The rapid rise of artificial intelligence writing generators has impacted B.C. schools, with education officials saying it has created a new wrinkle for teachers to deal with.
“Maybe around March (last year), we were hearing reports (that) kids were fully doing their homework, writing everything (on AI generators) and teachers were saying, ‘What is this? How are they doing this? Help,’” said Jeff Spence, Vancouver School Board’s learning and information technology district principal.
The board’s learning and information technology division provides “relevant technological solutions,” and encourages district and school staff to “reach their intellectual potential.”
“(There are) concerns for sure. In secondary schools, teachers often know their students, they get to know the style of writing their students have, so that when something pops up that is clearly not in the voice they are used to hearing … it’s time for a conversation,” Spence said.
ChatGPT, AI apps changing the way schools are teaching
Spence compared the rise of AI generators to the days when calculators were first introduced into learning.
“I remember, ‘No calculators allowed.’ Then it went to, ‘Oh, you can use a calculator for this part of the test,’ and now we all use calculators whenever. It’s a tool at our disposal to use,” Spence said.
“ChatGPT is different than (calculators) but right now, we are treating it the same as that. It won’t be (forever) because it seems to be quite a bit smarter (than calculators).
“We are very much in the early stages of this and we need to have awareness.”
He said the first step for the school district is to inform teachers and staff that students are using these tools in their assignments and to have constructive conversations with students about using AI generators responsibly.
Vancouver School Board does have some policies in place but they are “standard” and have not been amended to include AI generator-specific language.
“It is not specific to AI but, of course, have policies around the arena of cheating and the inappropriate use of technology — which students and staff all sign,” Spence said.
“Like anything, it’s a tool. It’s new, it can be used for good and it can be used for bad but I am encouraging people to use it, right now.”
In class, pen and paper writing may be the solution for future tests and assignments to test student knowledge without using the “tool” of AI generators — something that has long been a staple in B.C. high school education.
B.C. joins Ottawa’s ChatGPT privacy investigation
In central B.C., the Prince George School District has similar messaging when it comes to students using AI generators.
Prince George School District assistant superintendent Lee Karpenko said there are two “factions” in staff thinking.
Group one is focused on in-class learning — a hands-on approach where assignments are done in person and students do not have the ability to use AI generators to assist in the school work.
Group two is focused on using AI to write content, where the class will then break down the AI-generated work.
“Bring your best essay from ChatGPT and let’s critique it. Let’s find the functions of writing in these essays or assignments and use the human brain, intellect, and critical thinking skills to teach those things out,” Karpenko said.
Both the Vancouver School Board and Prince George School District said it is extremely early in the process of understanding and working with AI generators and will be a learn-as-they-go process.
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.