ChatGPT: This Isn’t Science Fiction. The AI Generation Is Here. Are Educators Ready?

Illustration by Diana Branzan

By Luca Cantagallo, age 13

ChatGPT, a new artificial intelligence (AI) tool, has been taking the world by storm, and, in the process, confusing both parents and educators alike. The use of the program in schools initially caused knee-jerk reactions from school boards around the country, with New York City Public Schools, Baltimore, Los Angeles and Seattle initially banning it from classrooms.

Chatbots, like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which was launched on Nov. 30, 2022, have been seemingly arising out of nowhere and gaining massive popularity. With over 30 million users in just the first two months of its launch, ChatGPT is among the fastest-growing platforms ever released. A study conducted by the polling firm Impact Research found that 42% of students and 63% of teachers already admit to using ChatGPT for schoolwork. 

ChatGPT is an AI-powered platform that is very proficient at creating and mimicking human-like writing and conversations. Its technology has the ability to create completely unique pieces of writing, such as essays and book reports, using simple commands. One of the largest problems that educators are facing is students’ ability to easily cheat on assignments. The program is able to create unique answers to the same questions, making it increasingly difficult to detect plagiarism. Over one-fourth of teachers in the United States have caught their students using ChatGPT to cheat, according to Study.com. 

“People have been able to cheat for a long time,” explained Conan Martinez, an English teacher in California who is also working on his Ed.D. in educational leadership at the University of Southern California, to IndyKids. “We need to teach them why it’s unethical to do that.” In January, OpenAI released plagiarism checking software to make it possible for teachers to tell if something has been directly copied from ChatGPT. However, ChatGPT has been known to sometimes generate false information, with even the creators of the program acknowledging this issue on their website, stating that the program is not a reliable academic resource. 

A recent survey conducted by Intelligent.com found that a massive 96% of parents with children in K-12 education said that studying with ChatGPT is more effective than studying with a tutor. Given that this technology is currently free to use, this is a huge advantage for low-income students who aren’t granted the luxury of having expensive personal tutors for schoolwork. However, many have expressed concerns over how this lack of human interaction might affect kids’ critical thinking, problem solving and social skills in the future.

Educators like Martinez stress the importance of learning how to use tools like ChatGPT correctly and efficiently to enhance students’ learning. “We’re running into the problem of figuring out how we teach it because not enough people know about it or understand it,” explained Martinez. He suggests that the best way to use this new technology is to use it to aid in the teaching process. “What we’re trying to do is create critical thinkers,” he said. “We can’t teach them line by line what to do because we’re not robots. We as a society need to learn how to use these tools to our benefit as soon as possible. [ChatGPT] can’t tell you how something feels, and why something matters to us as human beings. So we have to teach students: This is why this stuff matters.”

Using the technology as a teaching aid may prove to be an effective way to use the technology within education; however, many other issues exist. Goldman Sachs recently estimated that as many as 300 million jobs could be lost or reduced by this technology, leaving us all wondering how much good can truly come from AI.

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