By Abigael T. Sidi
An Upper West Sider, Abigael Sidi is a rising sophomore at The Bronx High School of Science.
The rapid advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has revolutionized the way we interact with technology. One notable innovation in the realm of AI-driven communication is ChatGPT. Developed by OpenAI, ChatGPT is an advanced language model that utilizes deep learning techniques to understand and generate human-like text responses.
Not to pull a Richard Blumenthal (the senator who asked ChatGPT to write his opening remarks for a hearing on artificial intelligence) but I didn’t write that first paragraph. ChatGPT did. It’s the AI tool that blew up on multiple social media platforms as soon as it was launched last November.
Students were quick to embrace it, including at The Bronx High School of Science where I’m a rising sophomore. But by January the city’s Department of Education banned the use of ChatGPT by students and teachers “due to potential misuse and concerns raised by educators.” After a few months, though, Schools Chancellor David Banks lifted the ban. Banks said the department needed to consider that today’s students will work in a world where AI is deeply integrated into the workplace. After the ban was eliminated, student use of ChatGPT turned into a frenzy at local schools (one recent national study reported that about 50% of students ages 12-18 say they have used it for school work).
A rising senior at The Beacon School who’s used the tool expressed mixed emotions when I asked her recently about ChatGPT. The first time she tried it, “I was writing a really formal email,” she said, “so I used ChatGPT to search things up like ‘How to write a good email.” Since then, she said, she’s used it to search for ideas and to fact check her homework, saving her time and reducing stress. But she has not used ChatGPT to actually write any of her assignments. “I don’t trust AI to just copy and paste,” she said. And, she said, she doubted whether AI was helping her in the long run. She had begun to feel a scary dependence on it, doubted her own thinking skills, and sometimes wished that ChatGPT hadn’t been created.
I also spoke with a rising sophomore at the Bronx High School of Science who lives on the Upper West Side. “Around March, I started using ChatGPT to look up baking recipes,” he said, “It was in April that I started using it for school. The first time was because I just kept on procrastinating.” Soon, like many of his peers, he began using it regularly for history, language, and biology classes. “I used ChatGPT to write a global history essay in mid April,” he recalled. “I had to edit it a lot, but I ended up with a 100.” That success led him to turn to the chatbot to produce a second history assignment. “It was in late May, and I just didn’t feel like writing an essay,” he said, “so I used ChatGPT, edited what it wrote, and submitted it. Only this time I got an 80, even though a ChatGPT detector scored it as 100% human-written.”
It’s easy to think that ChatGPT will write out whatever we want it to without having us put in much thought, but the reality is that ChatGPT is not human. Its essays may have a robotic tone, or a strangely advanced vocabulary, or lack supporting evidence. Sometimes it writes complete nonsense.
Many educators oppose student use of ChatGPT, equating it with academic cheating. But, “If you can say it, and if you can write it, you know it. So if [ChatGPT] helps [students] get there, then they should use it,” a biology and research teacher at the Bronx High School of Science told me. In that view, shared by many students, ChatGPT is a new tool for use in tackling difficult homework, and it should not necessarily be considered cheating.
But are the students using it just asking for a little bit of help? That’s a question that conflicts the Bronx Science biology teacher. On the one hand, he said, students should have access to all the help they need. On the other hand, he questions whether relying on the tool will stunt a student’s creating thinking skills. So in response to his concerns, he’s made a policy change. “I don’t trust their approach to work at home,” he said, so his students are now required to do their “homework” while still at school.
“Go cheat all you want at home,” he said, “but the work has to be done here.”