Walla Walla School District plans to bring into its schools a new artificial intelligence software known as ChatGPT, which has been banned in several school districts across the county.
ChatGPT also has been blocked in Walla Walla Public Schools. The chatbot software, which was created by the U.S.-based startup OpenAI, can answer a user’s questions or generate content in a human-like way. This has raised concerns that students will use the system to cheat.
“If a student is tasked with creating an essay on chapter three of ‘Of Mice and Men,’ they could simply type that into ChatGPT and it’s going to kick out an essay that they will probably get an A on,” said Keith Ross, the school district’s director of information technology.
ChatGPT was released in November 2022 and quickly blocked from all of the school district’s devices. A committee has since been formed to figure out how ChatGPT can be used in the classroom without being abused.
“We blocked it so we could get out ahead of it and figure out how we’re going to support it,” Ross said. “And that’s not unlike most districts out there. Just about everyone is doing the same thing — they don’t plan to block it long-term.”
The committee is made up of about 16 teachers that are learning how to use the new software and forming policies and procedures on how it will be used by teachers and students.
Carrie LaRoy, a technology integration specialist for the school district, said ChatGPT was an unavoidable technology that will only become more prominent in the future.
“We’re fostering 21st century learners and we’d be doing them an injustice if we didn’t educate ourselves to therefore educate them on how to use it responsibly,” LaRoy said. “This is the world they’re going to go into. We really felt like there was no other option than to jump on this and embrace it.”
LaRoy said ChatGPT comes with several issues, including data bias and incorrect information. She said at a recent conference for educators using ChatGPT, the system was told to write a synopsis for a movie about a science teacher superhero.
“Every single main character was male,” LaRoy said. “And there were several searches we did about quotes on leadership or books on educational leadership and, again, more men would come back as options.”
She also said the system will provide incorrect information if it does not know the answer to a question, but she said plagiarism is the biggest concern.
“There are several websites right now that have been created to detect (AI-generated content), but they’re not perfect,” LaRoy said. “This is all so new, so I think ChatGPT will get better, but so will the checkers. Plagiarism has been around for a long time, so I think we just need to broaden our thinking on how to handle this.”
Ross said the technology would be a major time-saver and helpful tool for teachers.
“They can simply give it a prompt and within two minutes they can have an entire lesson plan laid out for them and formatted and ready to go,” Ross said. “They just have to review it, make any changes and then move on.”
He said teachers can use the software to create quizzes, rubrics and even an individualized education program. For students, Ross said ChatGPT could provide more personalized learning.
“You can specifically say, ‘Create an English language assignment on a given topic and write it for a third grader,’” Ross said. “And then they can repeat the same thing for the fifth grade level and the seventh grade level.”
Ross said teachers could potentially teach students about data bias by having them identify mistakes that ChatGPT makes.
“I could see a teacher using content from ChatGPT and then have the kids use critical thinking skills to go in and identify where it’s incorrect or biased, or stereotypes,” Ross said.
While there is no set date for when ChatGPT will enter Walla Walla Public Schools, Ross said it could be as soon as this fall. The committee hopes to have an outline of ChatGPT policies and procedures put together by the end of May.
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