ChatGPT at schools: should it be used or banned?

If students use ChatGPT to answer questions and do assignments given by teachers, this is an excellent moment for a true revolution in the way students’ learning is evaluated.

Luísa Vilardi

The subject of much recent discussion in the field of education, ChatGPT, created by OpenAI (hosted online for free, for anyone to use), is a computer program designed to simulate conversations with human users. As its name suggests, ChatGPT is a conversation tool in the form of a chatbot. Human users can ask questions or request an explanation of something, and in a matter of seconds they receive an answer. This fast response time is because ChatGPT was programmed to use internet text databases, encompassing countless data obtained from books, Wikipedia, articles and other texts on the internet.

Looked at from this point of view, ChatGPT is a very practical, interesting and fast tool that will help members of contemporary society in their everyday lives, given that most people have to perform multiple tasks in a short period of time. However, when it comes to the use of ChatGPT in schools, there is more disagreement than consensus. That is because like anything new, ChatGPT is still viewed with great suspicion by education professionals. This distrust mainly stems from the fact that students are using this tool to do their school exercises and homework, passing off the work as if it were their own.

As a result, many American public schools have blocked access to the website on school computers, citing concerns about negative impacts on students’ learning and the security and accuracy of the content. However, is this the best approach to take? Some articles and reports indicate that it is not. This is because this ban will not prove effective, as students can access the website in other ways, such as through smartphones, personal computers and tablets. In addition, it is very likely that banning the use of ChatGPT on public school computers will disproportionately harm the most vulnerable students, who often only have access to computers at school.

Despite the fact that the use of ChatGPT to cheat on schoolwork and homework is a real phenomenon (there are many articles on the internet about this), we need to learn how to incorporate artificial intelligence into schools’ everyday routines. Accordingly, it is fundamental to understand its weaknesses and bottlenecks in order to rethink the use of this tool in education. If students use ChatGPT to answer questions and do assignments given by teachers, this is an excellent moment for a true revolution in the way students’ learning is evaluated. Some possible options include doing collective work in the classroom and between classes at school, having oral exams, and encouraging students’ writing and critical thinking skills based on texts produced by ChatGPT itself. This is because even though ChatGPT can produce cohesive, coherent and high-quality texts, the aspect of critical reflection is not present in them.

However, for this revolution to happen, it is essential for education leaders to be open to dialogue and ongoing training to better understand how ChatGPT works and to be able to work with the education network and school community to rethink the best way to use it. As the pandemic clearly taught us, denialism is never the best way, so between the options of using or banning ChatGPT, the best approach will be to always use it with caution and as a lever to rethink what has been done so far.

*As opiniões expressas neste artigo são de responsabilidade exclusiva do(s) autor(es), não refletindo necessariamente a posição institucional da FGV.

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