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Educators looking at artificial intelligence in the classroom

Starting with a pad and pencil, moving on to typewriters, then computers and word processors, education has adapted to the various tools at the disposal of teachers and students. 

Writing a research paper may now become using an artificial intelligence program to write the paper or a speech, or a book report. 

Companies have been developing programs that are meant to streamline projects. Programs like ChatGPT are just one of many that are being used. Educators are now trying to figure out how to use them in the classroom. 

The Illinois State Board of Education has partnered with the Illinois Learning Technology Center to help teachers discover how to use the various programs inside the classroom, said Emily Johnson, Illinois State Board of Education press secretary. 

“ISBE has a partnership with the IL Learning Technology Center to provide support for districts on educational technology,” Johnson said. “LTC has developed recent guidance: ChatGPT in the Classroom: 5 Strategies for K-12 Educators – Learning Technology Center. They have also hosted several PD sessions in the past year relevant to AI.”

The program provides various ways teachers can use the programs to enhance their teachings, whether it be by drafting emails, helping form talking points for lessons or even creating writing prompts.

Examples provided in the program include email drafts for parent reminders, schedules, and it can even provide guidelines for feedback.

Generative AI technology, like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, is part of a new generation of machine-learning systems that can converse, generate readable text on demand and produce novel images and video based on what they’ve learned from a vast database of digital books and online text.

ChatGPT has been used to pass exams, write essays, deliver a sermon, write code and quickly explain just about anything found on the internet — to name a handful of its functions. It also gained notoriety for results that could be way off, such as confidently providing a detailed but false account of the Super Bowl game days before it took place, or even being disparaging to users, according to reporting by The Associated Press.

Some companies are already embracing generative AI technology to improve the workplace and cut down on expenses.

But, for some people, generative AI technology raises a scary question: Could it take my job?

New research on the effects of generative or language modeling AI like ChatGPT on different occupations and industries found that some jobs, like telemarketers and teachers, are more “exposed” to the technology than others, such as psychologists and counselors.

A team led by Princeton University conducted the research by linking 10 AI-powered applications, such as language, to 52 human abilities, to understand if any closely relate.

Telemarketers topped the list of the 20 most exposed occupations to language modeling AI tools. Postsecondary English language and literature teachers came next, followed by foreign language teachers. Postsecondary teachers of history followed. Teachers took nine of the top 11 spots.

The 10 most exposed professions:

  • Telemarketers
  • English language and literature teachers
  • Foreign language and literature teachers
  • History teachers
  • Law teachers
  • Philosophy and religion teachers
  • Sociology teachers
  • Political science teachers
  • Criminal justice and law enforcement teachers
  • Sociologists

Angela Mulka

Though there are many examples of how it can be used for teachers, Illinois College Dean of Faculty Laura Corey said they are evaluating how to use the new technology. 

Corey said currently they are prohibiting its use in class work while professors discuss the merits behind the program.

“In the abstract, it’s a tool that can be used well or poorly,” Corey said. “We are still trying to figure out if this is something we could implement or use.”

With the potential to be used poorly, Corey said she is hesitant to use it widespread in course work. 

One small example is ChatGPT ability to craft a written work based on parameters set by the user and will pull in various sources into the article or essay. 

Corey said her first concern is that students would simply use this without doing the work or verifying the credibility of sources. 

“The text doesn’t really sound natural,” Corey said. “Using these types of programs takes out the personal understanding or voice of the students.”

As most assignments require critical thinking, Corey said a program like this could take away any perceived benefit and stop students from really connecting or understanding the information. 

North Greene Superintendent Mark Scott said as of now the district hasn’t had any issues with the program, though he expects there will be discussions if there are.

“The concern is that students would take the easy way out,” Scott said. “It would be different if it just generated resources. This would essentially take away individual opinion and thought.”

Corey said there are potential uses for it that would maintain academic honesty, though she expects faculty will spend time during the breaks to dive into the program to explore its capabilities. 

“I’d almost equate it to Wikipedia, where you use it as a way to search for keywords, but not as a valid source,” Corey said. “It does pull in sources, so students could potentially use it to find sources, but we would want them to go and engage those sources on their own.”

Illinois College defines cheating as “The use or attempted use of any form of notes, tables, books or other devices
(whether paper, electronic, or other media) to assist in the writing of an examination or test of any kind is strictly prohibited except in those instances when an instructor permits or prescribes the use of given materials” in its Honor Code. 

The Honor Code goes on to include the use of other materials that are not cited correctly, giving or receiving help without the faculty ‘s premissionor use of work in multiple classes. 

“The submission of work that is not the actual accomplishment of the person submitting it is a violation of intellectual integrity,” the code reads. 

It also states “that assistance in typing or proofreading is not considered improper, unless specifically forbidden by the instructor.”

Corey said they are trying to determine if the use of an AI program to complete the work would fall under the code as something that is not the actual accomplishment of the student.

Corey said this program is similar to other programs that have either been implemented or banned from use. 

“Take Grammarly for instance,” Corey said. “It could be used to fix words or punctuation in an essay. Some people thought of that as violating academic honesty.”

Corey said views on that have changed as they found workable uses for it, however, some classes like grammar classes where the objective is to actually learn copy editing or proper writing skills, a program like this would defeat the point. 

She said they will have to take the time to really look at the program before drafting any policies specific to artificial intelligence. 

“For this semester we are telling students not to use the program, but if they feel they must to talk with the professor first,” Corey said. “We are looking at it on an individual basis.”

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