Challenging (or challenged by?) AI

I find one of the hardest things about teaching high school ELA isn’t bringing tech into the classroom (although booking laptop carts can be a cutthroat challenge, let me tell you!) – no, students are familiar with tech. They love tech. They’re practically addicted, in some cases.

I find the real challenge is responsible and appropriate usage of said tech.

This is the first generation really growing up with early and near-constant access to different forms of technology, and we’re lucky if we can keep a step ahead of some things. Most of the time, I feel like I’m lucky if I’m only a step behind them. So I have to admit, when I heard about ChatGPT, and started reading some of the articles, and played around with it myself, my first reaction was dread. A rapidly spinning whirlpool of worry, along with the thought that I’d probably have to do more assignments in class now, without computer access, because when I think of students accessing a program like this? I think about how easy it makes it for them to cheat.

Isn’t that awful? Or maybe I’m just being a realist? I don’t even know. But my gut reaction is that there is a large percentage of students who cannot be trusted to not access something like this if given the opportunity. And if my job is to see what they are capable of writing (along with other outcomes), I need to see what they can write – not what they can prompt a program to write for them.

So my question is this: what do we do this? It’s here. The students know about it. At a staff meeting today, teachers were talking about how they’ve already received AI generated assignments. Another teacher jokingly (I think) added that he got ChatGPT to do all of his report card comments for him. So it’s not something that’s going to go away, even if they school division already has it blocked. Which frustrates me a little bit, too. How are we supposed to teach responsibly usage if we can’t access these sites? How are we supposed to discuss all of the potential uses when we can’t pull it up and show students what it looks like, how it works, that we know about it, that we acknowledge it’s potential, but we expect more from them than an automated assignment submission when push comes to shove? We’re practically daring them test it out at home. We’ve turned it into forbidden fruit, haven’t we?

But how do we meaningfully incorporate this into the classroom? Or do we need to?

Google informs me that I’m not the only one debating where this leaves us. already has 19 Ways to Include ChatGPT in Your Classroom. has an article up called Students are using ChatGPT to do their homework. Should schools ban AI tools, or embrace them? And there are many others, all looking at implications, potential uses, bans already in place, teachers who are modifying their lessons to include it – nobody has a clear solution. Which isn’t necessarily the right word. Solution implies there’s a problem, and I don’t know yet that this is a problem. A complication? Oh, yes. Problematic? Absolutely, in certain situations. This is an issue that is going to have long-reaching effects, and not something I really know how to feel about yet.

What I do know? I have always believed that part of teaching is preparing students for the world that they are going to inhabit and inherit as adults. Banning the use of AI? Dangling it out of their reach, not using it in the classroom, where we can have discussions about appropriate usage and expectations? We’re losing out on a valuable teachable moment, and I hate passing those by.

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