(Image: Creative Common License)
By Brian Zhao
Since its launch in November 2022, ChatGPT quickly became the world’s newest sensation, amassing over 100 million users as of January 2023. Millions of people spanning various industries recognized its potential for revolutionizing our workstyles. The language model chatbot powered by artificial intelligence technology captured everyone’s attention mainly due to its ability to have human-like conversations with users and provide detailed and accurate responses.
Some of its capabilities include answering questions, writing essays, compiling poems, translating languages, telling jokes, and writing code, among many other endless applications that users have tested. However, providing expert-level syntax, grammar, and substantial depth in the context it produces also raises important ethical questions.For example, the tool poses a number of concerns for education and schools as it can be used to help students cheat, plagiarize, and undercut their academic growth. Additionally, difficulties arise when trying to catch and prohibit students from using the chatbot, as “it generates content in a way that can bypass software that detects when students use information that’s not their own work” (USA Today).
Students are not the only ones who are at fault for using the text generator, as Vanderbilt’s very own Peabody Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion sent out a consoling email responding to the mass shooting at Michigan State University. At the bottom, it read, “Paraphrase from OpenAI’s ChatGPT AI language model, personal communication.” Nicole Joseph, one of the associate deans who signed off on the email, followed up with an apology email, stating that the use of ChatGPT was “poor judgment”.
It resulted in tremendous backlash from the student body, as students proclaimed a lack of human empathy towards the Michigan State shooting. Furthermore, the irony of the situation prompted questions regarding the hypocrisy of school administrators raising concerns for students using ChatGPT as it compromises academic assessment.
Aside from the technology degrading genuine human emotion and critical thinking, “It can give you garbage, but in such fluent, coherent language that—if you aren’t an expert in that domain—you might believe what it is saying is true” (Johns Hopkins University).
So, should artificial intelligence chatbots like ChatGPT be banned in schools?
Although the tool can be used as a cheating mechanism, it is also an opportunity for educators to begin revolutionizing the education system by integrating artificial intelligence tools into classes. For example, in order to enhance the learning process, “chatbots could assist with more menial educational tasks” while “students focus on advanced aspects of their schoolwork” (University of California).
Additionally, in more data-centered courses, ChatGPT “allows for a reduction in time spent on tedious tasks such as data loading and troubleshooting”, which enables educators to “focus more on the critical analysis of empirical models, leading to a deeper understanding of the subject” (University of California). Thus, artificial intelligence systems may prove to be beneficial towards streamlining classroom learning as well as shifting our curriculum to higher critical thinking.
ChatGPT can also provide significant advantages to the way teaching is conducted. Many instructors are already experimenting with new methods of project-based learning and are customizing the learning process. Furthermore, The New York Times stated numerous strategies for teachers to employ ChatGPT in order to encourage deeper thinking and creative analysis among students, such as “creating outlines”, writing “personalized lesson plans for each student”, serving as an “after-hours tutor”, or being used as a “starting point for in-class exercises.”
Especially for public institutions, where teachers are often overworked and underfunded, a harmonious relationship between teachers and artificial intelligence models should be embraced. The tools can take care of time-consuming tasks with minimal fine-tuning and tailoring from teachers, while also focusing on each individual’s personal attention. Specifically, artificial intelligence can “teach one’s skill level and gaps more precisely: software can track your knowledge, test your progress, and repeat or reformat customized content for you based on your knowledge and gaps” (Andreessen Horowitz).
Despite these educational benefits, the integration of next-generation tools still poses dangerous risks. New assessment and credentialing tools along with stronger fact-checking methods also need consistent improvement as truthful and accurate content will become increasingly difficult to decipher.
From a societal standpoint, if artificial intelligence is allowed to run wild, sponging out efficiency and streamlining everyday operations, then “we may create a generation of people who have competence without comprehension of underlying details” (Andreessen Horowitz). Therefore, caution is necessary when treading through the unexplored possibilities of artificial intelligence and leveraging advancement capabilities.
Nonetheless, the future of education among other industries is bound to evolve as new technologies emerge. Because artificial intelligence will gradually become more relevant to our everyday lives as it continually reshapes everything we know, we must be prepared to respond accordingly.