Artificial intelligence (AI) has penetrated our children's lives and their education. Technology is essential to human progress and has allowed us to become more advanced. However, artificial intelligence has been the focus of many debates between the tech world and educators as companies become more technically advanced and students savvier. As an educator, businesswoman, educational consultant, and mother, I can see the benefits and drawbacks of AI as it pertains to our high school and college students. At Peak, we have tried to stay ahead of the curve to educate ourselves and our clients about these pros and cons. In this blog, we will focus mainly on the hot topic of essay writing or writing of any kind.
AI-based writing tools like ChatGPT, Jasper, and Writer have recently been in the news because higher educational institutions like Cal Tech and the University of California school system have seen an increase in Bot generated essays during their application season. 2022 is not the first year these AI companies have been offering this service. Still, as time goes on, we are seeing the ramifications for those students who decided to take a shortcut to get a final draft of their personal essay that most colleges and universities require. As companies like ChatGPT are assisting students in writing these should be very personal essays, other companies are sprouting up to detect when AI was used to generate such essays.
Students can simply go onto one of the AI chatbot websites, plug in a few facts, and an essay can be generated. However, many of us in the educational world fear that these models will be used to substitute critical thinking and students’ writing.
Don’t get me wrong; I am more than happy to use AI technology! It is safe to say I use it every day between search engines, GPS, and my favorite new car, the Kia Telluride, which essentially drives itself. I can also see why educators use this technology to enhance their teaching and learning. I feel for our teachers, who have to keep up with the latest technology and then shift and reassess their teaching models. This is the struggle now, not just for teachers in high school but the trickle down to middle and elementary schools. AI technology is here to stay, so how do educators use these new AI-based writing tools to keep up with their student's savviness while still teaching critical thinking and writing skills?
In the spring, Peak will begin the writing process with our juniors. We spend a lot of time helping students generate ideas for their personal essays. Here I see how AI can be a positive tool, especially for those struggling with writer's block or unsure what to write about. Our students are lucky enough to have professionals assist with the process; however, we know only some students have that luxury. For this reason, these AI-based writing tools can level the playing field. However, generating ideas or potential topic sentences is much different than having a bot write a final draft college essay that a student then submits as their own. As advanced as our technology has become, no bot can make a personal essay personal. What colleges and universities are looking for are essays that are insightful and authentic, which bot essays, to my knowledge, are not. The Brookings Institution reported that several educators believe that while the bot can aggregate knowledge, it can not actually synthesize a unique theory or idea.
Many higher education institutions have stringent policies around plagiarism, including AI-generated content. Hence why, new software technology was created to detect AI-bot-generated writing. Colleges and universities around the country can probably appreciate how this latest technology has the potential to assist in the writing of the college essay, but want students to know it should not be used to substitute students' critical thinking and writing skills. At Peak, it is our responsibility to educate our clients and all high school students about the ethical implications of any content not generated by themselves. This can be seen in the latest message the UC schools sent out to some applicants this year. They were told that their essay must be verified for authenticity due to being flagged as potential plagiarism via an AI-based writing tool. If students cannot verify that they wrote these essays themselves, their applications will be withdrawn. This is a wake-up call for us all.