By Grace Sousa and John Timko
Graphic by Denise Chan
After days spent concocting the perfect storyline for his English assignment, junior Michael Chang finally hit the submit button on Turnitin — he let out a sigh of relief as his hard work came to fruition. Weeks later, Chang received an email from his English teacher: his short story was flagged for the use of artificial intelligence.
“It made me feel insecure because everyone becomes more suspicious of each other,” he said.
What started as a simple misunderstanding led to more complications, as suspicion plagued the good work that Chang had done.
Although using an AI checker seemingly helps lessen students’ use of ChatGPT, in Chang’s situation, it ended up diminishing the value of his effort.
While AI usage previously flew under the radar, recently increased accessibility to artificial intelligence programs, such as ChatGPT, makes paranoia increasingly prevalent.
ChatGPT has the ability to process a variety of prompts and return an answer. These programs are convenient for students who have begun to normalize the fast and easy nature of these programs when strapped for time.
Although seemingly helpful on paper, the overuse of this powerful technology can strip individuality from students’ work and jeopardize their learning process. The growing influx of this technology has redefined academic honesty, and in severe cases, tarnished trust between teacher and student.
As AI and education become increasingly intertwined, teachers and students are left to draw the line between using and abusing the power of artificial intelligence.
Appeal and Temptation
Despite running the risk of being caught, students use AI to help them through their schoolwork. Junior Raina Bornstein said she has noticed the prevalence of ChatGPT in educational life.
“I have seen students use AI in the classroom, and teachers are incredibly paranoid about ChatGPT because they know the potential that students have to abuse it,” she said.
There are a variety of reasons why a student feels the need to turn to AI for academic help, but in the competitive climate of South, students often use AI to alleviate the stress associated with the emphasis on grades.
English teacher Kelly Henderson said the culture at South causes students to focus on competition over academic growth.
“The college industrial complex has forced us all into this horrific hyper-competitive capitalist system where we’re all climbing at each other to get these limited spots,” she said. “We’ve convinced ourselves that that’s the position we’re in.”
When grades are valued over learning, students skirt moral boundaries in search of ways to turn work in on time.
To keep up with the demands of school, sophomore Matt Letourneau said students feel pressure to use ChatGPT to make up for a lack of time management skills.
“Procrastination is a big problem, and [AI] is very easy to use because it’s quick. You just copy and paste it, and edit it if you want to,” he said. “If you have one day to write an essay, and you have the opportunity, you are going to use [technology] that writes in five minutes.”
Beyond academic pressure, the educational world has become increasingly technology-centered since the COVID-19 pandemic. Academic materials have shifted from tactile to electronic forms, normalizing the use of technology in a student’s daily life.
Michael Hiscox, a professor of International Affairs (name of university hidden at professor’s request), said that since technology became the lifeline for students during the lockdown, the integration of artificial intelligence into in-person academics felt natural.
“My students had their education disrupted and transformed into what was for some time a virtual experience online,” he said. “They literally don’t know [using AI] is the wrong thing to do. Because of their experience with how learning was structured, they imagined that this is just one more tool that they’re able to use.”
A Future of Uncertainty
The concept of artificial intelligence has been around since the 1950s. British mathematician Alan Turing suggested that machines could use rational thinking to solve problems the same way humans do.
Turing’s thesis was put into practice with the Logic Theorist, a program designed to replicate the decision-making techniques of a human. As technology became quicker and more accessible, AI flourished from the late 50s onward.
Now, AI is more popular; it is through the technology that humans use every day, such as iPhones and computers, that AI receives information, data and statistics about human behavior.
Geoffrey Hinton, widely known as the “Godfather of AI”, is a computer scientist who helped develop AI neural networks. In an interview with CNN, Hinton said that he was concerned that AI chatbots were becoming smarter than humans.
“I’m just a scientist who suddenly realized that these things are getting smarter than us. I want to sort of blow the whistle and say we should worry about how we stop these things [from] getting control over us.”
Spanish teacher Jennifer Hee said that she was scared by her first encounter with ChatGPT because of its proficiency.
“I was initially terrified to see how good it was because not only could it do so many things in English, but I also said to it, ‘Write me a 20-line poem in Spanish about rainbows’ and it produced this absolutely flawless [poem].”
The creator of ChatGPT, Sam Altman, has openly endorsed the immense power that AI holds; however, in an interview with ABC News, Altman said that AI has dangerous implications.
“I’m particularly worried that these models could be used for large-scale disinformation,” he said. “We’ve got to be cautious.”
The disinformation caused by AI contributes to a general distrust of what we see in the world around us – from fabricated videos to homework assignments.
The trusting relationship between student and teacher can be broken by AI. Bornstein said that the rise of ChatGPT has directly led to an increase in skepticism throughout the school system.
“There is definitely a newfound distrust that teachers have for other students. Even if students had potential to be dishonest academically in the past, it’s heightened now, and teachers are hyper-aware of that fact,” Bornstein said.
Editors Versus Creators
Compared to a source that seems to have endless knowledge, individual perspectives begin to seem insignificant — every idea can be created without any human thought.
English teacher Deborah Bernhard said it’s common for students to feel insecure about their own ideas when there is a machine that contains far more information.
“If everything is there for you, why would you have to create anything?,” she said.
In schools, having an artificial intelligence bot that can allegedly generate work as well as students, diminishes students’ confidence.
Junior Sara Tomas said she has felt the impact that ChatGPT has on how self-assured people are; however, she has found a way to avoid losing confidence in her capabilities by ensuring that she truly enjoys what she pursues academically.
“In the future, I want to do engineering, and I have a strong feeling that’s something AI can take over in the future,” she said. “The next question becomes, if AI can engineer then what’s the point of doing it? The way that I approach that is by making sure the work I do is something I find meaning in.”
It is crucial for students to have certainty in their own intelligence. If society fosters a generation of redactors and proofreaders, change will never occur.
A New World
At South, the administration has already taken measures when it comes to artificial intelligence in school, but there hasn’t been a general consensus as to how the school should take action on the problem.
Some teachers have specifically talked to their students about using AI in the classroom — in Tomas’ classes, teachers approached AI as something taboo, she said.
“A lot of my humanities teachers have mentioned it in class. They’ve mainly asked the class to not use it for any assignments and discussed only the benefits of not using it.”
Other teachers, like Hee and Bernhard, say that they need more direction on the subject before addressing it with their students and that although there have been department discussions, formal policies have not yet materialized.
Hiscox said that because technology can have serious implications, there should be regulations for AI as any other potentially dangerous item would have.
“We don’t put a new drug on the market without clinical trials to prove that it’s not going to kill hundreds or millions of people. We need to test its effectiveness and safety. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t treat technology the same way.”
Managing AI in school is a fine line to walk: when unfamiliar creations arise, shunning its usage only unwittingly makes it more prevalent, but fully embracing AI in education stunts students’ learning.
Letourneau said that the implementation of AI in school systems is crucial because, without change, the problem with artificial intelligence in schools will only persist.
“We’re at a point where the technology is only going to get better, so the school system is going to have to change. You can’t just use AI checkers or say ‘don’t use it’ because that might not work in the future as [AI] gets better,” he said.
“[Faculty] has to find a way to make sure that kids are using their own ideas, whether that’s on paper or doing something different with tests. If we don’t make changes, then kids will continue using AI to do everything for them.”
The recent growth of artificial intelligence in an academic setting has magnified the stigma around using AI in school.
Math and computer science teacher Alexander Palilunas said that he noticed his students were taken aback when he brought up AI in the classroom. He believes hesitancy around the new technology is because students aren’t aware that AI can be associated with more than academic dishonesty.
“People don’t know what the rules and expectations for this new tool are,” he said. “That’s a big part of the hesitancy in students because of the initial assumption of cheating.”
Since AI is becoming increasingly embedded into our society, this stigma must be addressed.
In math and computer science classes, AI might find a role in a way that it wouldn’t be able to in a humanities class, Palilunas said.
“One thing that would be great is if there was some sort of professional development for the faculty about good uses of AI, and that would probably have to be department-based,” he said.
While using AI in education can be an area of concern when it comes to academic honesty, if schools are able to adopt this powerful technology rather than resist it, positive changes can be made throughout educational systems.
Teachers and students can use AI to the advantage of personalized learning; Chang said that using artificial intelligence in school can help with different teaching methods.
“It can definitely have a very hopeful impact with the potential it can create for custom learning because the teachers can’t always tutor you one on one [in] a large classroom environment,” he said.
Artificial intelligence can also be used to free up time-consuming tasks, which Palilunas said is helpful in his computer science class.
“[My students] use it for trivial tasks or data entry and basic tasks. What we don’t want is really important AI skills to be ignored and not taught,” he said. “We actually want [students’ skills] to be enhanced by AI.”
If AI is used as an editing tool, a first draft or a time-saver, students would be using technology for tasks they know how to complete; but, the habit of using AI could damage their learning skills.
To curb the prospect of students losing academic abilities, Hee says teachers must help students establish a strong foundation before using AI to assist them academically.
“Our reality is technology. Chances are whatever field you go into is going to [involve] technology, so we’re not trying to get rid of technology. You first need to learn how to learn without it, and then you can use it to help,” she said. “There has to be a foundation and then technology becomes an assistant. If there’s no foundation, [students] will say, ‘I don’t even know where to start.’ Teach kids how to start.”