ChatGPT raises concerns for educators


Photo Illustration by Robert Butler

The artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT is capable of writing songs, generating code, making emails and even constructing complete essays.

Robert Butler

ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot, has quickly become one of the most popular applications ever while simultaneously calling into question the future of education.

The online tool is currently the talk of the tech world and the latest advancement in artificial intelligence. Created by OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research company based out of San Francisco, ChatGPT has attracted over 100 million users since its launch on Nov. 30.

Its uncanny ability to mimic human conversation and answer seemingly any question has flooded its servers with new users looking to try the impressive new technology.

For example, here’s what ChatGPT had to say when I asked it to describe itself in 50 words: “ChatGPT is an AI language model developed by OpenAI that can understand and generate human-like responses in natural language. It is trained on a large dataset of text using machine learning algorithms, and can be used for a variety of applications, such as customer service, language translation, and educational purposes.”

However, this example only partially demonstrates the full scope of ChatGPT’s abilities. ChatGPT can do everything from crafting an email informing your boss you are quitting your job to writing a song about the most obscure topic you can imagine. Also, ChatGPT’s research capabilities can help students finish homework assignments and produce full-length essays on any topic.

As remarkable as ChatGPT sounds, it still has its limitations. Although the software is proficient in understanding human nature and remembering previous conversations and information, questions that are too dense or niche can cause it to answer prompts inaccurately.

When these types of questions get asked, ChatGPT may generate answers that contain incorrect information that can misinform its users. Because ChatGPT gathers its data from the internet, its responses to prompts may also be opinionated or biased.

ChatGPT is not up to date either. The program’s language model requires training, and because that stopped in 2021, it cannot provide information on breaking news or any current events. That means the answers users receive from the chatbot could be outdated.

Despite its drawbacks, tens of millions worldwide still use the program, including an increasing number of students.

As mentioned previously, ChatGPT’s research capabilities, which can help students complete their homework and even write complete essays, have forced school districts across the U.S. to ban the chatbot due to cheating and plagiarism concerns.

School districts in New York City, Los Angeles, and Seattle have already temporarily banned ChatGPT to assess the situation and decide on a plan moving forward with the artificial intelligence chatbot. Other large school districts in Oakland and Miami have followed suit.

While working on this story, the Boone County school district also blocked ChatGPT on district devices. Now, Boone County High School students who visit will be met with a blank screen proclaiming the website is unavailable.

Mary Ann Rankin, the head of technology for Boone County Schools, explained that in this particular case, got blocked due to an age restriction requirement, and it was not related to the concerns other school districts had raised.

“The answer is simple …. ChapGPT has an over 18 permission policy. For this reason, we have to block it,” Rankin said. “I don’t like that we have to block it, but when the terms of service require a user to be 18 or older, it doesn’t leave us much choice.”

Teachers familiar with the program worry that allowing students access to ChatGPT promotes academic dishonesty and can negatively impact a student’s ability to learn. However, they also acknowledge that even with a temporary ban, the program is still readily available for students to use on their phones and at home.

Boone Science teacher Lenny Beck shared a similar view in regard to his students using ChatGPT to complete their classwork.

“I don’t see a lot of benefits,” he said. “Learning how to become a good writer/communicator takes a lot of work. It is a process, not a quick fix. Cutting corners and relying on AI isn’t going to help students in the long run.”

Beck is afraid that programs like ChatGPT will negatively impact their futures.

“It is vital students learn to communicate well. It is an important skill. My hope is for students to embrace the learning process so they have the skill when they leave BCHS,” he said.

Much to the dismay of educators everywhere, a survey conducted by found that an overwhelming number of students were familiar with the program and had used it to cheat on their schoolwork. Out of the 1000 students surveyed: 89% used the chatbot to complete a homework assignment, 53% to write an essay, and 48% to help take a test.

Although AI text detection software could deter students from using ChatGPT, educators recognize they cannot prevent students from using the chatbot outright. Because of this, many believe it is time to introduce ChatGPT and other AI programs to the classroom.

Some dual enrollment classes have already begun using ChatGPT, for example to generate code to solve statistics equations.

“When it’s very obvious a student has used this technology, it threatens the integrity of what we do inside the classroom,” English teacher Alicia Trenkamp said.

However, she also pointed out educators have adapted to similar situations in the past, and ChatGPT was just another hurdle they would have to overcome.

“I think a middle ground would be to show students exactly what ChatGPT is lacking. As educators, we have had to adapt to SparkNotes, Lit Charts, Wikipedia, etc.,” she said. “I think AI technology is going to be another one of those systems we have to accept, prepare for, and address head-on in our class.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The student author of this story is of legal age to use ChatGPT.