With the release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT back in December, AI-generated plagiarism has become a cause for concern in academia as teachers and school boards across the country grapple with whether to take caution or embrace the potential of AI writing tools.
Teachers are both concerned and excited because ChatGPT and other chatbots can generate writing on any subject in almost any format. Want a sonnet in the same style as Shakespeare, maybe a limerick while you’re at it? How about a 500-word English paper on the thematic meaning of blue curtains in The Great Gatsby? You can even have tools like Quillbot paraphrase the essays ChatGPT gives you so it doesn’t look too obvious.
No one is under the illusion that ChatGPT can write valedictorian-caliber essays, but as Mashable’s Mike Pearl writes, “ChatGPT knows just enough to be dangerous.”
Outside the narrow topic of school essays, some teachers are excited about the potential of AI writing to enhance learning experiences, while others are hesitant to incorporate them into the classroom. Here’s a look at how teachers and schools across the country and on the internet are dealing with ChatGPT:
New York City blocks the use of the ChatGPT bot in its schools
In what appears to be the first policy against the use of AI bots in schools, the New York City Department of Education banned the use of ChatGPT by students and teachers on district networks and devices. According to the report by The Washington Post, it has not been made clear if the use of ChatGPT outside of school is forbidden or not.
“While the tool may be able to provide quick and easy answers to questions, it does not build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential for academic and lifelong success,” said Jenna Lyle, a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Education, in a statement to The Washington Post.
The NYCDOE is the first to take action, and many other states and school districts are still deciding their ChatGPT policies. However, at some schools, the teachers themselves have taken preventative measures for their classes in lieu of any official decision from the district.
In a report from the San Francisco Standard, teachers at Oceana High School in Pacifica, California have sent out messages to students warning against using AI-writing software for assignments. Some teachers, like Andrew Bader, told the Standard that they may require students to turn in “hand-written or multimedia assignments that students can’t copy-and-paste from AI.”
To stop plagiarism, some sites have created tools to recognize AI writing like writer.com‘s AI-content detector or the anti-ChatGPT tool, GPTZero.
And for what it’s worth, OpenAI itself says it’s working on a way to digitally “watermark” its text outputs, which means making sure the text has signs of being AI-generated that a robot can spot, but a human can’t.
Teachers across the internet, but particularly on TikTok, are mixed in their support for or opposition to ChatGPT. For some educators, the chatbot helps to make their job easier by creating lesson plans and material for their students. As Dan Lewer comments on one of his TikTok videos, “Notice how my suggestions help teachers do their jobs better, not do their job for them. Bots cannot replace good teachers. Yet. 👍”
Another teacher on TikTok, Tyler Tarver, shared with his followers his opinion that ChatGPT “allows you to support and engage every student regardless of their ability level.” To illustrate this point, Tarver used AI to create part of the script for the very video he was making. It’s worth noting that Tarver said in another TikTok post that “Kids can just tell it what they want it to do [like] Write a 500-word essay on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” But in his endorsement of ChatGPT, he focuses much more on the chatbot’s potential power as a classroom tool. He notes that it can do things like generate lesson materials for teachers, and function as a discussion aid for students.
There’s no consensus in these videos — with teachers expressing both optimism and hesitation regarding how content generation AI will forever change the classroom. Judging from the reaction on TikTok, teachers on the app see ChatGPT as a tool to be treated the same way calculators and cell phones are used in class — as resources to help students succeed but not do the work for them.
Ultimately, the decision to use AI writing tools in the classroom is up to the individual teachers, and the needs of their students.