ChatGPT brings changes to school environment

Kaitlyn Jiang, asst. news editor

ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, or computer program designed to interact with humans, has taken the world by storm, especially in academic institutions, Kevin Roose reported for The New York Times. At South, the computer program has left many teachers and students concerned because of its uncanny ability to produce grammatically correct and eloquent pieces of writing, English Teacher Gwen Quigley said. 

OpenAI, a San Francisco-based artificial intelligence company, launched ChatGPT, meaning generative pretrained transformer, in November 2022 after testing different models and eventually returning to modify a 2020 model, according to The New York Times article. Its advanced level of functionality is revolutionary; it can write college-level essays, write computer code,  diagnose medical conditions, and even tell jokes. Although AI raises questions of integrity in educational environments, it also provides a promise of innovation, Quigley said.

“Technology can be a double-edged sword,” Quigley said. “What we’re seeing right now is a lot of negatives, but down the road, I [can] imagine potential ways to use [ChatGPT] that could be productive.”

While Science Teacher Chiara Andrews values innovation, she believes education should be a first priority.

“Change is good, but it doesn’t replace learning,” Andrews said. “I [expect] education is going to change and become more hands on [because of this], which isn’t hard for science.”

To combat concerns of plagiarism with ChatGPT,  OpenAI has created a classifier to differentiate human-written and AI-written text, according to a press release by OpenAI.

“While it is impossible to reliably detect all AI-written text, we believe good classifiers can inform mitigations for false claims that AI-generated text was written by a human,” the press release stated. “[The classifier prevents] running automated misinformation campaigns, using AI tools for academic dishonesty, and positioning an AI chatbot as a human.” 

While there are ways to prevent breaches of integrity, English Teacher David Garbe is more concerned with the long-standing effects ChatGPT may have on future generations of students.

“As more people simply accept [AI chatbots] as a ‘useful tool’ rather than a dehumanizing [technological] intrusion into the creative human soul, technology [will] worm its way into what most Americans believe is ‘normal’ life,” Garbe said. “Our culture and lives will be poorer in a world where people never learn to use language well enough to express themselves.” 

For senior Lily FitzGibbon, ChatGPT poses ethical concerns in writing-heavy classes like Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition.

“I’m someone who really cares about the integrity of my work, especially with essays,” FitzGibbon said. “I want my writing to come from me.”

As for ChatGPT at South, Principal Dr. Barbara Georges said the goal is not to prevent the use of AI by blocking it on school Chromebooks, but to ensure that students’ abilities to communicate are housed within themselves and not technology.

“[We] should be using [ChatGPT] as a teachable moment to help the citizens of tomorrow understand how to engage [with technology] in a responsible and ethically appropriate manner while still developing independent thoughts and creativity,” Georges said.