Artificial Intelligence in the Classroom

An in-depth analysis of AI’s impact at St. George’s School
Artificial Intelligence in the Classroom
A demonstration on how ChatGPT may be misused to complete schoolwork

What is Artificial Intelligence? Perhaps it might be best to let AI itself explain.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines designed to think and act like humans. These systems can perform tasks that typically require human cognitive functions, such as learning, problem-solving, pattern recognition, and decision-making. AI technologies include machine learning, where systems improve through experience, and deep learning, which involves neural networks with many layers processing vast amounts of data. Applications of AI range from virtual assistants and self-driving cars to medical diagnosis and financial analysis.

That paragraph, written by AI is just one example of how simple it is for a student to mindlessly complete an assignment. Since its introduction in late 2022, ChatGPT and other AI tools have played an instrumental role in the classroom—both in a positive and negative way. With about 60 Million users worldwide, the AI epidemic has not skipped over St. George’s School in any shape or form.

ChatGPT users per month from late 2022 to early 2023.

The introduction of AI in the classroom has a profound impact on students, fundamentally altering the way they learn and interact with educational content. On the positive side, AI provides students with powerful tools to enhance their learning experience. Personalized learning platforms, driven by AI, can adapt to individual students’ needs, offering customized resources and exercises that cater to their specific strengths and weaknesses. This individualized approach helps students grasp complex concepts more effectively and at their own pace, potentially improving academic performance and boosting confidence.

However, the increasing reliance on AI tools in education also brings the potential for misuse. One significant concern is the temptation for students to use AI to complete assignments and homework with minimal effort. AI-powered writing assistants and problem-solving apps can generate essays, solve mathematical problems, and even conduct research, sometimes with minimal input from the user. While these tools can be beneficial for learning and understanding, they also make it easier for students to bypass the actual learning process and submit work that they did not fully understand or create themselves. This misuse not only hampers genuine learning but can also lead to academic dishonesty and a lack of critical thinking skills. In the video attached to this article, you can see how AI may be misused in the classroom setting.

52 per cent of Canadian students are using generative AI to assist them in their schoolwork

Moreover, the easy access to AI-generated content can foster a dependence on these tools, diminishing students’ ability to think independently and solve problems creatively. Over-reliance on AI can result in a superficial understanding of subject matter, as students might focus more on getting quick answers rather than developing a deep comprehension of the material. This dependency can hinder their intellectual growth and reduce their preparedness for higher education and the workforce, where critical thinking and problem-solving are essential skills.

Alan Ding ’28 hard at work during French class (Hayley Lohn)

Understanding the potential uses of AI, students were asked to answer questions regarding their use of the tool. Remaining anonymous, numerous students admitted to misusing AI—particularly employing tools such as ChatGPT to complete homework assignments. One student quoted: “Using it [ChatGPT] just freed up so much more time in my evenings. An assignment that would have taken me hours to complete took just minutes.” However, while some students were eager to partake in the AI wave, others were hesitant. Some students admitted that they were unsure as to which uses of AI were punishable.

While AI has been a benefit to many students, it has caused a myriad of problems for teachers. For one, many teachers now must wonder if the work they are receiving was really a product of the student who submitted it. Additionally, many teacher have had to switch from online assessments back to pen and paper. Ms. Ember Konopaki had the chance to discuss her experiences with AI. As Head of Grade 11, she often has students sent to her office to discuss matters regarding Academic Dishonesty. She said: “In terms of AI, it can be hard to tell if a student has cheated or not. Often, unless they own up to it, I am unable to punish them for something I can’t prove.” Although it is a fantastic tool for many St. George’s Students, AI has definitely presented a great challenge for many teachers.

The ChatGPT interface

The use of AI in education also raises issues related to equity. Students from wealthier backgrounds may have better access to advanced AI tools and resources, giving them a significant advantage over their peers from less privileged backgrounds. This disparity can exacerbate existing educational inequalities, making it harder for disadvantaged students to compete on an equal footing. While this is no problem for most students at St. George’s School, it raises the question as to whether the use of technology not accessible to everyone should be allowed in schools.

Addressing these challenges requires a balanced approach that emphasizes the responsible use of AI. St. George’s must teach students to use AI as a supplemental tool rather than a crutch. Teaching digital literacy and ethics from a young age can help students understand the importance of integrity and the value of learning through effort. The school’s academic dishonesty policy is important in order for boundaries to be set for students; however, perhaps it should be made more clear as to what students may use AI for.

A graphic showing a teacher educating her class about the correct use of AI

In conclusion, AI has the potential to significantly enhance St. George’s students’ learning experiences by providing personalized, interactive, and engaging educational tools. However, the potential for misuse and the risk of fostering dependence on AI pose significant challenges. By promoting responsible use and teaching digital ethics we can harness the benefits of AI in education while mitigating its risks, ultimately empowering St. George’s students to become more independent, ethical, and well-rounded learners.

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