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AI Writing Tools: Can Students Use it to Cheat?

Are AI Writing tools a benefit or a detriment to public education?

  • Benefit - I can see the positive uses of this

  • Detriment - This can only be trouble

  • On the fence - I can see both sides

  • I don't know - what is ChatGPT???

With ChatGPT technology widely available, AI writing technology is on the forefront of many educators’ minds. Can students plug in a sentence and get an essay out in 60-90 seconds? Does the AI really match up with what a human can produce? Does the AI plagiarize? Can and other similar technologies catch students using AI to cheat? I took a deep dive into the technology, and my analysis will cover what I learned. A big takeaway for me is that this topic needs to be at the forefront of planning for the future of public education.

I reviewed two sources: the original ChatGPT technology and ‘Quick Write’ - a tool available in pro accounts on Canva that will become available on the free educational version soon. Some nitty gritty information - ChatGPT code was released as open source, meaning programmers could run with it. There are multiple companies using the technology on a platform that they are selling to users. Jasper is an example of this; a subscription costs over $100 a month. Realistically, these programs are out of the reach of students. ChatGPT is still in the research and development stage, and is currently free to users who submit their contact information. However, this program has bandwidth limitations and is frequently unable to generate responses during high-traffic times, unless you are paying for ChatGPT +. This technology is available to students for free, but will eventually be on a subscription model like the other companies on the market selling it currently. ‘Quick Write’ is a tool in Docs on Canva, currently only available to Pro users. Docs, along with ‘Quick Write’, will be available on the free educational version soon. This AI writing source will be available to students for free indefinitely with their Canva account.

Starting with ‘Quick Write’ in Canva, I asked the program to write an essay discussing the benefits of AI writing technology in schools. The first time I plugged the request in, I gave it only that - “Write an essay discussing the benefits of AI writing technology in schools”. It generated a 275 word essay that was, in short, underwhelming at best. I felt the AI went very surface-level in the discussion it provided. It felt like an overview summary, or sales pitch to using AI. I attempted to put in an outline instead, but was limited to 200 words. It created a longer essay, but at best was a first draft that needed some serious editing. Each paragraph came from my ideas, and the AI helped the flow of my writing, but I still felt that this work needed more detail and less surface-level content. I also attempted to make the AI generate a better response by inputting things like, “write a detailed paragraph about how AI is here to stay and will forever change public education. We need to teach students real life skills and how to utilize this tool.” This produced the best results both in terms of word count and details, but still didn’t satisfy what I could have accomplished on my own. Additionally, the AI made up a grading feature; it wrote about a grading tool within Canva that would save teachers an extensive amount of time in grading. I reached out to my contacts at Canva to see if this was in the works for educators because I couldn’t find any information about it online, and it doesn’t exist. The AI produced an imaginary and false fact in the essay to support the claim. Clearly, AI writing will need to be fact-checked. While this tool isn’t available on Canva, there are some educators using ChatGPT to reduce grading time by using the AI to write feedback. I asked the AI to write an essay discussing the detriments to AI writing technology becoming available to students in public education and it wouldn’t do it. Regardless of how I typed this prompt in, it refused to write the essay. There are most certainly biases that the AI possesses that will require an additional layer of human editing on written work to get it up to snuff.

ChatGPT turned out to be a different beast. While the program kicked me out frequently, I was able to generate work with patience. ChatGPT’s version of the essay was superior to that of ‘Quick Write’, however I still felt that you could tell an AI wrote it. Further human editing was definitely needed. I asked it to write an essay on the negative implications of this technology in schools, and ChatGPT did it. Again, I felt like the essay was an excellent first draft, but needed human skill to get it to where it needed to go. Playing around with ChatGPT, I tried some other prompts with varying levels of success. Teachers are successfully using it to evaluate student work, students can plug their own work into it and get feedback on how to improve, and I was able to create project instructions just by typing in an idea for a project. This last one was a game changer - it took my ideas and created an assignment for it in less than 90 seconds, saving me at least 30 minutes worth of work. I also used it to write up example lab reports, Claim, Evidence, Reasoning writing and other educational documents and was relatively impressed with the results. This tool could be a game changer for teachers in terms of lesson planning. I see it as a way to use your time for creative thinking, and allowing the AI to do the grunt work for you. Much as before, it provides a first draft that you can review and edit to fit exactly what you want. Unlike ‘Quick Write”, ChatGPT does not restrict the number of words you input into the processor. This made it a better tool to utilize an outline; asking the AI to use an outline not only made the essay blossom from my ideas, it ultimately created a better, more detailed piece of written work.

Now the big question - can plagiarism tools catch things written by an AI? The short answer is no, they cannot. While I am sure technology will be developed to do so, AI will also continue to improve and evolve, creating a metaphorical “arms race” between the two. The AI does not plagiarize; it pulls data from online and inputted sources and generates a completely original work. In both programs, you can select “Regenerate Response” and the AI will produce a totally new and original essay different from the first. It is important to note that current AI writing technologies have very limited knowledge beyond the year 2021, so students could not use it to write about current world events. AI is here to stay and it will only get more advanced, so the question that remains is whether you will fight this new technology, or get on top of it and harness its power to benefit your classroom. Students will use it, and they will likely need to use it in future professions. Rather than trying to catch cheating, shouldn’t we rather be teaching students how to use this tool responsibly? Public schools need to make the shift to teaching future ready skills - what things can only humans do? Ultimately I’m not just a go with the current kind of educator; I am more of the grab a river raft and teach students and teachers how to navigate the water safely educator. If your school desires extra help in this area - both training teachers on how to teach students how to use this tool responsibly as well as how to use it to benefit their own work, reach out to for educational consulting individualized to the needs of your district.

TLDR: Ultimately, the ideas in the essay were mine, not the AI. The AI helped the flow in my first draft, but fell short of what a human is capable of. Students still need to learn sentence structure and how to build a paragraph, as well as create an outline. This AI technology can assist student learning in these areas by providing examples within their own writing, making it easier for them to improve and providing feedback without needing several hours of extra work for the teacher. In addition, students will view this tool for what it is - a time saver. They will be more engaged with the process of creating their final product, and will be developing real life skills needed to function in our ever increasing technological world. I anticipate this tool to be an amazing resource for both teachers and students, and it has the potential to revolutionize the way we teach writing to make it more applicable to every student after they graduate. Fighting this would be a losing battle, and the benefits of it are vast. I am officially on team AI.

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