Questions loom surrounding ethics of AI use in school

Students and teachers are facing uncharted territory when it comes to increased accessibility to AI, which brings up questions of cheating and plagiarism. But could it also benefit learning? The question is very much on the minds of educators as they prepare to welcome students back to classrooms.

Jeannie Wiley is associate professor in the philosophy department at The College of Saint Rose. It’s her job to help students explore what it means to be human, to make sense out of life. 

So, does that make artificial intelligence the enemy?

“I’m not an expert, but I read what the experts are saying and they are reacting to the danger of cheating,” said Wiley.

So to avoid the bad, cheating, plagiarism and a risk of students skating by without retaining important information, the College of Saint Rose is advising teachers to address AI head on, setting expectations and making their classroom policies on its use known to students from day one.

“Machine intelligence is a really fantastic research tool,” said Wiley. “It has been a game-changer for students. It’s like having a really smart, efficient, skilled research assistant.”

Dean of the School of Mathematics and Sciences, Ian MacDonald teaches computer science and security. He’s been studying AI since the late 1990s.

“I’m always excited about advancements in AI,” said MacDonald. “This is not a new technology. This type of technology that’s going into ChatGPT has been around for a very long time. But what we’re seeing is just the availability of data and ability to pass through data and pull it together has grown exponentially over the last many, many years.”

MacDonald said it’s going to take some adjusting. He says faculty are allowing the use of ChatGPT but with parameters. Students may have to orally defend their work.

“I believe it’s saving work over here and creating some more work over here,” said MacDonald. “So it is requiring faculty, whether you’re in high school or college, to really get to know your students and look for baselines just to make sure that catch up is if they’re using it, they’re not overusing it, or that they’re getting their own thoughts and their original thinking and analysis into the work.”

MacDonald and Wiley agree ChatGPT is a great jumping off point that leads to conversation within the classroom.

“The whole introduction of machine intelligence has really caused me to reflect on what is really special and unique about the human experience,” said Wiley.

Wiley said an essential part of learning is social, so, she’s planning to use something called the flipped classroom: Asking students to research before class, allowing them to take what the tool has taught them and put it into practice during their time together.

“Getting the information from the machine is great, but figuring out how we’re going to use it going forward, how we’re going to steer our lives and our society going forward. That to me is a big human question,” said Wiley.

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