A student used a smartphone to access ChatGPT during a recent DeMatha Catholic High School theology class in Prince George’s County.
Principal of DeMatha Catholic High School, Daniel McMahon stated that we have already blocked ChatGPT at school, but students are addicted and crossing the limits. One of the students placed his phone next to him and entered the AI-generated answers into the computer.
Schools across the country are weighing whether to ban the tool or allow students to use the tool to aid in the right situations. ChatGPT was launched on Nov. 30, 2022. It uses AI to create human-like text paragraphs. ChatGPT is free for now and works as a written conversation between the system’s user and the user asking questions.
ChatGPT was blocked by New York City school officials last week. Other jurisdictions in the D.C. area have also begun doing the same.
Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, the largest school system in Maryland, stated that it had blocked access to the website since Jan. 3. A spokesperson for the county stated that the county supports the use of technology to learn new information. Still, it must be done responsibly, ethically, and cautiously.
The school district is working on guidelines to share with teachers, staff, and students. Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia, said that the site was blocked on county-issued devices “under federal Children’s Internet Protection Act educational Guidelines because it’s a new technology that hasn’t yet been fully evaluated for suitability of consumption by minors.”
It also created a working group to examine the “impact and potential” of the new technology. D.C. Public Schools and Prince George’s County Public Schools said they are also looking into the tool. McMahon, DeMatha’s Public Schools Director, plans to talk with parents about ChatGPT later in the month.
McMahon stated that while technology will be used when it is possible, “but” there are people who plan to take oral exams at the end of the school year. “In May, that will be a bit complicated, but that’s okay; we’ll support it so that students know what we know.”
Ryan Watkins is a professor at George Washington University in educational technology. He said the site functions like autocorrect on a cellphone, but it is 100 times more powerful. Instead of being trained on what you type into your phone, the site has been trained on billions and millions of items posted on the internet.
Watkins stated that ChatGPT could predict which words will follow each other and can be used to complete specific and broad tasks. It can write student papers as well as computer code. “You can ask the French Revolution or what caused it to happen to anything you want. You can also ask it to create poetry in certain styles.
Watkins, GW, said he would encourage his students to use it in a way that helps them come up with creative ideas. They can then take control of the computer and combine their ideas with their content.
ChatGPT has its limitations. For example, it doesn’t have access to data created after 2021. So if you ask it about the invasion in Ukraine or recent midterm elections, it will not be able to answer.
Watkins stated that sometimes, “it will make up references,” including references to people or journals that never were published.
However, recognizing a student’s writing style is the best way to determine if a student is sending ChatGPT’s reply as their work.
A few days ago, a Princeton University student created an app to determine whether the copy was written by an AI tool or a human.
“If sixth-grade students are using complex language structures and big words they might not have had access to in their readings, then I might be tempted to ask if they’re learning this or if they might be learning it from someone else.
Watkins acknowledged that he understands the need to block ChatGPT so teachers can be trained on it. Still, he suggested that embracing it might prove more beneficial. He said, “We cannot sit back and assume that we can block students from using it.”