How should schools respond to ChatGPT?
ChatGPT, a highly advanced AI chatbot that can simulate human writing and conversation, has made huge waves since its initial release in November 2022. It has also sharply divided teachers and administrators over its value as an educational tool.
Whether you believe ChatGPT can help simplify cumbersome tasks or you fear its potential as a cheating aid, it’s clear the platform has significant implications for the future of teaching and learning. Like it or not, your schools are going to have to come up with a strategy for responding to ChatGPT and other emerging tools like it.
Created by OpenAI, a San Francisco-based research laboratory, the free app can generate text that appears to have been written by humans—and it’s already being used in many sectors of society, with 100 million downloads within a month of its release. The newest version, issued March 14, can understand images as well as text.
“The new technology has the potential to improve how people learn new languages, how blind people process images, and even how we do our taxes,” Vox reports.
Some educators have found powerful uses of the software. For example, a teacher in Utah told Education Week that he used ChatGPT to create multiple examples of a single argument using different tones, and he estimates the chatbot saved him more than an hour’s worth of work. Teachers have also used the program to build rubrics, give feedback on assignments, compose emails to parents, and write letters of recommendation for students.
However, many educators are concerned about students using ChatGPT to cheat by having the app generate their papers, essays, and other writing assignments. The Los Angeles Unified School District, New York City Public Schools, and Seattle Public Schools are among the public K-12 school districts that have banned the use of ChatGPT from school-issued devices.
Kevin Roose, who hosts a podcast that makes sense of the rapidly changing world of technology, argues that educators shouldn’t ban ChatGPT but should leverage it for instruction.
“After talking with dozens of educators over the past few weeks, I’ve come around to the view that banning ChatGPT from the classroom is the wrong move,” Roose writes for the New York Times. “Instead, I believe schools should thoughtfully embrace ChatGPT as a teaching aid—one that could unlock student creativity, offer personalized tutoring, and better prepare students to work alongside AI systems as adults.”
Wherever you fall on the spectrum of responses, here are three things that every school and district should do in the era of AI-based tools like ChatGPT:
- Rethink the nature of student assignments. As AI gets better at responding to prompts, educators can guard against cheating by restructuring their writing assignments. For instance, history teacher Spencer Burrows recommends framing assignments with language that requires students to go back to the text and find the answer, such as using specific page numbers or references—as well as requiring text citations within student responses.
- Develop clear policies. Work as a community to develop and communicate well-defined policies around the use of ChatGPT. Listen to multiple perspectives, including what students, teachers, and parents have to say—and come up with sensible policies that work well for everyone.
- Back up your policies with flexible technology. Use a versatile and highly granular filtering platform that gives you the fine-tuned control you need to enforce whatever policies you develop.
Impero’s ContentKeeper cloud filtering solution for schools enables you to enforce school and district internet-use policies across all devices, web browsers, and platforms with unmatched security, flexibility, and control. With ContentKeeper, you can control who should have access to ChatGPT on what devices and when.
For example, you can let teachers access ChatGPT from school devices but not students. You can give students access to ChatGPT outside of school hours so they learn how to interact with AI-based tools, but block access during class to prevent cheating on exams. You can allow access for some groups of students but not others, depending on the policies you devise.
As technology rapidly changes, the policies you create in response to these developments must evolve as well. If you haven’t done this already, have conversations about how you’ll handle ChatGPT as a school or district community—and make sure you have a robust internet-use platform that can support whatever approaches you decide.
About the Author: The former editor of eSchool News, Dennis Pierce has more than 20 years of experience writing about education and technology.