ChatGPT: A threat to education? Or a new tool for learning?

Educators are concerned about the new AI program ChatGPT, which can generate answers and write essays with perfect grammar. But some cyber experts are arguing that teachers should embrace the technology as a classroom tool.

Whether you want to write stand-up comedy routine, a poem, or an inspirational speech – the artificial chatbot auto generative system called ChatGPT can do it for you.  

The system is scaring teachers. Concerned about cheating, plagiarizing, and negative impacts on student learning, New York City Public Schools banned the program. But some educators say embrace the AI or else.  

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"When calculators were introduced in the classroom in the 1970s, people thought it was the end of math education," said George Berg, chairman of Cyber Security Dept. at the University at Albany. "The internet, Wikipedia, all those things. There were people who thought, oh my goodness, it’s going to totally corrupt education, but as it turned out, these all turned out to be tools."

ChatGPT is here, it’s free and a savvy student will figure out how to use it. It's why experts are encouraging educators to treat it like a classroom tool. 

For example: A teacher can use what ChatGPT generates as a first draft, asking the students to rewrite it with facts they found, and in their own voice. Teachers can use ChatGPT to create discussion and writing prompts, and step-by-step explanations. ChatGPT may have the answers, but students will still have to think critically.

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"It’s not going to be Skynet, it’s not going to be the singularity, the end of human-based civilization, far from it," Berg said. "I think what happens is we’ll look back at this a couple of years from now, and once we figure out how to adapt it into our lives."

Keep in mind, the program isn’t perfect. It can get facts wrong. Its generated answers lack complexity, and there are tools to pick up plagiarism. The program will only get more accurate with time, Berg says but teachers require students to follow-up on an assignment verbally.  

"Some people might not like that approach," Berg said, "but ChatGPT is going to be out there, and we might as well figure out how to use it constructively."