ChatGPT: The Classroom Crackdown

Attention, everyone! Artificial intelligence (AI) is a weapon that threatens the very foundation and democracy of learning environments! …Or is it? 

Shortly after OpenAI, an AI research company, released ChatGPT in Nov. 2022, the AI bot went viral across all social media platforms, stirring up conversation among wary teachers, parents and students.

Glen A. Wilson High School (GAWHS) has not escaped the many educational concerns associated with the bot, such as rampant plagiarism by using the chatbot to generate answers for written projects and essays. However, despite integrity concerns, the overlooked potential of AI presents another approach to the maturing technological age: acceptance over rejection.

As summer nears, GAWHS students are especially burdened with exams and deadlines in these last days of the school year. Aiming to end on a strong note, many students have resorted to AI for help—for good and for bad. Some look to. AI-powered class discussion and AI feedback for free response question (FRQ) practices have been recently introduced to some classes of GAWHS, enhancing preparation for upcoming final and advanced placement (AP) exams.

Experimenting with AI application in a classroom setting, World History and AP Psychology teacher Corbin Blanchard details his stance on AI’s effect on education.

“I think of ChatGPT like cell phones: the technology is not going anywhere, so I have to learn to deal with it and students are going to learn to use it properly,” Blanchard said. “In my history classes, AI has been used to generate counterarguments that challenge students in class discussions; [and] in AP psychology, students use AI to receive real time feedback for their free response question practices.”

But not all teachers feel the same. Some faculty see current AI deficiencies to be overhauled before AI’s application in academic settings. Witnessing the plagiarism epidemic that also came with the rise of AI, an anonymous GAWHS faculty shares their perspective.

“Actually, I think [ChatGPT] is a very fascinating technology. But the lack of bibliographic information makes its contents harder to decipher and [verify],” the faculty member explained. “And students are pawning off ChatGPT’s writing for their own work—it is plagiarism, and what good is education when you can just type in a question and get [instant] answers.”

While these worries are valid, other beneficial resources too lie in AI, making the total disapproval of AI in education a rash rejection of the much-needed accessibility and productivity in education. 

The faculty member expands on the positive capabilities of educational AI.

“I think AI can be helpful if it is properly used,” the faculty member added. “It could inspire immediate access to arguments and information that is beneficial to learning.”

Beyond boosting efficiency in classroom settings, AI in education has actually been used for years to score annual statewide testing. A series of state exams, the California Assessment of Student Achievement and Progress, also known as CAASPP, were established in 2014 and use artificial intelligence scoring .

The California Department of Education states in its Smarter Balanced 2019-2020 Technical Report, “Each [performance task] also has one full write that is scored across three traits: Organization/Purpose, Evidence/Elaboration, and Conventions. Short-text and full-write items are designed for hand scoring and may be artificial intelligence (AI) scored with an application that yields comparable results by meeting or exceeding reliability and validity criteria for hand scoring.” 

For years, AI has proven to be an efficient tool in the education industry, with algorithms consistently trusted to score free responses written by students. AI also takes the burden off of humans, using its system to scan papers and identify essential components of good writing.

Ironically enough, despite the fear surrounding AI, test formats have only advanced with the advent of such technology. Aside from essay analysis, computer adaptive testing (CAT) is also a form of AI that tailors exam difficulty to each individual student’s abilities. With every new question answered, CAT is able to immediately adapt successive items suited to the student’s capacity.

In the same report, the California Department of Education declares that unlike a fixed-form assessment where every student is given the same questions, “a CAT requires fewer questions to obtain an equally precise estimate of a student’s ability.” The AI is capable of analyzing every student’s answer and scoring them personally, instead of pitting students against a stagnant set of questions. If educators aim to accommodate all students’ needs, then AI tools like CAT aid them in achieving learning customization.

Artificial intelligence is not new; it has been around for years to enhance student testing. And since it has been around for so long, education will continue to observe new changes as predictive and perceptive learning changes the academic atmosphere in exciting ways. 

The best thing schools can do is to embrace it. Teachers at GAWHS have incorporated ChatGPT into the curriculum for discussions, FRQ practice and other AP exam prep. Although other teachers worry about the gateway AI opens to cheating, they also acknowledge it can be an encyclopedic wealth of knowledge once credibility is established. 

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