‘It’s too new’: Should ChatGPT and similar programs be allowed in Southern Utah schools?

ST. GEORGE — Ever since the release on November 30, 2022, ChatGPT software has been at the center of discussion nationally for its use in schools.

What are local school districts doing about ChatGPT and other AI programs, St. George, Utah, March 2023 | Stock photo for representational purposes only, St. George News

Washington County School District Communication Director Steve Dunham said there was no official school district policy that covers the artificial intelligence issue.

“It’s too new,” Dunham said about policies regarding its use within local schools.

Shauna Lund, Iron County School District’s Communication Coordinator reported a similar status.

“AI and its implications in public education are still new. At this point, it has not been addressed specifically in district policy,” she said.

However, both Dunham and Lund said they envision AI software to be addressed by the two school districts in the near future.

Do current school districts’ policies govern such use of these programs?

The issue of the use of such artificial intelligence programs as “cheating” and “plagiarism” is epitomized by school district policy, according to both Lund and Dunham.

Dunham said the policy which covers scholastic dishonesty is under the 3700 – Technology Acceptable Use Policy for Washington County School District.

Under 3.2 Prohibited Uses, subsection 3.2.18, the policy says, “using the network for plagiarism. Plagiarism is taking ideas or writing from another person and offering them as your word. Credit must always be given to the person who created the information or idea.”

It also says that under 3.2.4. “using computers, the Internet or network for any illegal activity. This includes, but is not limited to: copyrighted material, threatening or obscene material or material protected by trade secrets. This prohibition includes the violation of any federal, State or local law.”

Another section of policy that covers plagiarism similar AI programs is under 3.2.15. It says another prohibited use is “using material which may be deemed to violate any District policy or student code of conduct.”

Lund said the use of technology or computer programs for plagiarism is in the Employee and K-12 Student Responsible Use Policy in Iron County.

She said it’s under “Inappropriate Uses” in subsection “J” where it says “Use of District technology resources to engage in plagiarism or other academic dishonesty.”

She further said, “In district policy, it states: “Ensure the work you turn in is yours; do not plagiarize content you may find on the Internet. Plagiarism is taking the ideas, graphics, or writings of others and presenting them as if they were yours without adequate and accurate citation of the originator.”

Chart of results from study.com ChatGPT study performed, February 2023 | Chart courtesy of study.com, St. George News

What do the national studies, specialists and statistics say?

The studies, though few, have a variety of statistics showing multiple views on whether ChatGPT and such programs should be allowed in schools or not.

A study titled “ChatGPT in the classroom” performed by study.com in February showed conflicting results in teachers catching students using the program to do their papers as well as teachers who support the program being used within the educational environment.

According to the study, 26% of teachers who participated in the study reported catching students “cheating” by using ChatGPT. However, of the same teachers in the study, 67% believe ChatGPT should not be banned in schools.

The study says that teachers were optimistic about the program being utilized as a helpful tool to enhance education and improve student skills. According to the participating teachers, the student skill that would be most improved by the use of ChatGPT would be critical thinking by 39% of the teachers.

The second place most improved skill reported was problem-solving by 38% of the teachers. The skill of data analysis came in third with 32%. However, one national specialist is warning people about these programs.

“This technology should strike fear in all academics,” Josh Blackman said in the publication “The Volokh Conspiracy” which is a compilation of writings by law professors throughout the nation.

Blackman is a law professor for South Texas College of Law, holding a Juris Doctorate from George Mason University School of Law and often appears on news for television channels such as NBC, ABC, CBS, BBC and Fox.

His areas of expertise are Constitutional Law, the Intersection of Law and Technology and the United States Supreme Court.

Blackman said that the best way to deal with ChatGPT is by creating or revising more specific “policies with explicit language that using these tools is a violation of academic integrity standards.”

He also recommends educators do more in-class and oral exams over take-home exams or papers.

The school district board will have to most likely create a new policy for ChatGPT and artificial intelligence within the school in the near future, St. George, Utah, Jan. 3, 2023 | Photo Courtesy of Washington County School District, St. George News

What now for Southern Utah schools?

“Administrators and educators are watching to see what AI means for public education and how to further address it in the future,” Lund said.

Dunham said that the district will be waiting to see what happens within the nation concerning the programs, especially within the state and what other school districts do.

Lund said that as another option they are checking out programs that assist educators in detecting work that is not original to the student and in which artificial intelligence programs were utilized.

However, she said it is a waiting game on what research and stats show nationwide.

Currently, the following states have K-12 school districts that have banned ChatGPT and similar artificial intelligence programs: Alaska, California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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