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Is It Ethical to Use ChatGPT In The Classroom?

ChatGPT is an incredible AI assistant that can help students with schoolwork, but risks like plagiarism require establishing ethical guidelines for proper usage that augments learning. The key is using ChatGPT's capabilities responsibly to enhance education, not disrupt core academic values.
A student typing on a computer in a school classroom, made with Midjourney
A student typing on a computer in a school classroom, made with Midjourney
October 16, 2023 3:30 am

ChatGPT is that new AI chatbot everyone’s talking about. It can write essays, answer questions, and even help with homework. Pretty cool right? But is it okay for us to use for schoolwork? I guess it depends on who you ask.

While some argue these tools can enhance learning, others worry they may be unethical or promote cheating.

While I'd argue many people are only seeing the negatives, there are some solid pros of using ChatGPT in the classroom if you do it ethically.

The Good Stuff

I’m not gonna lie, having an AI assistant to help out with school does sound pretty awesome. I wish I had something like it when I was in school.

Here are some ways ChatGPT could make our lives easier:

  • Get unstuck on essays fast: If you’re staring at a blank page trying to start an essay, ChatGPT could get the ideas flowing.
  • Explain concepts when you’re confused: Instead of bugging a teacher after class, you could just ask ChatGPT to explain things in a different way.
  • Fix grammar and spelling errors: ChatGPT could scan your essays and fix mistakes you missed. Way better than reading the same paper for the 100th time!
  • Find research sources fast: No more wasting hours googling for sources. Just ask ChatGPT to recommend some good ones. As of September 27th 2023 it has access to browse the web, and finally does a good job at doing so.
  • Answer basic homework questions: For simple fact-based questions, ChatGPT could give you the answers quickly so you can finish the boring busy-work.

But Is It Cheating?

Here’s where things get tricky. It’s one thing to use ChatGPT for help, but it crosses a line if we start using it to cheat. Some worries teachers have:

  • Students could straight up copy ChatGPT essays instead of doing the work. Not cool. Not good. Very bad.
  • Getting too much “help” from ChatGPT doesn’t allow you to really learn. You won’t grow your skills if you depend on it. An entire generation of students doing this will yield some horrible results.
  • It’s not fair for kids who don’t have access to (or use) ChatGPT. Everyone should be on equal footing. Your true identity will eventually be shown if you're quizzed/asked to write things in person.
  • ChatGPT quite often gets things wrong. So just copying its answers could backfire on assignments and tests.

Finding the Balance

The key is using ChatGPT responsibly and ethically. First you should make sure it's actually allowed to even be USED for tips. You don't want to get caught in another grey line because you somewhat used ChatGPT behind a teacher/professors back.

Here are some tips:

  • Only use it to generate ideas or get unstuck, not for final answers. The work you submit should be yours. I've asked it to help with coding issues but not for the actual answer, just to help me visualize the steps of figuring out what I need to do. I saved time & still learned a ton.
  • Make sure to always cite any information you get from ChatGPT. Give credit where it’s due. This goes the same with sources, give credit to that too.
  • Don’t rely on it too much. ChatGPT is a tool for help, not a shortcut. Focus on learning! Again, this will just bite you if you take the lazy way out. If it doesn't bite you in the classroom, it eventually will when you engineer a bridge incorrectly because you used ChatGPT to do all your college homework.
  • Check ChatGPT’s work. It sometimes makes mistakes, so review its suggestions carefully before using them. It's super confident about things too. It says the craziest stuff in the most believable way possible. They're called hallucinations.
  • Talk to your teacher if you’re unsure what’s allowed. They can give guidance on using ChatGPT appropriately, especially as time goes on and the educational world gets a better grip on what's going on.

ChatGPT is cool tech, but like any tool it can be misused.

With some common sense we can tap into its potential without letting it cross ethical lines. Let’s use it to become better learners, not better cheaters!

The Bottom Line

ChatGPT holds much promise to enhance education, but also risks if used irresponsibly.

The key will be ensuring the technology improves human teaching and learning rather than disrupting the core value of education. And it's possible, we just have to emphasize that.

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Written by Justin Gluska
Justin is the founder of Gold Penguin, a business technology blog that helps people start, grow, and scale their business using AI. The world is changing and he believes it's best to make use of the new technology that is starting to change the world. If it can help you make more money or save you time, he'll write about it!
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