When receiving writing instruction, there tends to be a cardinal rule: do not plagiarize someone else’s work. This rule is absolutely justified, but the waters become muddied when technology such as artificial intelligence comes into play. You may have noticed that an abundance of AI writing tools such as Chat GPT, Jasper, and YouChat have begun to become a hot topic for discussion, especially in the world of education, because it's inevitable that their presence will affect how teachers address writing instruction. To help ease any worries and promote a synergistic relationship with this technology, this article will take a look at how AI writing tools work, the gaps in capability that users experience, and how these tools can be used in the classroom.
How Artificial Intelligence Has Changed Education
As with many other types of technology that have made their way into the classroom today, artificial intelligence, specifically AI writing solutions, have the power to influence the way that many teachers deliver instruction. As evident by the video to the left, many teachers feel uncomfortable with the emergence of solutions that have the capabilities to complete the very tasks students are asked to do.
“So the robots are here and they’re going to be doing our students’ homework,” exclaimed educator Dan Lewer in a viral TikTok video. “Great! As if teachers needed something else to be worried about.”
“If you’re a teacher, you need to know about this new (tool) that students can use to cheat in your class,” expressed educational consultant Tyler Tarver on Tiktok.
Many teachers have echoed some of the same sentiments, but before you make up your mind, we’d like to equip you with more information. In general, AI writing systems were created to complete tasks such as writing content, rephrasing content, executing spelling and grammar checks, researching topics, and more, and we have used similar technology, such as Grammarly, to conduct spell checks and advise on tone, syntax variance, etc. AI writing solutions such as Chat GPT are simply another part of the technological evolution we will continue to experience.
As such, these complex yet exceedingly capable systems have the power to enhance efforts in the classroom for both teachers and students! For example, teachers are often tasked with time-consuming things such as creating a weekly parent newsletter, but with AI writing tools such as Chat GPT, this process can be accelerated, and hence, provide teachers with time savings. Or, if a teacher is in the process of writing an extensive email, AI writing solutions will allow them to check their tone and approach, simplifying the process. With these solutions in place, teachers are able to enjoy time savings while still being able to carry out the plethora of tasks required of them throughout their busy day.
AI Writing Tools: Chat GPT in Action
Intricate AI writing solutions such as Chat GPT utilize algorithms to analyze the data they find on the requested topic, which can come from any source online such as a dictionary or web page. After gathering the necessary data, these systems begin to apply the same grammar, punctuation, and language rules taught in school, producing a plethora of content in a matter of seconds.
To witness these systems at work, below you will find an example of what using the popular AI writing system Chat GPT would look like.
Step one: Ask the system a question that it can gather data about and answer. For our purposes, we asked a general question of “Why are bees important to the environment?”
Step two: Upon clicking the “send” button, you will be sent to a screen that displays your question all while writing before your very eyes. The result that will be posted will certainly be grammatically correct and feature data found on the internet pertaining to this topic, but what do you notice in reading this response?
Step three: If you’ve noticed, the above response is generally correct, but if a teacher were to ask a student to answer this question, there would have been quite a bit more substance in a sense that more personal bias would have been added or that the language generated would not match the diction of most students on their particular academic level For example, a student may have said “Bees are important because they help us take care of flowers”. This is the human element that is certainly missing from the entire AI writing process, which brings us to our next section.
Where Do AI Writing Tools Fall Short?
As defined by Chat GPT itself, the system falls short in a sense that it “may occasionally generate incorrect information, may produce harmful instructions or biased content,” and possesses “limited knowledge of [the] world and events after 2021.” These three items in themselves can present a plethora of issues, especially if students were to simply input a prompt they were given on their homework into the system and expect a complete answer that’s ready for submission. In addition, as exemplified in the preceding section, AI writing systems lack the human element found in the writing of students around the world, especially when speaking about elementary students. This technology is quite complex, and the diction included in its output is no exception, making it easier to discover when it was used to write an essay of sorts.
Though this may be the case for elementary students, the introduction of these solutions has become a worry for educators of all grades around the world, especially given that the system produces content that is different every single time. That’s right, AI writing solutions produce different content even when the same question is inputted, making it hard to detect plagiarism of sorts. To exemplify this, we clicked “regenerate response” within Chat GPT to witness the variance in response to the exact same question, “Why are bees important to the environment?” This is the response we received.
As you can see, this response is vastly different from its predecessor, but don’t worry, there’s an app for that! Given the emergence of this technology and a commensurate amount of frustration in the educational world, systems made to detect if AI writing solutions have been used were created. Examples of said detectors would be the one found on Turnitin.com, an organization that empowers students to do their best original work, or GPT Zero, a solution created by Edward Tian, a senior at Princeton University.
How to use AI Writing to Enhance Instruction
Now that the inherent limitations of AI writing solutions have become apparent, we’d like to provide you with a few ideas of how to use these solutions to propel your students forward on their journey to academic success should you choose to use them. Here are a few great ways to use them to your advantage:
- Use it as a starting point: AI writing solutions such as Chat GPT provide you with a plethora of research-based information, forming the foundation for the starting point for any written assignment. Should you choose to use them, feel free to submit a question within the system and have students use the response as a starting point to write their own assignment using their perspective, diction, and individual writing style. This will help students remain grounded in facts while simultaneously developing their unique writing style.
- Create the perfect writing prompt: Let’s say there is a topic you would like students to write, but you are unsure as to how to ask the prompt. No worries, simply ask Chat GPT to create an essay outline and derive the writing prompt from there. Or, allow students to use this outline as the foundation for their own writing.
- Grammar Correction: Have students write a prompt and submit their answers into the AI writing tool of your choice such as Chat GPT. In doing so, it will point out the grammatical errors they have made, making it faster for you to grade papers and easier for them to see errors that have been made.
- Summarize the text: As you and your students continue on your journey to literacy success, Chat GPT, for example, can summarize more complex text into simpler language that students can understand. This feature is a game-changer, as it promotes deeper understanding, and hence, reading comprehension.
Achieving Synergy With AI Writing Tools
It is completely understandable that many educators feel quite uncomfortable with the idea of artificial intelligence becoming an option for students to use to “cheat the system,” especially when it can be difficult to detect plagiarism. When used with intent, though, these tools may have a positive effect on education. If you are currently considering implementing these solutions in your classroom, we hope you found the above recommendations to be helpful, but if you are finding it uncomfortable to do so, that’s okay, too! If you are looking for another solution to enhance writing instruction in your classroom, we recommend Writing A-Z, our comprehensive solution that handles everything from lesson planning to professional development using a singular digital solution.
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- TodayShow. “Teachers Sound off on CHATGPT, the New AI Tool That Can Write Students' Essays for Them.” TODAY.com, NBC Universal, 5 Jan. 2023, https://www.today.com/parents/teens/chatgpt-ai-teachers-students-cheat-essays-rcna63352.
- Barker, Shane. “Council Post: Ai Writing Assistants: Are They Worth Using in 2022?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 27 June 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2022/06/24/ai-writing-assistants-are-they-worth-using-in-2022/?sh=7228be3e3d30.