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Concerns over the use of AI software in schools

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Ed McHugh, a business and marketing instructor at Nova Scotia Community College, is a seasoned professor who reviews and grades nearly 300 students’ work throughout the school year.

However, recently, he has noticed a troubling trend with students using artificial intelligence software, like ChatGPT, to complete group projects and assignments.

“ChatGPT is starting to increase its usage with students and it’s becoming a real problem in terms of assessment,” he says.

McHugh says he can tell a student has used ChatGPT to cheat by using quotes without citing the correct source or by knowing the students skill-level.

“I’ve received emails from students that include grammatical errors but their assignment is written at masters-level,” he says. “Other times, during group projects, people share that their group member is using ChatGPT because they don’t want to risk getting caught.”

McHugh says it is becoming increasingly difficult to know if students are plagiarizing.

“In the past, people could plagiarize and there were tools to catch them in some institutions, not in all, but now it’s original material, now it’s being created by artificial intelligence.”

Some post-secondary schools are looking at AI and working to incorporate it in their policy. A few months ago, Saint Mary’s University in Halifax created a faculty-led community of practice, providing students a guideline for using AI-technology in school.

Other schools, like nearby Dalhousie University, created guidelines for professors to follow.

“It’s three models from completely disallowing generative AI to completely allowing it, and then some kind of middle of the road process,” said Christian Blouin, with Dalhousie’s Faculty of Computer Science and the school’s AI lead.

Tavis Bragg is a high school teacher and professor at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S. He believes AI is a tool that can be used by students ethically.

“You have to explain to them quite clearly what is plagiarism in this sense and what are violations of education integrity,” he says.

Bragg says it is inevitable the use of AI generative tools will increase and educators need to utilize it.

“The obligation is on us to understand how they work, and then educate our students on how to use them properly,” he says. “These are incredibly powerful tools that we can use to simplify our lives to get a personalized learning.”

Bragg says students in both secondary and post-secondary should learn to use new technologies.

“It helps prepare them for this driven economy that they are entering into and enhance our educational system by using these AI tools in a safe and ethical way,” he says. “We’re just at the tip of this. These AI systems that we have today are the worst AI systems we will ever have.”

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