When the modern calculator was invented, it was met with fear. Worries rose amongst teachers and mathematicians, who were concerned that it would make people mentally lazy. Today, calculators are an ordinary tool for both students and professionals. A similar question shakes the now, asking if AI will change how writing is learned.
With millions of artificial intelligence tools rapidly advancing, educators and students alike question whether these tools will become a part of classrooms. Similar to various other text and image AI tools, ChatGPT is a chatbot that takes user written prompts and replies with a detailed response.
The site describes itself as a conversational AI model that is able to “answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.” Since its release, users have experimented with it; using it to correct code, and write and edit essays. The tool has since been reported to be able to pass the bar exam and multiple medical exams.
Like calculators, the rise of AI is posing a new question— whether AI should be used in classrooms, or banned. For teachers at MC, the answer remains undecided.
For AP Art History and English teacher Alison Talle, the future is optimistic. While in the wake of ChatGPT many teachers predict “the end of high school English,” Talle believes the issue is not so simple.
“I come from the era when Terminator was the movie. And, when you think of AI, you think of Skynet and taking over the world, and humanity is doomed. So of course all of this AI stuff is scary,” Talle said.
For many MC teachers, the story is the same. Growing up surrounded by media that warns of AI uprisings, teachers worry that ChatGPT will affect their classrooms negatively.
Despite this, Talle is hopeful for the future. With AI now mainstream and easier to access than ever, some teachers are hoping to use it in class to help their students.
While Talle says she plans to implement more on demand writing on paper, she also hopes to teach her class how to use it properly rather than irresponsibly.
“You have to find a way to use it. Let’s put in a topic as a class, see what the computer comes up with, and improve on it,” Talle said.
Talle hopes to incorporate AI into classrooms rather than fully ignore it. Even if restrictions are placed on the school’s network itself, students would still have the ability to access AI tools at home when off of the school’s wi-fi.
For other teachers, the answer does not seem that simple. While AI is being encouraged with moderation, it is impossible to prevent students from using it to fully write essays.
“Completing a quick spell/grammar check is very different from having a program completely revise a piece of writing. When technology is used to revise writing in this manner, it takes the individual’s voice from the writing itself and deprives the student of learning, [the] development of important writing skills, and the ability to self-evaluate and revise,” English teacher Kristin Talbert said.
While early tools have been tested to find whether a piece is generated using artificial intelligence, these remain unreliable. Testing for these programs have proven to sometimes result in both false negatives and false positives. As AI tools gain traction, teachers will only come face to face with this issue more often.
Already, teachers across the world are testing new ways to both incorporate these tools into their lessons and prevent abuse of the tool.
“The interesting part of being a teacher is you’re constantly changing and shifting […] To deny that it’s there, sort of head in the sand, it’s not good. You’ve got to figure out a way to make it useful for the kids,” Talle said.
Leading tech companies have already invested heavily in AI tools, with Microsoft investing ten billion dollars into ChatGPT on Jan. 27 and Google releasing various demos of their tools.
While ChatGPT is currently incapable of writing comprehensive essays or effectively citing sources, it is likely that with its next update this will improve. Whether or not ChatGPT and other tools become a mainstay in education and work life, it is clear they will persist, and teachers across the world must meet this change in stride.