As the 2022 to 2023 school year comes to an end, students and educators are grappling with the impact of artificial intelligence on schools after it made its debut this year.
Tools like ChatGPT, with its advanced language skills and ability to produce original content, have injected new ways for students to cut corners. Throughout the year, local students and teachers have debated the merits and risks of ChatGPT in the classroom and weighed how to leverage technology without sacrificing necessary critical thinking and writing skills.
In November 2022, OpenAI released ChatGPT, a robust conversational search engine with a wide range of knowledge and the ability to generate engaging, human-like responses to virtually any prompt.
“[ChatGPT] is one of those breakthroughs […] that are just one small step forward, but could have a huge impact on how everyday people use computers,” said Sidd Puri, a computer science teacher at Eastlake High School. “I expect [it to] end up transforming a lot of the ways we do things.”
ChatGPT offered students a new way to study and perform research. With its ability to provide instant summaries of vast information, ChatGPT was a valuable tool in subjects like English language arts, history, science, and math. However, some students exploited the application’s ability to create entire pieces of writing and passed the AI-generated work off as their own. This raised concerns among teachers.
“Just like calculators, chatbots are a powerful tool. […] And just like calculators, there are certain tests and projects that should be done without the tool so that students can learn the necessary skills,” Puri said.
Jason Wessels, an honors biology teacher at Eastlake, is worried that ChatGPT could deteriorate the problem-solving and critical-thinking skills of students.
“ChatGPT would allow [students] to bypass doing any research or studying, resulting in no conceptual understanding around the subject,” Wessels said. “We need to continue pushing ourselves to learn or we will lose that ability to think critically.”
Some students admit that they have used ChatGPT to do their schoolwork.
“I’ve usually used ChatGPT for research purposes, whether to gain a quick overview of a certain topic or find potential ideas to use,” said Gary Fu, a freshman at Eastlake. “I believe that it shouldn’t be used for generating complete passages and should instead be used as any other search engine or encyclopedia.”
One of Puri’s students, 15-year-old Lucas Huang, said that although he has never used ChatGPT for research, “it can help me determine the quality of something I wrote.”
ChatGPT itself has a viewpoint on how it should be used in education, despite having no control over whether this happens in reality.
“It’s crucial to ensure that it’s used ethically and responsibly,” it wrote. “Educators must … ensure that students are developing essential cognitive skills through their use of technology.”