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ChatGPT

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By Aidan Johnson

“Does AI belong in the classroom?,” the prompt read for ChatGPT, a chatbot that was developed by the company OpenAI.

“The question of whether AI belongs in the classroom is a complex one that depends on various factors, including the goals of education, the needs of students and the capabilities of AI technology,” it responded.

Artificial intelligence continues to make headlines, whether it’s due to concerns of replacing actors and writers, new advancements in the ability to make artificially generated videos or worries of misinformation spread by it. However, “the question of whether AI belongs in the classroom” is one that has been on the minds of educators and students.

Some teachers have embraced the use of AI. In an interview with PBS, a high school English teacher in New York City described how he uses AI to cut down on the amount of time it takes to provide feedback on written assignments from students, allowing them to learn from their mistakes much quicker than if he were to solely grade their longer assignments.

Thomas Grochowski, an English professor at St. Joseph’s University, New York, has incorporated AI into his classes, but to a rather minimal degree.

“I usually announce it into the space, where there are very small extra credit assignments where students are encouraged to give the same prompt they were given for a small one-point assignment into ChatGPT, and to write a small piece reflecting on what the robot wrote as opposed to what the student has written,” he explained.

Grochowski added that he makes the assignments optional so students do not have to give information to the site if they do not want to, since some students “are anxious about becoming too familiar with AI.”

“But, it also makes them aware that I’m paying attention,” he elaborated.

While the use of AI is prohibited outside of the optional assignments, that has not stopped students from trying. However, plagiarism-detecting software such as Turnitin has the ability to detect the use of AI, albeit with imperfect results, as it can also flag the use of more acceptable programs such as Grammarly, an AI-typing assistant that can review aspects in text such as spelling, grammar and clarity.

“I think if it’s going to have a place in the classroom, it’s going to be a result of figuring out where that tool will have utility for us,” said William Phillips, associate chair of the Journalism and New Media Studies Department at St. Joseph’s University.

Phillips described how he has seen students use AI in legitimate ways, such as creating test questions to help them study, or how teachers could use it to help construct lesson plans.

“One thing that has struck me as I’ve learned about AI is the concept of alignment, [which is] making sure that there is some human overseeing the automated process that the AI is involved in to make sure that it’s not going off the rails,” he said.

Phillips cited the hypothetical scenario of the paper clip problem, a theory hypothesized by philosopher Nick Bostrom, in which if an AI is told to make as many paper clips as possible, it would start taking metal from everything, including cars, houses and infrastructure, in order to maximize the number of paper clips.

While the idea of paper clips leading to a dystopian future may seem very unlikely, Phillips stressed the broader idea of needing human oversight “so that the values and objectives of the human societies are aligned with what this new serving technology is capable of.”

Renee Emin, a school psychologist, stressed the importance of finding a balance between AI and humans. While it can be good for children academically, she believes that it is important to pay attention to the impact it has on them socially.

“I think of my autistic students who I work with, who are constantly working to socialize and be able to make a friend and connect to others, and they so easily want their laptops, their iPads, their Chromebooks, because it’s more comfortable. And there’s nothing wrong with that — give them their time to have it,” Emin said.

“But if you start relying solely on AI and technology … there’s a whole connection component that gets completely lost for the children,” she added.

Artificial intelligence is continuing to advance. One way or another, it appears it will be a mainstay in human society and has the potential to impact many different sectors of everyday life.

ChatGPT has the final word: “In summary, while AI can offer significant benefits in terms of personalized learning, teacher support, accessibility and digital literacy, its integration into the classroom should be done thoughtfully, with careful consideration of ethical implications and a focus on enhancing, rather than replacing, human interaction and pedagogy.”

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Sarah Sajjad, right, in a family photo with her husband and children, was on hand for the Feb. 15 meeting with three of her children so they could witness the addition of Muslim holidays to the school calendar. Photo from Sarah Sajjad

By Mallie Kim

Artificial Intelligence could one day have a place in Three Village schools, according to Deidre Rubenstrunk, the district’s executive director of technology and data protection officer.

“If I were to submit that for an AP course, it wouldn’t get me much credit.”

— Mikaeel Zohair,

“Perhaps somewhere in the next five years, how to use AI could be part of our standards,” she told the school board at the Feb. 15 meeting. “Corporate America is going crazy over this right now, and we are going to have to prepare our students to use this as a tool.” 

The comments came during time the board set aside to discuss ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence tool that has dominated headlines over the past few months. In January, the New York City Department of Education banned the technology from school internet networks and devices out of concerns students may use the bot to complete homework, since it can generate content based on user prompts.

But according to Rubenstrunk, Three Village would address that issue differently. “The only way that you promote academic integrity among students is not with Turnitin or originality reports in Google, but actually educating them in what integrity is and making it tangible for them,” she said, adding that is something she and other district staff are already working on.

Board members chimed in to support Rubenstrunk’s approach, emphasizing the importance of a “do not panic” attitude about emerging technologies. 

Superintendent of Schools Kevin Scanlon compared ChatGPT and other AI technologies to the graphing calculator, which some schools initially saw as a threat in the classroom. 

“We have to look at the technology as a tool,” he said. “We need to train staff and students on proper use of this.”

Student representative to the board, Ward Melville High School senior Mikaeel Zohair, said he was not impressed with the ChatGPT bot’s output when he played around with it using essay prompts.

“If I were to submit that for an AP course, it wouldn’t get me much credit,” he said, adding the content could maybe pass for a middle school level. “Honestly, I don’t see a practical use for it but it’s fun.”

Board member Shaorui Li said she was recently exploring the limitations of ChatGPT with some high school students, and they found it could be a helpful tool in the fight against procrastination.

“You have the machine generate something you look at and [think], ‘Oh, I can do better,’” she said, adding that hopefully it would jump-start a student’s own work.

Also on the agenda at the board meeting was next year’s April 10 addition to the 2023-24 calendar of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday celebrating the end of the Ramadan month of fasting. Scanlon said there will be a break in state Regents exams on June 17, 2024, to allow Muslim students to celebrate Eid al-Adha, also known as the Feast of Sacrifice. 

District parent Sarah Sajjad brought three of her elementary-aged children to the board meeting to witness the calendar change announcement.

“I wanted them to actually come and see, have an experience that they do get recognized,” Sajjad said after the meeting. She works as a special education aide in the district.

“Now everybody will be off, so we’ll welcome everybody to have fun and have a party with us.”

— Sarah Sajjad

Sajjad said she is thankful for the change because her kids have wondered why the school marks Christian and Jewish holidays with a day off, but not Muslim holidays. Plus, she added, it’s a great way for people of all religions to come together. Sajjad said her family enjoys taking part in her neighbors’ Christmas parties, but she hasn’t been able to reciprocate.

“Now everybody will be off, so we’ll welcome everybody to have fun and have a party with us,” she said. “We can actually celebrate with everybody in the community.” 

The district must maintain a minimum of 900 instructional hours for elementary students and 990 for secondary, and days off vary year to year depending on which holidays fall on weekends — as does Rosh Hashanah in 2023. The district has posted the approved 2023-24 calendar on its website.