by Irene Gonzalez de Las Casas, Jaesuh Lee & Alex Zakuta, News Reporter, News Editor & News Reporter
Since its launch on Nov. 30, 2022, ChatGPT has taken the world by storm, offering users all over the world free groundbreaking resources for brainstorming and creating. The online artificial intelligence (AI) program that produces written responses to user-fed prompts has sparked debate among students, teachers and administrators concerning its role in classrooms and education.
To facilitate these conversations, since Jan. 3, English department head Brian Baron has held weekly WIN block meetings for students and teachers to discuss ChatGPT’s potential impacts in English classes. He said that he created the space to navigate an uncertain future with AI.
“It’s going to have a profound effect, and I don’t know that we totally understand what its effects are yet,” he said. “This is going to be part of our lives going forward, and we’re all going to have to decide where the lines are for us.”
Senior Audrey Wei, who is president of South’s division of the American Computer Science League, said that ChatGPT provides many benefits for students struggling with classwork.
“It can help you brainstorm ideas, answer questions, help you with a practice problem or explain a concept you didn’t quite understand during class,” she said.
Senior Vivek Vallurupalli said that ChatGPT can be particularly helpful when used as a resource for students in the writing process.
“Whether it’s for a general outline or for an extra idea or two, it can definitely be used responsibly as a creative tool,” he said.
Despite these possible positive applications of ChatGPT, some faculty and students like senior Dylan Shanahan are concerned with the program’s potential to be used to cheat. Ultimately, though, Shanahan said that it is the student’s responsibility to not cheat.
“Of course, there’s the whole conception of ChatGPT being the ultimate cheating tool, [but] I feel like that’s mostly on the student,” he said.
English teacher Kelly Henderson said that although the program may make cheating more accessible, the issue of dishonesty cannot be solved with a simple ban on the website.
“You can do anything you want to try to avoid it, but people are going to cheat if they want to cheat. The question is more interesting if we think about why people choose to cheat and what they should be getting out of a high school education,” she said.
Baron said that he hopes an external factor like ChatGPT will not affect a student’s moral compass or motivation.
“I generally don’t think kids want to cheat. Most kids want to feel proud of what they did,” he said. “They want to feel happy that they’re progressing and learning.”
At the end of the day, ChatGPT can’t replicate a traditional, in-person English education, sophomore Grace Santos said.
“English teachers teach so much more than how to write essays. They give you communication skills and life skills, and they teach you how to be in the real world,” they said. There is no way that this machine could ever replace the number of things that English teachers give students.”
Henderson said that overreliance on AI is a symptom of larger trends that take away from the school’s focus on the emotional and academic development of students.
“The more we focus on test scores and grades, the bigger our class sizes get and the more overwhelmed teachers and students get, the more likely it is that we live in a world where people rely on AI to do their work,” she said. “We need to do everything we can to invest in schools and systems that prioritize our humanity.”