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The Saratoga Falcon

Despite cheating concerns, many teachers remain optimistic about use of AI in classrooms

Annie Liu

The academic environment has greatly shifted due to the introduction of Chat GPT — and its version of artificial intelligence — in November 2022 . 

The challenge for educators: AI allows students to easily generate new text in seconds through a user-entered text prompt, making it far easier to cheat and far harder to detect. 

Starting this school year, the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District (LGSUHSD) has introduced efforts to address the rising prevalence of AI in classrooms, focusing on its effect on academic integrity and critical thinking, especially within humanities courses.

During the Oct. 10 professional development day, various experts from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education and the nonprofit organization Challenge Success weighed in on the challenges with AI.

The meeting was divided into three sections: The first consisted of an overview of AI and the different language models, such as ChatGPT and Bard, and how they work; the second was a live demonstration of how teachers and students could utilize AI positively, with a graduate student demonstrating the input of several prompts into an AI; and the third talked about the science behind why students cheat and potential solutions to curb the behavior.

Coming together at this meeting is just one of many actions teachers have taken to address the issue of AI. 

This year, many humanities teachers have changed the wording of their syllabus, such as specifically prohibiting the use of AI and mentioning how their usage counts as plagiarism and cannot be used as a substitute for critical thinking and reasoning. The school has also already made it clear that using AI to cheat falls under the same bar as plagiarism and will be punished accordingly. This policy was enacted following a cheating scandal in  AP U.S. History last year; several students admitted to using ChatGPT to write their assignments and were given referrals and zeros.

English teacher Mary Palisoul has also recognized the impact AI has had on the academic environment.

“There are implications for how English class might evolve due to the existence of AI,” she said. “We can focus more on personal narratives and creative group projects that still require students to build and articulate a complex and convincing argument.”

Aside from cheating concerns, Palisoul also believes that AI is susceptible to biases and can never truly understand the human experience, making it an ineffective tool for developing students’ critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Palisoul said the English department is struggling to find ways AI could be properly used in the classroom. For now, the main focus still lies on mitigating this issue of cheating.

“My main takeaway from the AI training session was that AI is here to stay and, as teachers, our responsibility as teachers is to teach students how to use it [honestly],” Palisoul said. 

Similarly, science teacher Kristofer Orre, one of the organizers of the teacher-AI session, is optimistic about  AI’s eventual role in education.

“I think AI has the potential to radically change some aspects of teaching, but also not even put a dent in other aspects,” Orre said. “Being with other people, collaborating, being creative — those kinds of things I think will never be replaced by AI. But I think that the more mundane and repetitive tasks could definitely be replaced by AI.”

Orre added that AI also has the ability “to help give regular adaptive feedback is really exciting because I would love to be able to leverage a tool like that where students can get lots of practice to help them meet them where they’re at. This learning process could free up more time for me to spend class time interacting and collaborating.”

For now, though, the main issue teachers are facing is AI’s use for cheating. According to Orre, cheating is a symptom of a variety of factors — including student stress, work being too easy or hard, a lack of time or a desire to impress their peers and families with good grades. 

Orre also compares AI to the internet generally, stating that it’s a powerful tool for learning, but students and teachers still need to develop more familiarity with it. By using it appropriately (i.e., without violating academic integrity), Orre believes that AI can help enhance teaching and instructional tasks in education.

Although no specific policy actions were taken or discussed at the meeting, feedback from the survey at the end of the session indicated that many staff would like to explore the issue further, Orre said. 

Orre and other organizers met up with the Stanford GSE group again on Dec. 6, where they discussed plans for future meetings and also prepared for another professional development day in March to further their understanding of AI’s potential. 

“AI is going to further democratize learning and understanding throughout the world because now potentially everyone has access to any information and answers at any point, and I think it’s going to push us to be more creative with the knowledge that we have at our fingertips,” he said. “It’s going to force us to really focus on what matters, which is human to human interaction and learning together.”Despite cheating concerns, many teachers remain optimistic about use of AI in classrooms

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