Local Teachers See Opportunity in Artificial Intelligence

open AI chatGPT

Not overly concerned about ChatGPT and cheating

Will ChatGPT kill high school English in the Highlands?

If you believe the hype, it’s possible. School districts and universities from New York City and Los Angeles to Bangalore and Tasmania have banned the artificial-intelligence platform because it seems to enable cheating.

But local school administrators are taking a more measured approach, saying they have no plans to restrict use of the technology. 

“We view this as a teachable moment,” said Carl Albano, the superintendent for the Garrison district. “We want our students to understand the benefits as well as the potential risks associated with using the technology.”

Corey Dwyer, the principal at Beacon High School, said it was important to learn how to use the tool in ways that might benefit learning.

“AI [artificial intelligence] programs such as ChatGPT are not going anywhere,” he said. “And technological literacy is itself an important skill that students will need to succeed. The challenge for schools is how we balance the two.”

ChatGPT was released in November by San Francisco-based OpenAI. The free tool allows users to type prompts and receive an original, and fairly coherent, piece of writing in return.

Earlier this month, James Yap, the Garrison district’s director of technology and innovation, demonstrated ChatGPT for the school board. He typed: “Can I have an essay on the Roman Empire?”

The technology quickly generated a remarkably well-crafted essay. Yap explained that since it was an original essay, it would not be detected by anti-plagiarism software that many teachers use.

That’s why the tool has spawned such angst among educators. In December, The Atlantic published an essay by Daniel Herman, a teacher in California, in which he lamented “the end of high school English.”

Herman wrote that ChatGPT “may signal the end of writing assignments altogether — and maybe even the end of writing as a gatekeeper, a metric for intelligence, a teachable skill.”

But a sampling of local English teachers found them to be more sanguine. 

Here's a query from reporter Joey Asher to ChatGPT, and its response.

Here’s a query from reporter Joey Asher to ChatGPT, and its response.

“It’s the early days,” said Nancy Martinez, who chairs the English department at Haldane. “We’re just kind of feeling our way through it.”

Despite what she called “the initial hysteria,” Martinez said ChatGPT may offer benefits. For example, the tool could be used as a “thought partner” to help students generate ideas. Or teachers could have ChatGPT generate an essay and ask students to critique it.

Martinez said she was less concerned about the technology being used to cheat because of the way she and her colleagues teach writing. Teachers typically work with students through the process of outlining, editing and the final work. “If you see a paper grow the whole way, there’s no way for them to fake it.”

Maura Shanks, who teaches English at the Garrison School, also said she doubts students will use ChatGPT to cheat because most students don’t want to cheat. “The large majority of students want to learn,” she said. “They want you to see them grow.”

When she discussed artificial-intelligence technology with her students, she said many instinctively understood the problem of using it to write essays, especially for standardized exams where they can’t rely on a robot. “I don’t think this will help prepare me for the Regents,” the annual state exams, a student told her.

Teachers should also be able to discourage cheating by making sure that their assignments are unusual enough to stump ChatGPT, said Yap.

He noted the technology would have a hard time writing an essay about the Roman Empire if it had to use information not readily available on the internet. 

For example, he said, if a teacher assigned a student to write an essay on the Roman Empire and its similarities and differences to the Hudson Valley, especially Garrison, “ChatGPT would struggle with that.”

3 thoughts on “Local Teachers See Opportunity in Artificial Intelligence

  1. Further to the discussion of teachers’ relationship with ChatGPT, student essays generated by AI engines are relatively easy to discern with the trained eye, and there are several applications that detect AI-generated content as quickly as it is generated. ChatGPT essay engines are still in the development and not ready for prime time.

    It’s depressing to learn that a teacher whined in The Atlantic that ChatGPT will mean “the end of high school English … or maybe the end of writing.” That cynical statement has little merit and is inconsistent with contemporary learning structures and teaching qualifications.

    I also disagree with the idea of integrating ChatGPT into Haldane’s English program as a research tool or otherwise. There are far too many other areas of lagging studies that take precedence. Parents and the PTA should not stand for that curriculum.

  2. Evolution is inevitable. Hopefully the AI leaders’ caution and common sense will prevail. I first heard the word Facebook in our corporate auditorium. My immediate reaction was I no like. As a good employee, I registered with Facebook and it wasn’t so bad. Had a chance to catch up with friends and family until I found innumerable friend requests from people I never heard of. They were total strangers seemingly from all over the world. Vaya con Dios, cara libro.

    A few years ago, my neighbor introduced me to a very local social media. It seemed to be OK, until, they changed their log-in procedure. All I had to do is click on a link and voila I’m in; no need to expend time and energy logging in. So very efficient! So very considerate! Be cautious.

  3. These school officials have it exactly right: ChatGPT is here to stay, and there’s much more disruptive tech to come. Our educational, governmental and social institutions are so far behind the curve with respect to tech literacy and utilization. Governments, schools and public libraries should all have software engineers on staff. Software has become a primary means through which economic and social value is created and controlled, and we’d be well-served to educate ourselves and our children in the necessary skills to ensure continued agency and economic relevance. [via Instagram]

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