Do you think you could spot something that was written by artificial Intelligence?
If you have been paying attention to the internet over the past month and a half you have seen the way that OpenAI has thrown out several massive changes to the way that content is generated online. DALL-E 2 now allows anyone to create realistic images or illustrations that threaten to disrupt an entire gig economy, and artists are already pushing back.
Now ChatGPT is making rapid text generation extremely easy. While that has some obvious implications for fields like journalism, one of the always interesting implications is on the field of education. It just makes it very, very easy to write essays
From the point of view of the students, the attraction is obvious and the downsides are more long term. Understanding the limits of ChatGPT before grabbing it to write your essay is important.
ChatGPT drawbacks include
- Plagiarism: One of the biggest risks of using ChatGPT to write essays is the potential for plagiarism. While ChatGPT generates human-like text, it is not original content. Since Turnitin.com and other anti-plagiarism sites are still a staple of educational essay writing, it would be easy for some of your content to be flagged.
- Lack of critical thinking skills: By relying on ChatGPT to do the heavy lifting for you, you risk losing the opportunity to develop your own critical thinking skills. Writing essays is an opportunity to engage with the material, form your own opinions, and develop your own voice. If you rely on ChatGPT to generate your essays, you may miss out on this important learning opportunity.
- Poor grammar and structure: While ChatGPT is trained on a vast amount of text data and can generate human-like text, it is not perfect. It may produce text with poor grammar or structure.
- Dependence on technology: By relying on ChatGPT to write your essays, you risk becoming too dependent on technology. It’s important to remember that writing is a skill that takes practice and development.
But all of these drawbacks assume that the alternative is to put in full effort and write a good essay. Anyone who has been a teenager or student under an essay deadline, quite often the alternative is turning in nothing and taking a zero. While plagiarism might have more dangerous implications than a zero, even the risk of that is muted because students aren’t copying other papers or wikipedia articles, they are taking text which has been generated more randomly.
So teachers are left holding the bag. How easy is it to tell if something is written by ChatGPT vs a student with less than stellar essay writing abilities? What if a student takes part of the essay from paragraphs generated by ChatGPT or uses the AI to generate thesis ideas? Where is the hard line that goes from leveraging technology intelligently to cheating? Will students even be taught to write essays if computers can do it so well?
It seems likely that students will still be taught it. And just as likely that their ability to write essays won’t get demonstrably worse because of ChatGPT.
In spite of the fact that we are surrounded by calculators in a way that no one ever could have predicted, we haven’t actually seen that lead to a decrease in math knowledge. As imperfect as NAEP scores are, they haven’t tracked any decreased math ability with the increase of calculators present, and good research says that there is basically no worse performance when students are taught using calculators.
So what needs to happen?
Just like with the introduction of calculators, the goal has to be to create lessons and assessments that can function even with these tools in the world. Flipped classes, in person assessments, and assessments which explicitly permit the use of ChatGPT to see how well students can compose something even with the advantage of the tool, like allowing calculators on AP exams.
Unfortunately, much like with calculators, not much will change. It has always been hard to change how education works and tools like this are too difficult to account for in the landscape of education currently. So teachers will likely keep assigning essays and some students will start using ChatGPT.
Because students will continue to use calculators or any other technology they can to “cheat” if they can.
As will journalists, because a couple paragraphs of this article were written using ChatGPT. Can you guess which ones?
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