As ChatGPT and similar AI tools gain in popularity, many school districts are looking for ways to incorporate them into their teaching.
DEPTFORD TOWNSHIP, New Jersey (WPVI) — As ChatGPT and similar artificial intelligence tools gain in popularity, many local school districts are looking for ways to incorporate them into their teaching as opposed to banning the AI.
"It's gotten really big," explained Deptford High School 11th grader Delaney Vanhoof, referring to ChatGPT, which launched in November 2022.
Users type in queries on anything from movie recommendations to Shakespeare, and the artificial intelligence answers back in a manner that simulates human conversation.
Vanhoof doesn't use it much herself yet but said she sees the possibilities.
"I think it could be useful to students. I think students could learn things from it," said Vanhoof.
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Millions of users have consulted the AI for myriad questions ranging from how to do household tasks or math problems, to even potential study questions for interviews and tests.
"They could give me questions back, and if I know my content enough I could be able to answer them well, and it could be a good study tool," pointed out Vanhoof.
The technology has promise but also concerns.
Educators across the country have been grappling with the potential for cheating. For example, the technology is able to compose a full essay on any number of topics.
Even when it is banned on school networks, students can always use it at home.
"The genie is out of the bottle. This is not going to go away," said Johnathan Maxson, a vice principal in Deptford Township Schools and supervisor of ELA, History, and World Languages. "We want to make sure we are leveraging this new technology to the best of our capabilities and that we are equipping our students with the dispositions to be the best digital citizens that they can possibly be."
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The Deptford Township School District has preventive measures in place, including plagiarism detection.
Teachers and administrators are learning too, by collaborating with other educators and being invited to take part in conferences and webinars discussing AI.
"What can we do to enhance our educational goals? What can do to improve instruction, and how can we promote student engagement and student achievement," Maxson asked.
This is an issue many schools in the Philadelphia area are addressing.
School District of Philadelphia spokesperson Monique Braxton said the district has not received complaints about student usage from principals or teachers. However, there are district-wide filtering solutions in place, and while ChatGPT has not been blocked by those filters, Braxton added that until the district understands more about ChatGPT, the site is blocked in their schools and student Chromebooks.
Last spring, Lower Merion Schools told families that rather than banning the technology, they will teach students how to use it in ways that are appropriate, responsible and efficient.
And for the Bethlehem Area School District is establishing a high school elective on AI and ethical issues.
Many curriculums are evolving with the technology.
"We want to make sure in Deptford Township Schools that we're being deliberate in our approach, but we're also acting swiftly and we want to be ahead of it," Maxson emphasized.
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