Monday, January 16, 2023

Chat goes to school

Kalley Huang, Alarmed by A.I. Chatbots, Universities Start Revamping How They Teach, NYTimes, Jan. 16, 2023.

A philosophy professor caught one of his students using ChatGPT to write a paper:

Alarmed by his discovery, Mr. Aumann decided to transform essay writing for his courses this semester. He plans to require students to write first drafts in the classroom, using browsers that monitor and restrict computer activity. In later drafts, students have to explain each revision. Mr. Aumann, who may forgo essays in subsequent semesters, also plans to weave ChatGPT into lessons by asking students to evaluate the chatbot’s responses.

“Yes!” to that last point.

Across the country, university professors like Mr. Aumann, department chairs and administrators are starting to overhaul classrooms in response to ChatGPT, prompting a potentially huge shift in teaching and learning. Some professors are redesigning their courses entirely, making changes that include more oral exams, group work and handwritten assessments in lieu of typed ones.

And it’s not just universities. Secondary schools are having to grapple with the Chatster as well: “Some public school systems, including in New York City and Seattle, have since banned the tool on school Wi-Fi networks and devices to prevent cheating, though students can easily find workarounds to access ChatGPT.” Given that work-arounds ARE readily available, I fear that such bans amount to a double-dog-dare to use ChatGPT surreptitiously, if only to see if the student can get away with it.

Some help is on the way:

An OpenAI spokeswoman said the lab recognized its programs could be used to mislead people and was developing technology to help people identify text generated by ChatGPT. At many universities, ChatGPT has now vaulted to the top of the agenda. Administrators are establishing task forces and hosting universitywide discussions to respond to the tool, with much of the guidance being to adapt to the technology.

OpenAI is planning to “watermark” the output of ChatGPT, which Scott Aaronson has described in his blog (scan down for “My Projects at OpenAI”) – he’s the one who thought up the scheme.

What to do?

“We need to up our game,” Mr. Aldama said. “The imagination, creativity and innovation of analysis that we usually deem an A paper needs to be trickling down into the B-range papers.”

Universities are also aiming to educate students about the new A.I. tools. The University at Buffalo in New York and Furman University in Greenville, S.C., said they planned to embed a discussion of A.I. tools into required courses that teach entering or freshman students about concepts such as academic integrity. [...]

More than 6,000 teachers from Harvard University, Yale University, the University of Rhode Island and others have also signed up to use GPTZero, a program that promises to quickly detect A.I.-generated text, said Edward Tian, its creator and a senior at Princeton University.

On the other hand:

Some students see value in embracing A.I. tools to learn. Lizzie Shackney, 27, a student at the University of Pennsylvania’s law school and design school, has started using ChatGPT to brainstorm for papers and debug coding problem sets.

“There are disciplines that want you to share and don’t want you to spin your wheels,” she said, describing her computer science and statistics classes. “The place where my brain is useful is understanding what the code means.”

And so it goes. There’s more at the link.

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