Montana State navigates emergence of ChatGPT, AI technology use among students

BOZEMAN — Montana State University Students and faculty are back in the classroom, but they have new artificial intelligence technology to navigate.

“I had a lot of friends using it on essays and turning them in,” said Lachlan Becker.

“I’ve seen my friends get away with it, and I’ve seen them get in trouble for it,” added Samuel Marquez.

The two MSU Freshmen are talking about the AI software, ChatGPT—capable of writing essays, solving science and math problems, and even producing computer code.

You can ask it almost anything and it sounds like a student’s dream, letting their phone or laptop do their homework for them.

“It’s fun to play around with,” said Marquez.

However, Marquez and Becker say their old high school teachers cracked down on students using ChatGPT to cheat.

“I knew some teachers were using AI to catch kids using it to cheat,” said Becker. “It was too much of a risk.”

Ken Silvestri with MSU’s Center for Faculty Excellence says instead of banning the freakishly capable software, they’re teaching with it.

“In the past, we’ve adapted to transformative technology, like the calculator, Google, online teaching and learning, which opened a lot of access to education,” said Silvestri.

He says generative AI will change the way people teach and learn.

“Students right now on campus are going to enter a workforce where AI systems are used constantly,” said Silvestri. “We’re teaching them how to harness their creativity with the tool, and focus on critical thinking.”

Instead of the easier route: using it to cheat.

“We have AI detection tools through our subscription, ‘Turn It In’, but they’re not 100 percent reliable,” said Silvestri.

Silvestri says teachers at MSU can decide how they want to regulate AI in their classrooms.

“It can even make teachers lives easier,” said Silvestri. “They can use the tool to create material and cut down on time.”

But Marquez and Becker say they’ll be doing things the old-fashioned way.

“My mom pounded that into me to never cheat,” said Becker. “I knew whatever I got from home would’ve been worse than any discipline I got at school.”

“Yeah, the parent beat down is way worse than getting in trouble at school,” added Marquez.

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