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New Trier School District Says Plagiarism Rules Cover ChatGPT

School officials told the township board of education that the district's policy against plagiarism would cover misuse of ChatGPT, although they warned teachers to be ready for the technology to evolve quickly.

(TNS) — Concerns about the use of artificial intelligence program ChatGPT were addressed during the March 20 New Trier Board of Education meeting with a presentation by members of the school’s technology department.

Instructional Tech Specialists Pete Gutierrez and Eric Johnson spoke with the board about the technology that has some worried about the impact it could have on classroom learning.

The pair explained that while the technology is complex, it isn’t at the point where it could complete an entire English class essay good enough to be passed off as that of a student. Johnson said that sometimes the program even makes information up, a phenomenon called “hallucinating.”

“If you ask it to generate a paper for you with citations, it’ll do that,” Johnson said. “It’ll put in citations. It’ll name authors. It’ll name papers. Those may not actually exist.”

They also said that the technology is already a part of everyday life such as when you speak with a chat bot on a website or use predictive text on your cellphone.

“Even if you don’t actively use a product from Open AI, you may still use their services if you use a program such as Bing of Microsoft Office,” Gutierrez said.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Peter Tragos said because the use of ChatGPT to write English essays or complete homework is considered plagiarism, existing student policy would prohibit it.

“It falls under the rubric of ‘submitting any work that is not your own,’” Tragos said. “Even in our current policy, we do not specify the ways students might plagiarize or cheat. That list could be very long. We don’t want to add ChatGPT to it.”

The first line of defense, according to Tragos, is teachers knowing students writing and the way assignments are structured. Typically, there is a drafting process where teachers can follow students progress and work together along the way as opposed to turning in one final copy.

At this point, the board is not looking to begin use of plagiarism catching software such as Turnitin which checks for copied material in student submissions.

The board did discuss some advantages of the technology and its potential classroom uses such as creating sentence prompts to help students who struggle with writing tasks or less critically thinking tasks for teachers such as creating term lists for lesson plans.

Gutierrez said that while the technology isn’t currently an issue, teachers will likely need to adapt as it will advance quickly.

“There’s a lot coming at us and we need to be mindful,” he said. “We want to acknowledge that this is here and it exists.”

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