Happy anniversary ChatGPT: How has generative AI impacted K12 education?

Thursday, Nov. 30 marked one year since the public release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the artificially intelligent chatbot that’s taken the education world by storm. What once was a terrifying unknown entity capable of allowing students to breeze their way through coursework with little consideration for academic integrity is now an exciting edtech tool that has immense potential to enhance student learning. Companies like Microsoft have already incorporated AI into many of their learning tools, like “Reading Progress,” a free tool available in Microsoft Teams that assesses students’ reading proficiency in real time and provides actionable feedback. Despite this adoption among tech companies and educators, one fact remains: Students and educators need guidance.

That’s the consensus of Annie Chechitelli, chief product officer at Turnitin, a popular plagiarism detection tool used by schools across the country.

According to data shared with District Administration, Turnitin has analyzed more than 142 million student-authored papers for evidence of AI writing. Among those submissions, nearly 10 million were flagged, as 20% of their content was likely written by AI. Furthermore, another four million were flagged because 80% of their content was produced by AI.

“While many educators were surprised by the debut of generative AI tools and how quickly it impacted education, at Turnitin we were not surprised,” Chechitelli said in a statement. “Prior to the launch of ChatGPT, Turnitin had already recognized the potential impact and began investing in AI writing detection to ensure we would help provide educators with a tool that works alongside both an instructors’ expertise in assessing students’ work as well as academic integrity policies.”

It’s a trend that also impacts the higher education landscape. According to a recent survey from Tyton Partners in partnership with Turnitin, nearly half of college students surveyed are “regular users” of AI. Additionally, 75% of students said they’ll continue relying on it regardless of whether their professors or institutions ban it.

These findings come at a time when OpenAI, the makers of ChatGPT, is encouraging schools to use its technology in their classrooms.

According to reports from Reuters, the company is exploring how its chatbot can be used for classroom lessons. At a conference in San Francisco, chief operating officer Brad Lightcap said they’ll form a team to explore its educational applications.

“Most teachers are trying to figure out ways to incorporate (ChatGPT) into the curriculum and into the way they teach,” Lightcap said at the INSEAD Americans Conference earlier this month. “We at OpenAI are trying to help them think through the problem and next year we will probably establish a team with the sole intent of doing that.”

School districts, too, are reconsidering their initial concerns surrounding cheating with the chatbot. According to The New York Times, school districts like Walla Walla Public Schools have hosted daylong workshops on AI chatbots to inform teachers about the technology.

“I do want students to learn to use it,” one teacher told The New York Times. “They are going to grow up in a world where this is the norm.”