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Anderson Community Schools Approach ChatGPT with Caution

School officials at a district in Indiana see the potential for ChatGPT to enable better research or laziness among students, or both. Like many, they're waiting to see how other organizations adjust.

(TNS) — ChatGPT, the newly developed artificial intelligence chatbot that is gaining notoriety as both a research tool and a potential source of concern for educators, could represent the latest iteration of ethical dilemmas in academia, according to one local superintendent.

The new artificial intelligence (AI) system is being hailed for its ability to respond to user prompts and produce text and code with unprecedented human-like characteristics. The technology has caught the attention of many in the educational field who, only months after it was first made public, are already debating its potential benefits and drawbacks.

"You can think of ChatGPT as a fuzzy picture of the Internet," said Joe Cronk, superintendent at Anderson Community Schools. "It's a fuzzy picture of everything — you can kind of see what that picture is, but it's not exactly clear."

Cronk's description could serve as an analogy for the debate. On one hand, ChatGPT could develop into an invaluable research tool, able to help students verify facts and produce higher quality work across a variety of subject areas, from linguistics to engineering. On the other hand, some worry that the technology may reduce students' appetites for pursuing knowledge and lead to cheating and other lapses in ethics.

"What's to stop a student, if they're doing a essay, you can type in there, 'write an essay on XYZ,' and it will write you a nice article that looks like a human wrote it," Cronk said. "But that's the thing: What has been written by a computer and what has been written by a human?"

Those unanswered questions are at least part of the motivation behind decisions in dozens of school districts across the country — including urban districts in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York City and Montgomery, Alabama — to block access to the ChatGPT website.

Cronk said currently, ChatGPT's public interface is fairly limited — users are permitted 10 questions a day, and the chatbot sometimes times out.

As the technology develops, however, Cronk said ACS will monitor opportunities to potentially incorporate it into classrooms while maintaining academic integrity.

"I think it's too early to speculate," he said. "I don't know if you'll see restrictions placed upon it by manufacturers, if these systems like this will limit things in school domains or what. We don't know what the use is going to be."

©2023 The Herald Bulletin (Anderson, Ind.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.