An AI Abduction

Chat GPT is making its impact on education, for better or worse?

Every student knows the feelings that come with staring at a stark white page with a small black cursor blinking as if it is taunting you. We all have agonized over a screen for countless minutes wondering why Photomath or Sparknotes can’t help us with our assignment. 

With the exception of outright plagiarism, writing assignments have long been considered “unhackable”. This is because writing isn’t a formula, like those commonly found on your math homework, it is a process. This quality has allowed it to be used as a benchmark of language intelligence for generations. After all, Google can’t write your essay for you, can it?

That just changed. November 20, 2022 marked the beginning of a new era in English classrooms. OpenAI introduced ChatGPT, computer software that can generate thoughtful responses to any prompt under the sun. 

Although ChatGPT may sound beneficial in many ways, I think it may do more harm than good, especially in education. I fear that the days of brainstorming and imagination may slowly be moving behind us. Now all students need to do is plug their topic into a queue, and voila! An essay appears.

Since its recent birthday, ChatGPT has not only been used to write essays, but to generate resumé cover letters, explain math problems step-by-step, write lyrics and poetry, give relationship advice, and simplify topics. 

But consequences come with having this much information at our fingertips. I expect that students already lacking motivation to write won’t see the point in trying if a computer can write their essay for them. Although ChatGPT may sound like a great short term solution to writer’s block, it completely defeats the whole purpose of writing, communication through language.

To make this AI more personable, everything ChatGPT generates is unique, and the software can even incorporate tone and mood into its delivery based on the user’s request. 

At Northwestern University in Chicago, a research group led by Catherine Gao asked ChatGPT to write medical research papers, which they mixed with their own papers. The software effectively fooled scientists when they were asked which papers were written by AI, and which were written by humans, so ChatGPT’s work could be under the eyes of teachers every day. 

For the thousands of students who stare at a blank GoogleDoc, ChatGPT sounds like a miracle. The teachers who have told us, “I know writing isn’t your favorite, but you will need these skills to write a cover letter, college essay, or even an email to your boss,” are now wrong.

The once commonplace English fundamentals that I believe are crucial to convey our ideas and emotions might not be necessary any longer if AI can do the work for us. 

Now don’t assume ChatGPT is a flawless supercomputer. It can capture main ideas and support its points with coherent thoughts, but it isn’t always totally accurate in its information. If students begin to believe ChatGPT is smarter than our teachers, misinformation could spread like wildfire. 

Since its debut, ChatGPT has captured over one million users, and continues to gain momentum. Colleges and school districts worldwide are frantic to understand the software and determine its place in education. 

School districts in California, New York, Alabama, and New Jersey have blocked the program on student devices until they can better understand ChatGPT and how its use may fit in curriculum.

This is leading me to question if the writing prompts educators have assigned are worth continuing if they aren’t considering the place AI may have in the writing process. Is this invention like a calculator, saving people from the inner workings and delivering a polished product? Or is ChatGPT taking the place of the most human of creations, language?

In this new era, I fear students may never have to learn the intricacies of grammar or the complexities of tone. The fundamentals of writing will be a given, and students may never need to think critically when writing.

With a new generation of students and a new generation of technology, maybe the question we should ask ourselves is not how to prevent the use of ChatGPT in the classroom, but instead, have these writing assignments served their time? Is this the reset button English curriculum needs?

After all, ChatGPT is likely just the beginning of much more intelligent AI to come. So as you gain curiosity around the future of writing, shall you also be questioning who (or rather what) wrote this article?