By: Lauren Perrodin

UCR University Extension Instructor Gabrielle Ladner-Mejia Gabrielle Ladner-Mejia, a high school mathematics teacher and UCR University Extension Instructor, sat down with us to discuss the role of technology in a student’s path to academic achievement. She says “technology serves many practical purposes such as editing or enhancing one’s work. The hindrance is when the editing or enhancement does not promote the learning and growth of the student.”

With ChatGPT, the newest AI chatbot technology on students’ radars, teachers are struggling to fight against or work with this new tech — alongside students who use it. We’ll take a look at what the program is capable of and how some teachers are approaching it in their classrooms.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is an AI technology platform that can answer nearly any question in depth. The program offers detailed descriptions of complex prompts, asks follow-up questions and corrects statements that may be incorrect — all while learning from them. The technology is powered by Microsoft’s OpenAI, the same programming used for their Bing search engine.

Unsurprisingly, students who know the tech are using it to answer complex homework questions and even plagiarize full research papers.

ChatGPT gathers information from across the internet and refines its responses through human interaction. While the result is a full and seemingly authoritative response, it doesn’t always produce entirely accurate answers.

No matter the flaws, students are still using it to cheat on their assignments. Even as teachers find a way to identify or block ChatGPT, other programs like YouChat, Consensus, and TinyWow are also available. So, how do educators deal with this in the classroom? Gabrielle taps in with some helpful perspective.

Working With or Against ChatGPT

AI and machine learning are only advancing, and finding a way to block or work with it will be the challenge modern educators must face.

“As a high school math teacher and college-level instructor, I have seen cheating more often when assessments are administered via technology,” recalls Gabrielle. “For my high school students, I administer assessments via paper and pencil, as I require my students to illustrate their work to demonstrate mastery.”

And she’s not alone. Many teachers, according to a feature in CNN, are approaching this new AI similarly by assigning in-class work and requiring students to write out research papers by hand.

At the same time, other educators are embracing the program. They’re using it to check students’ work for cheating or to know what the chatbot understands of the subject to supplement further instruction in class.

“I think teachers should work with ChatGPT technology to generate readings based on students’ present levels, create scripts, or help students find errors,” says Gabrielle. “I think ChatGPT can be helpful to teachers and students if it’s used to create models for scaffolding student writing.”

One instructor interviewed by CNN mentions that they focus more on the steps to creating a research paper rather than the final product itself.

It’s important to understand what goal you want your students to achieve in doing their homework, and if ChatGPT can be further broken down for greater understanding while in class.

“For my high school students,” ruminates Gabrielle, “I administer assessments via paper/pencil, as I require my students to illustrate their steps/work in order to demonstrate mastery.

The role technology plays in the classroom, from early education to higher ed., is a train that can’t be stopped. It’s important to arm yourself with background knowledge and tools for how to approach it. A certificate or credential from UCR University Extension can help prepare you for this evolving education landscape.

Instructors! Access our new syllabus template with language about options for use of ChatGPT/AI in your course(s).