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AI text generators like ChatGPT raises student integrity, reliance concerns for school assignments

Educators now debating whether a new AI technology called "ChatGPT" would be a benefit or hindrance in the classroom.

WEST HAVEN, Conn. — When electronic calculators were first introduced back in the 60s, educators had a debate on their hands. Some believed using calculators might cost students the ability to do arithmetic themselves, while others believed the use of calculators would soon become an essential skill in the workplace.

Educators now have a similar debate on their hands, over a new technology called "ChatGPT".

ChatGPT is artificial intelligence (AI) that can understand and compose content in a very "human" way. It can write term papers and essays, blog posts and YouTube scripts, business plans, poetry, song lyrics - pretty much anything that is written.

But as with most new technology, it comes with a potential for misuse. Nobody knows that better than educators, who are now raising concerns about potential negative impacts on students.

"These technologies solve a problem, but they can be misused," said University of New Haven data science professor Vahid Behzadan.

One of the main concerns is, of course, the potential for cheating. Professor Behzadan likens it to taking a driving test in a self-driving car. ChatGPT's text generation capabilities can be used to cheat on assignments and exams, term papers, and even college admissions essays, and the word is out.

"I have not used it," said UNH student Luke Stacey, "But what I've heard is it's pretty much an AI source that completely writes your essays plagiarism free... and you don't gotta put any work into writing essays anymore."

Another concern is that over-reliance on ChatGPT for generating answers and solutions may cause a deterioration in the student's own skills.

"The concern here is over the originality of the work," said Behzadan. "Why is that valuable? In the economic sense, it's valuable because industry requires original work."

Then there's the question of accuracy. As advanced as generative AI has become, it's still subject to the old adage, "garbage in, garbage out," and ChatGPT's output may contain inaccuracies or biases that can propagate misinformation, particularly if students are not taught to critically evaluate the information they receive.

But it's important to remember that, while ChatGPT is a powerful tool that might well tempt many students to take shortcuts, it also offers a wealth of important benefits.

Bottom line, AI is here to stay, and will only get more advanced, and more powerful. Educators just need to find a way to prohibit cheating, while helping students develop what may become an essential skill in the future.

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Professor Behzadan puts it like this: "From basic medical diagnosis all the way to accounting and tax management, to even legal analysis, all of these areas are moving toward automation. And it's because it can be faster, it can be cheaper and it can even be more accurate, in some sense. I'm not saying we're there already, but we are moving towards that direction, and education evolves to changes in both industry and from the cultural perspective as well."

Now, lots of people are worried about AI replacing humans in the workplace. And in truth, it very well might eventually make many of today's jobs obsolete.

But Dr. Bezhadan said, while language models like ChatGPT can answer questions, it can't ask them. It doesn't have the capacity to "wonder." That still requires human input.

Brent Hardin is an anchor at FOX61 News. He can be reached at bhardin@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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