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Students are using AI to complete assignments. How teachers are adapting

Two University of North Florida professors and a St. Johns County teacher are weighing in on how the development of artificial intelligence is changing education.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Artificial intelligence is making its way into one of the most fundamental aspects of education: completing assignments.

Students are turning to AI-powered tools to help them finish their homework faster and more efficiently than ever, but is this a positive development or does it raise concerns about academic integrity?

Our staff didn’t write that introduction. Instead, it was written by ChatGPT. The fact that it’s convincing is part of the challenge that teachers face as artificial intelligence invades the classroom.

David Harvey teaches 11th grade English at Tocoi Creek High School in St. Johns County.

After almost three decades in the classroom, Harvey is confronting a new problem - students using artificial intelligence to complete assignments.

“In the past, you would suspect the hand of a tutor or perhaps an overbearing parent helping out,” Harvey said, “Now we can tell by the responses that it’s pretty obvious some of them are using ChatGPT.”

Visiting Professor of English Tricia Booker said there’s no formal policy for dealing with AI. Red flags include perfect grammar, a bland writing style and often a failure to respond to the actual writing prompt.

“In writing classes, I think it’s particularly important for you to learn how to communicate,” Booker said. “And so, that’s where I think we’re going to really have to look at informing our students how A-I can be useful but when it is absolutely inappropriate.”

The unusual quality of artificially generated work can be detected by the school’s plagiarism detection tool called TurnItIn.

“If you run your papers, all your papers through TurnItIn, it’s an automatic process,” Booker said. “If any of it’s plagiarized, it’ll pick it up, so we were seeing papers that were coming in that had zero percent plagiarism but were absolutely perfect.”

AI’s influence in the classroom isn’t all bad. Harvey said some non-English speaking students can use it to help with learning sentence structure.

“Type in a question and have it run its wheels, and it comes back with all these ideas,” Harvey said, “so it’s really great for brainstorming, for getting kids to think about the text in a different way.

Expert with the Global AI Ethics Institute Josh Gellers said schools are just scratching the surface of AI, and he thinks it will soon be used to assist students outside of the classroom.

“Think about understaffed administrative offices like admissions,” Gellers said. “When it’s come time for students to apply to college, you might be able to use a chatbot like ChatGPT or another kind of artificial intelligence to answer questions that you don’t need a human to be there to respond to.”

While academic integrity is a concern, Gellers said AI can be used in ways that will enrich the experience for both students and faculty.

“We want to tack our sails to the wind that is artificial intelligence,” Gellers said, “so that we can harness it for good educational purposes. Thinking about how it can make us stronger instructors, thinking about how we can better train our students for careers in the future, careers that aren’t even maybe developed yet.”

As with students who plagiarize, those who use AI to do their work can face punishments including suspension or expulsion, but Harvey said perhaps the biggest impact on students who use chat g-p-t is the loss of individual expression.

“We’re teaching skills,” Harvey said. “We’re also teaching critical thinking, and if you just sign it off to ChatGPT, that crucial skill to be able to think for yourself is probably the biggest risk.”

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