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Use of Chatbots for Writing School Assignments

Good or bad? Is it plagiarism? Can it be used as a learning tool instead- a discussion at the Young Writers' Club.


chatbot

Little time but plenty of assignments to be finished. Sounds familiar? Highly likely if you are a parent of a high school student or a high school student yourself. In the world sans the internet, research meant hours spent at the library. With the advent of Google search, finding information became a lot easier but it still involved browsing through ‘n’ number of websites to decipher the required information and compile all of it in a meaningful manner. Arrival of AI, specifically chatbots such as ChatGPT and Bard, life has become even easier. These chatbots comb through the internet and furnish information in a fraction of the time it takes us to do the same. The temptation to copy paste that information is high. Saves time and perhaps even guarantees a good grade, so why not? Extend the application a little further. Use it for creative writing too. It is definitely tempting from anyone’s point of view let alone that of a student. I have heard of adults using chatbots to write their emails for them because they are not confident of writing it themselves. True, the conscience tugs at us somewhere but we find reasons to justify our actions.

Should students be allowed to use AI?

This debate isn’t new. However, whether this discussion happens between students and teachers in school and the nature of it is somewhat unknown. Needless to say it could vary from school to school, teacher to teacher even.

What do the teens at the Young Writers’ Club have to say?

We kickstarted the discussion by comparing an AI generated thank you note and a thank you note written by an actual person. The group was asked to identify which one of the two is AI generated and explain the reasons for their choice. All of them correctly identified the AI generated thank you note. The reason they stated are:

  • The AI generated thank you note sounds less personal. The note written by the person has stories of appreciation making it more genuine.

  • The AI note sounds more formal and borders on flattery.

  • It writes as if you don’t know the person and have simply made it all up.

  • It felt like reading a grammar textbook example than a genuine thank you note.

The general consensus was that AI generated narratives/emails/thank you notes tend to lack empathy and emotion.

How about AI generated essays for research based assignments for school? These don’t need emotions! To use AI or not?

There appeared to be a difference in perspectives in schools in India and the U.S. While both discourage the blind usage of AI, the difference appeared to be in the willingness to openly discuss it. A teen joining from the U.S explained how the use of AI for assignments is strictly forbidden. However, a time and space is made for students to familiarize themselves with this technology and even talk about it. In India, it is not appreciated and definitely not encouraged. However there is a tendency among students to use it to save time and for grades.

The facilitator raised the question, “Wouldn’t our voices not be heard when we use AI and wouldn’t that be unfair to the individual student? Not having a chance to be heard doesn’t sound like an ideal situation?”

“There is emphasis on perfection to be able to get good grades. When time is a constraint and grades are at stake, Chatbot generated content comes in handy. Plus, at times it feels like free expression is frowned upon and there is a set expectation which sometimes becomes difficult to confine to. Hence AI makes it easier in such times.”

“True, but it doesn’t come in handy during exams and hence it seems like the best thing to do is to use AI sparingly.”

“I use AI for research based assignments. It definitely saves time as all the information gets compiled in one page. I think pick and choose what is relevant to the task in hand and what would support what I want to say in terms of the assignment. I feel it has enabled me to write with more impact as information to back up my writing is now easily accessible.”

“But writing credit becomes difficult. I generally pick and choose information and then verify it by browsing….”

The discussion between the teens continued in similar lines. The most important takeaway was that they were very matured about it. They knew the good and the bad. They were willing to exercise restraint when it comes to using chatbots for their schoolwork.


Disclaimer: This is a small group of teenagers and do not necessarily represent the entire teenage population across the world. Views expressed here are personal and cannot be generalized.


 

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