3 reasons students choose not to use AI for school

It’s been just over one year since ChatGPT’s public release, which sent chills down the spine of educators worried about academic dishonesty and plagiarism. Yet, despite initial concerns resulting in several districts banning the tool, we’ve seen school districts and higher education institutions alike embracing the technology as a learning enhancer. Still, K12 students still have some hesitations.

That’s according to new research from ACT, the nonprofit organization that administers the college readiness exam. Researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of students in grades 10 through 12 to better understand their use of AI tools like ChatGPT.

Unsurprisingly, nearly half of the participating high school students said they had used this technology before, the most popular being ChatGPT. However, according to the 54% who said they haven’t used these tools, they cited three reasons for being so hesitant:

  1. They’re simply not interested in the technology: 83%
  2. They don’t trust the technology: 64%
  3. They don’t know enough about AI: 55%

The researchers note that this response isn’t unlikely given the newness of this technology and the need for even further training and education.

“Even students who used the tools for school assignments found that they were far from perfect, as a majority reported errors or incorrect information within the responses that AI provided,” Jeff Schiel, a lead research scientist at ACT and one of the authors of the report, said in a statement. “This shows that as knowledge and awareness of AI tools grows, information about how to use them correctly is just as important.”

Additional findings

Researchers also asked students who use AI for school to indicate which subjects they use the technology for. According to the data, students most often used AI for language arts (writing) and social studies assignments.

Students with higher academic performance were also significantly more likely to use AI tools compared to students with lower academic performance, which may serve as proof that these technologies can be used similarly to a tutor.

Some 74% of students also believed that their grades would improve if they started using AI for their school work.

But most intriguingly, the vast majority of students (90%) refuse to use AI tools to write their college admissions essays, a tactic that has been questioned by many in this new era of AI technology. Overall, most students believe that there are too many limitations associated with these tools, mainly surrounding their ability to curate high-quality, personalized college admissions essays.

Most of all, students need additional training and support as they wrestle with the ethical implications of AI in education.

“As AI matures, we need to ensure that the same tools are made available to all students so that AI doesn’t exacerbate the digital divide,” Janet Godwin, CEO of ACT, said in a statement. “It’s also imperative that we establish a framework and rules for AI’s use so that students know the positive and negative effects of these tools as well as how to use them appropriately and effectively.”