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Trustees ask if ChatGPT has a place in Campbell River classrooms

Campbell River School District to investigate use and/or misuse of AI technologies in classrooms
The Campbell River School District discussed ChatGPT during their Sept. 26 board meeting. Photo courtesy Youtube

Is ChatGPT going to be good or bad for kids in Campbell River classrooms?

That’s the question being mulled over by the Campbell River School District board. Just under a year ago, the ChatGPT app was launched. It is a large language model-based chatbot that can create text in various styles based on input prompts. Basically, it feels like a robot that can mimic almost any kind of text. This can have various effects on an educational system, and trustee Jan Gladish wants district staff to report back on its use and/or misuse in classrooms.

Gladish said during the meeting that she tried ChatGPT herself, asking it to create a poem, an essay and to even improve on her own writing.

“I plugged in something that I had personally written, because I write for fun, and I asked to do an improvement on it,” she said. “Well it was so good, it made me feel like a failure. What was missing was my voice … it was someone else’s voice.”

“We need to kind of pay attention to it,” she added. “We need to sort of find out what is the potential for its use or misuse in schools. How do we make it helpful to assist or enhance learning or to personalize learning, and how do we make sure that we’re just not getting the wool pulled over our eyes by kids who really know how to put in good prompts?”

Superintendent Geoff Manning said that ChatGPT, other AI technologies, and their impacts are being considered by district administration. Secondary and middle school principals have already been asked to talk to their staff about the current use of this technology, and find out their ideas about how to move forward.

“Many staff members feel like it can be used for very good reasons,” he said.

Manning said that school staff agreed that the texts produced were missing the student’s voices, and that “they know what their kids are capable of.”

“If they have (students) do an in-class essay … or an in-class piece of writing, they can compare it fairly easily.”

However, Manning also said that some teachers actually want to explore using these tools to enhance learning.

Trustee Craig Gillis also spoke on the issue, saying that there was potential for students to use the tech as a step or prompt to actually improve their writing skills.

“When kids cheat they do so because they think they can’t do the work or they really don’t know where to start,” he said. “So a lot of it is ‘let’s get you started, let’s help you walk up those steps to that learning.’”

“That was affirming for me because I think sometimes we all need a prompt every once in a while.”

Trustees passed the motion to ask senior staff to explore the capabilities of ChatGPT and report on its potential use and misuse in SD72 classrooms.

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