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Will AI Replace Essays?

AI cheater
Artificial intelligence programs enable cheating, as students with writing assignments can let computers do the work for them.

The introduction of ChatGPT is presenting a challenge to classroom teachers. This computer program, developed by Open AI, has the ability to write complete essays on almost any topic.

This is vexing classroom teachers nationwide as they are finding it difficult to distinguish between an actual student submission or a computer generated one. As a result, cheating, especially on the high school and college level, is rampant, leaving educators to scratch their heads.

ChatGPT stands for Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer. It was launched in November 2022 and has the ability to generate a response on pretty much any topic. It was even able to pass the Bar Exam, so perhaps it could live up to the promise of Back to the Future 2 by abolishing all lawyers.

It is the stuff of Science Fiction movies of the past. It can play Tic Tac Toe (War Games) , and has the ability to collect data from responses, so in essence, it can learn. It’s a wonderful concept until SkyNet discovers it and starts creating Terminators or jettisons Frank Poole into space on its way to Saturn to cover up its mistakes.

As stated earlier, it has educators up in arms, but do they need to be? Did math teachers panic when hand held calculators were first introduced? Perhaps, but they adapted and now use them as a valuable learning resource. The same could be said of librarians who could see the internet as a threat to their dusty old volumes of encyclopedias.

But ChatGPT is different. It doesn’t only search for possible answers like Google, it actually provides them. Here is an example using a question posed on the program:

Write a paragraph about the planet Mars:

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. It is often referred to as the "Red Planet" due to its reddish appearance, which is caused by iron oxide (rust) on its surface. Mars has a thin atmosphere and a diverse landscape, including the largest volcano in the Solar System, Olympus Mons, and the longest canyon, Valles Marineris. The planet has a history of water on its surface, with evidence of dried river beds and potential subsurface liquid water. Mars has been explored by spacecraft, both orbiters and rovers, sent by NASA and other space agencies, in an effort to learn more about the planet's geology, climate, and potential for past or present life.

Voila! My kid’s third grade science homework is done!

The old saying goes, “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle.” This is true of so many things, especially ChatGPT. Once students discover all they need to do is to provide the questions, which the teacher gives to them anyway, why would they want to go through the trouble of coming up with an answer? And if teachers know about this, rest assured, students have already known for months. Trying to get them to stop using the program would be as difficult as getting them to stop looking at their cell phones every five minutes.

What some view as problems, others see as opportunities. When calculators became a commonplace item, textbook publishers developed lessons designed to utilize this accessory. This caused math instructors to adapt and now no math classroom is without them. Librarians converted their Dewey Decimal System catalogs into computer databases and the space once occupied by card catalogs into computer workstations.

It’s time that those educators who use writing as an assessment tool adapt as well. Instead of simple Q & A, make the responses more open ended. While research projects have always required documented sources, other assessments tend to only need a cursory perusal of the text, which can be easily mimicked with an AI program. Being more text specific can limit this.

Hopefully you found this to be an eye-opening revelation. But ask yourself, did a person write this or a program?

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