Educators concerned about students using artificial intelligence bots to cheat

SAMMAMISH, Wash. — Educators across the country are addressing a growing concern that students could use artificial intelligence to cheat.

Districts in Western Washington have focused on one critical thinking bot in particular, Chat GPT, which anyone can access online for free. The bot can compose a five-paragraph essay, answer complex math problems and solve chemistry equations.

Conversations about that newfangled technology are happening right now at Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish.

Mollie Page is the school’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction. According to Page, the English department is adjusting its curriculum to keep up with the capabilities of Chat GPT.

“As adults in the community, we’re also playing around with it to learn what it can do,” said Page. “We’re entering prompts in to see how well the bot can do on the assignment and using that to make adjustments to our assignments.”

Page says Chat GPT can create an essay with cited quotations, but that doesn’t mean the final product is A+ material. The bot can pull a quote, but it won’t always select the right one. That’s just one hole she’s poked in the software.

“So, for example, the bot can’t look at images or graphs, so it can’t engage in any data analysis that’s visual,” said Page.

English teacher Caleb Sonneland says Chat GPT is encouraging educators to step up their game. Since he became aware of the bot, his essay prompts have gotten more complex. Sonneland says while it can answer questions, the technology can’t show mastery of a topic.

“What I really think it’s going to do is force a vital conversation around a stagnation in English,” said Sonneland. “It’s kind of scary in the sense that we have to adapt to it, but at the same time, too, it’s going to be for the best that we do it.”

Other area districts like Everett Public Schools are also discussing how to deal with Chat GPT. However, they’re taking a different approach.

According to a district spokesperson, Chat GPT has been blocked on all district devices, including those that students take home. It has also prompted educators to pivot away from “go sit and write” type assignments.

Issaquah Schools is also looking at the issue. According to a spokesperson, Turnitin, an online software that checks papers for plagiarism, is looking to expand its services to also detect artificial intelligence-generated content.