As an English teacher, what do I need to know about ChatGPT?
I am a huge sci-fi nerd. Many times people say that science fiction answers the question, “What if?” I love "The Twilight Zone" — the old-school version hosted by Rod Serling (no offense to Jordan Peele’s updated version), Netflix’s Black Mirror, Star Trek, and Stars Wars. Yes, you love both Star Trek and Star Wars. Each of those shows and movies centered around a question or an experience we, as a human race, haven’t crossed yet. Star Trek explores the question, what if we could explore the last frontier, which is space? As time passes, fiction seems more like reality. I love The Back to the Future Trilogy. Over the years, people have kept track of how many fictional concepts are now a reality.
The sci-fi question of “What if a computer could write a paper?” has now been met with an answer moving us from fiction to reality. We may not have reached the "Skynet is self-aware" level of artificial intelligence (AI) just yet, but AI is aware enough to write papers. The program is called ChatGPT (Generative Pre-Trained Transformer). Users can ask the chatbot questions, and the chatbot can respond in a way that mimics a human response. What has caused even more alarm is the fact that the chatbot will generate different answers each time. Some students have already bragged about getting around plagiarism detectors after using ChatGPT.
English teachers should remember that they are the best plagiarism detectors. Most times, you can tell if you place the student’s work in the bigger body of work they have written for you. Most plagiarism I have caught as a former English teacher and as a current college professor was based on the quality of a student's work suddenly shifting. Then, I would take a few lines and search them. Sure enough, I had my proof.
Honestly, we cannot become afraid of technology. I suggest having an open dialogue with students about ChatGPT. Explain to them that they are only cheating themselves. If they make a habit of cheating, there is a high chance they will eventually get caught.
My husband, who is a senior-level Oracle database administrator, always reminds me that technology is constantly evolving. The moment people have an issue with technology, someone, somewhere, works on a solution. Recently, a college student designed an app to detect AI-written text in response to the uproar about ChatGPT.
The best plagiarism detector is the human at the head of the classroom. Resources like Turnitin are nice, but English teachers should not doubt their ability to determine if an essay is written by a human or AI. Trust that you are the expert.
Shawnta (Shawn-tay) S. Barnes, also known as Educator Barnes, is a married mother of identical twin boys. She navigates education from not only the educator’s perspective but also the parent’s perspective. She has been an educator for nearly two decades. Shawnta works with K-12 schools, universities, & education adjacent organizations through her education consulting business Blazing Brilliance. ...