News10NBC Investigates: AI, ChatGPT and cheating in school

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Here’s the warning: The artificial intelligence technology called ChatGPT can complete school assignments for your children. Our schools are trying to figure out how to deal with it.

New York City schools temporarily banned ChatGPT on school computers and WiFi, but that hasn’t happened here partly because it’s so new, schools aren’t quite sure how to handle it.

ChatGPT is software that analyzes millions of data, compiles what you’re looking for and produces content immediately.

Go to Open AI and ask it anything from serious topics like “what caused the Civil War” to personal things like “write a text to break up with my partner.”

and ask it anything from serious topics like “what caused the Civil War” to personal things like “write a text to break up with my partner.”

For students, ChatGPT is a library and ghost writer on steroids.

“Making your process of doing work easier and copying word for word what ChatGPT is telling you are two different things,” saysRusama Haque.

Haque is just about to graduate from the University of Rochester. When Berkeley Brean spoke with her, she was working on her final assignments and exams. She’s used ChatGPT for research.

“Now, what that is doing is cutting down my research time by probably one fourth, by three times of four times it is making my process of doing research for the work I’m trying to do faster,” she said. “The way technology is developing, you can’t really stop it.”

The concern is cheating, handing in what artificial intelligence writes.

Paulo Barelli is an economics professor at the UofR and the chair of the academic honestly board at the university’s School of Arts, Sciences and Engineering. Greer Murphy is the school’s director of academic honesty. She described what ChatGPT can do.

“You could paste a reading in and you could ask it to summarize that reading,” says Murphy. “You could then ask it to summarize in a particular style, in a way that expresses disagreement with that author, in a way that supports that author.”

Brean: “That sounds like it could be a school assignment.”
Greer Murphy: “It could, yes.”
Brean: “So students could use that to answer questions that they need in their class.”
Murphy: “They could. How I would frame it is that I think they could try.”

“How do you detect students who do this?” Brean asked Prof. Barelli.

“We so far have had a handful of cases where an AI tool was used,” says Barelli. “And the way it was detected was the instructor suspected something, called up the student, talked to the student because they knew the student and in that conversation the student admitted to having used it.”

Barelli said 50% of suspected cases of cheating are resolved between the teacher and student.

“I don’t think there’s any substitute for knowing your students,” Murphy said.

In other words, if it doesn’t look like their writing it, probably isn’t. UofR is working on a ChatGPT policy.

But what about our public schools?

“Why don’t any schools have a policy yet on this technology?” Brean asked Casey Kosiorek, school superintendent in Hilton. Kosiorek is the chair of the Monroe County council of school superintendents.
He says every school already has a code of conduct policy on cheating

“So if there was a situation where a student was using this app to plagiarize or present work that is not theirs that would be a potential way we would address it,” says Kosiorek.

Kosiorek says he spoke to the principal of Hilton High School Wednesday morning and said there are no cases of students using ChatGPT to cheat.

Greece Central School District is proposing a change to its code of conduct on plagiarism to go from “Claims someone else’s work as their own” to include “and/or use of technology including apps and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to generate work.”

The Greece School Board votes on the change in the summer.

Schools districts and colleges are hesitant to ban ChatGPT because it might be useful, akin to a calculator.

“When you and I were in math class we weren’t allowed to use a calculator,” Kosiorek said. “But now students, we’ve allowed them to use that tool.”

Brean: “Paulo you likened it, when we spoke on the phone, to a calculator, where it’s technology that helps the students and sometimes they’re allowed to use it and sometimes they’re not.”
Paulo Barelli: “Exactly. That’s exactly what this is.”

“So my sense is that you see it as a way to be more efficient, work smarter not harder,” I said to UofR senior Rusama Haque.

“It’s just been three or four months that AI has emerged and you can already see it’s developing a very fast rate,” says Haque. “You can see how AI is sort of working through code and get inspired by it and create your own. Now does that mean you’re cheating or does that mean you’re finding inspiration and getting help? It’s the same as using text books but a lot faster.”

There is artificial intelligence designed to detect artificial intelligence. Turnitin is software teachers can use to see if their students used ChatGPT to do their work.

“So looking at a student’s paper when submitting it, and then after the student submits it and comparing it to sources on the internet, journals and other papers, we’re able to tell a teacher is we suspect or where there are signs of similarity or perhaps even bad citation,” said Annie Chechitelli, Turnitin Chief Product Officer.

There’s always a catch. Greer Murphy at UofR told us some detection software has been tested to see how well it works.

“Those technologies will tell you that parts of the U.S. Constitution were machine generated. They’ll tell you the lyrics to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ were machine generated,” she said.

When New York City schools banned ChatGPT on school computers and WiFi in January, it said it was a temporary step “in response to this powerful new technology.” The school district said it wants to be “thoughtful about phasing in these technologies.”

Here are comments we recieved from Nazareth College, the Monroe County School Board Association and the NYS Education Department:

Nazareth College: Since ChatGPT is new, Nazareth does not have a policy developed yet, but it is something that is being discussed. Nazareth hasn’t seen any instances of cheating or plagiarism due to ChatGPT.

MCSBA: ChatGPT is a very hot topic in education right now; however, we have not issued recommendations to schools as most schools are trying to better understand how to best navigate ChatGPT (pros/cons). We anticipate covering this topic in the fall of 2023 with our Association membership.

NYSED: Instructional decisions, including methods, tools, curriculum, and resources utilized, are a local decision. NYSED does not require, recommend, endorse, or advise on any specific program or product. Issues around academic dishonestly are also a district responsibility, and the Department does not track this data.