EHS adapts to AI

May 30, 2023

“I don’t think that AI is going anywhere. It’s expanding into everything. So then I think educators—and not just us—we have to think about, ‘How does that impact the way we do education, the way we teach?’” Edina High School Principal Andrew Beaton said.  “There are going to be some things that are tried and true in education that will always work no matter how many robots or AIs are available, but then are there opportunities to innovate? I mean, are there innovations that could happen through AI and education that could be to the benefit of kids and teachers?”

To EHS, ChatGPT has remained a nuanced issue. Soon after its release, the EHS media center made the decision to block it on the school’s internet, enforcing ChatGPT’s 18+ user age requirement. “Typically [for schools], the first shock of, ‘There’s a machine that can do this much,’ turns to either blocking or restricting whatever that website is, until teachers can get a sense for how to have it interact with students in a way that’s positive,” Edina High School’s Digital Learning Coordinator Matthew Flugum said. 

As ChatGPT gained traction, it sparked anxiety amongst educators. “For the most part, it’s putting academic integrity in jeopardy. That is the big fear,” EHS social studies teacher Claude Sigmund said. Platforms like Turnitin, which is already widely used by the school to detect human plagiarism, were quick to start detecting AI usage. “We would view a student that used AI or had someone else write their essay as the same—plagiarism,” Principal Beaton said. “I’ve seen people that I know use ChatGPT on assignments [and] just get zeros on them,” junior Tagore Ciccone said.

With academic dishonesty concerns, ChatGPT has proven to be an obstacle for the English and social studies departments. “There are certain assignments, we are noticing, [that] are phrased in such a way that students have to produce original thinking. There’s no way that it can be replicated by AI. So we’re trying to get as close to using those assignments as we can,” English teacher Haylee Guevara said. Additionally, the English department shifted towards “on-demand” essays which are written from start-to-end during class time. 

“[ChatGPT] has opened up these conversations we’d rather not have. Conversations about gatekeeping and monitoring,” Guevara said. “And that’s not why any of us went into teaching. We went into teaching to help people learn and grow.” ChatGPT rapidly demoralized teachers towards educational value. “You have a lot of activities that are, go home, read this article, and answer these questions on the article,” Sigmund said. “And now you don’t know if people read the articles or answered the question, because now they’ve turned in this document, right? And so that takes away what is arguably the best part of learning, which is the discourse.”

 Teachers are also worried that the use of ChatGPT in the classroom contributes to a loss in critical thinking skills. “It’s a tool students can use to actually brainstorm ideas for an essay, which is where all of the critical thinking, the real learning, happens,” Guevara said. “The part that’s most alarming for English teachers is that maybe my student will write their paper but they’re gonna have someone else do the brainstorming for them. And that’s such an important part of the process.” 

Shannon Seaver, a Project Lead The Way teacher at EHS, remarked on the similarities in the effect on students between ChatGPT and Photomath. “If you use [AI] constantly, you get kind of addicted to it. You can’t think for yourself,” she said. “And so then when the test comes, you really cannot go through the process of figuring it out. Instead of doing it wrong all on your own and going back and figuring out why you did it wrong, you get addicted to it showing you the next step.”

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