPT as a tool like calculators and cell phones, which are used in class to help students succeed but not do their work for them.
In the end, whether or not to use AI writing tools in the classroom depends on each teacher and what their students need.