What are the risks in using GPT chat at school?
ChatGPT is a new technology: it’s a chatbot specialized in conversation with humans based on artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Developed by Open AI, has been trained starting from the Instruct GPT models and is able to generate texts of various length and complexity according to the user’s requests. The application can currently be used for several purposes: establishing a conversation model, writing emails and commercial messages, drafting product descriptions, creating content for social networks and compiling code scripts with a certain reliability.
The mass spread has already sent many teachers into a panic. Students use it to do homework, posing as their own essays and AI-generated content.
Teachers and school administrators are scrambling to find out who the tool is cheating with, and are worried about the havoc ChatGPT could create.
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There are those who have gone so far as to declare that Artificial Intelligence has made homework completely useless.
The immediate and practical fear is that students might cheat by passing off their i’s content generated by Artificial Intelligencealong with the risk that the bot may provide wrong or misleading answers.
The other side of the coin is that teachers themselves could use ChatGPT to mark assignmentsequations and papers in a minimal fraction of the time it would have taken to do it, running into the same problems.
Some schools have tackled the situation with a crackdown. New York public schools, for example, recently blocked access to ChatGPT on school computers and networks, citing “concerns about the negative impact on student learning and the security and accuracy of content.”
Schools in other American cities, including Seattle, have also restricted access.
It’s easy to see why educators feel threatened: ChatGPT is an extraordinarily capable tool that landed without any warning and performs reasonably well in a wide variety of academic tasks and subjects.
Of course there are legitimate questions about the ethics of AI-generated writing and the main problem is that the answers provided by ChatGPT may not be accurate or even misleading. But it is clear that a small revolution in the school world has already begun.
Despite the doubts and perplexities, ChatGPT could be used as a teaching aid (not a replacement, therefore), stimulating students’ creativity and offering personalized tutoring capable of better preparing them to work with Artificial Intelligences as adults. This is why the phenomenon should not be opposed.
ChatGPT at school: ban won’t work
The first reason not to ban ChatGPT in schools is that, honestly, it won’t work.
The school can block access to its own devices, but students have smartphones and computers at their disposal and can access them in any other way outside of school hours.
For example, I asked the tool itself how these limitations can be circumvented. This is what he told me.
To overcome a block to the services it is necessary to know the cause of the block. If the block was imposed by your Internet service provider or another authority, you may want to contact them to ask about how to unblock access. If the freeze was caused by a technical problem, you may want to try restarting your device or contacting technical support for further assistance. In some cases, you can use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to bypass the block and access the desired services.
The solution, therefore, is offered by artificial intelligence.
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You can block ChatGPT at school but not at home
Some teachers place high hopes on tools like GPTZero, a program built by a Princeton student who claims to be able to detect AI-generated handwriting. But these tools aren’t 100% accurate, and it’s relatively easy to fool them by changing a few words or using another AI program to paraphrase some passages.
One possible solution is for AI chatbots to be programmed to “watermark” their results in some way, so teachers can more easily locate the AI-generated text. But that too is a flimsy defense. At the moment, ChatGPT is the only free and easy to use chatbot adopted by the masses, but we are sure that the offer will soon increase, diversifying.
Even if it were technically possible block ChatGPT, teachers should spend a lot of time searching for contents theoretically generated by Artificial Intelligence, then risking branding a completely original work as an “artifact” instead. Is it really worth it?
Instead of starting an endless war with an army of chatbots, a good first approach could be to treat ChatGPT like calculatorsallowing its use in some situations and prohibiting it in others, and assuming that students will use it as soon as they have the opportunity.
At the end of the school year, medium and long-term strategies will have to be considered.
ChatGPT can be a teacher’s best friend
The second reason not to ban ChatGPT in school is that, with the right approach, it can be an effective teaching tool.
For example, it can be used to create guidelines for writing essays that students will then follow.
On the one hand, this methodology would allow shifting the focus to the ability to produce an output based on a reference; on the other, it will teach young people how to relate to these new technologies and get the maximum benefit from them.
But creating schemas is just one of the many ways ChatGPT could be used in the classroom. Instead, it could be used to write personalized learning plans for each student, based on individual aptitudes. Or, it could generate ideas for activities to be developed in class.
The strategy should be to use it as a starting point to improve basic activities or to provide a tutoring system outside school hours.
The technology that ChatGPT is based on won’t magically disappear: it has arrived and is here to stay.
On the contrary, it is probable that the performance of these algorithms will grow exponentially, they will expand their boundaries to include many more activities than they can currently deal with.
Educators who oppose these tools are by no means irrational: the technology used is disruptive and requires an adaptation of various processes related to teaching.
Today’s students will graduate in a world filled with generative AI programs. They will need to know these tools, their strengths and weaknesses and their characteristics in order to be able to use them in the world of work.
To be good citizens, they’ll need hands-on experience to understand how this type of AI works, what kinds of biases it drives, and how it shouldn’t be misused.
ChatGPT in school: why we shouldn’t ban it and how we can use it to teach