Can’t Deny The AI: Implications Of ChatGPT in Education


Meena Narayanaswa

OBSESSED WITH AI —­­­­ Palo Alto High School senior Riya De Datta poses with the ChatGPT lo­go on her face. “A lot of students are using it [ChatGPT] to help write their assignments,” sophomore Keerath Pujji said. Photo: Meena Narayanaswami

Divya Gandhi and Ashmita Rajmohan

In the last century, technology has evolved dramatically, and along with it, education has too. First, educators had to adapt to the invention of calculators, computers, internet access and social media. Now, academia is facing a new breakthrough technology: ChatGPT.

Developed by the research company OpenAI, ChatGPT is a “language machine” that can produce accurate and original human-like responses to user prompts. A user can type a question into the search bar, hit enter and immediately receive a synthesized response that is almost always formal, grammatically correct and accurate in its content.

As the fastest-growing consumer application in history, ChatGPT reached 100 million active users two months after its release to the public in late November.

Recently, Microsoft — a major investor in OpenAI — announced the incorporation of the chatbot into its Bing search engine; Google is also developing a competing product called Bard.

The widespread adoption of the conversational AI bot and the time, money and resources being invested by Big Tech companies into its implementation are clear signs that this technology is here to stay.

As the chatbot makes its way into the classroom, educators face the challenge of determining what role AI has in learning — if it has one at all.

The responses ChatGPT provides are original and cannot be spotted by a plagiarism detector, making it particularly troublesome in the eyes of some teachers.

Palo Alto High School sophomore Keerath Pujji said that while cheating is undoubtedly a concern with ChatGPT, it should not be characterized as the only use of the technology.

Generating ideas for an essay or ideas on a prompt for an essay is okay.”

— KEERATH PUJJI, Sophomore

“Generating ideas for an essay or ideas on a prompt for an essay is okay because, for me personally, I would just talk about it with my peers and research it,” Pujji said. “I feel like using ChatGPT is not any different from that.”

Journalism adviser Brian Wilson said while he agreed that while positive uses for ChatGPT exist, there is a fine line between utilizing the AI software to improve as a writer and crossing into the territory of academic dishonesty.

“I say all the time to my students, ‘If you want to be a better writer, read a lot,’ and [using ChatGPT] is a way in which you can read another source that is constructing the same type of paper to make you a stronger writer [than] when you do that on your own,” Wilson said. “The tricky gray area is whether the students understand the difference between the two. Because it’s so easy to slip from ‘I’m going to use it [ChatGPT] to help me’ to ‘I’m going to let it do it for me.’”

The fact that AI-produced content is already at the same caliber of human-written text has raised a larger philosophical question about the value of learning how to write well if one’s work can be whipped up in seconds by a machine.

AP United States History teacher John Bungarden said that the process of writing is important to master as a student regardless of ChatGPT’s capabilities.

“I’m not clear that [using ChatGPT] in any appreciable way does what writing without such machine assistance is supposed to do: to develop the capacity to think about something and articulate it, a skill that is both very difficult to achieve and a wonderful skill to have for life,” Bungarden said.

Wilson said that he agreed that being able to write well is vital in life.

“The skills developed in being able to write critically, write creatively, write engagingly, write innovatively …  I believe that those are really important skills for people to be able to follow. And I just think  it is guaranteed to help you in the long run,” Wilson said.

In any case, ChatGPT is not infallible and cannot be relied on blindly to produce flawlessly written content, according to English teacher Lizzie Dekraai.

“[English teacher Hunter Reardon] tried ChatGPT and he sent an example out to the [English] department where the software did not answer his question accurately,” Dekraai said. “It got some facts of the story wrong and the overall message was the opposite of what the author intended.”

Currently, the English department is choosing not to make any major changes to course curriculums, instead trusting the students’ families to talk about using ChatGPT appropriately.

“Parents and families should be having conversations with their students about integrity and responsibility,” Dekraai said.

However, according to Shirley Tokeim, English Department Instructional Lead, there may be changes to the future curriculum.

“We are in discussion about how we use assessments and adjustments that might need to happen to ensure students are doing their own work,” Tokeim said. “This could mean doing the work in class, in real time, not on a computer.”

Wilson said he will also potentially be implementing changes to how his journalism courses are taught given the inevitability of the presence of ChatGPT in students’ lives.

“If I know kids are using [ChatGPT], and I still want them to show that they are capable of writing on their own, I need to rethink the types of assignments I’m giving, and I might need to rethink the manner in which people are writing them,” Wilson said. “Is it more in-class writing? Is it more literal handwriting versus typing in a Google Doc?”

Ultimately, the positive and negative effects of this new technology are yet to be seen and will take years to pan out.

“The optimistic side of me hopes and thinks that this won’t be too much different than other technological advancements that have happened over the last 200 years,” Wilson said. “It could be a game changer for education, but maybe it won’t be. We will have to wait and see.” 

Have you used ChatGPT for schoolwork before?