Why AI is relevant

April 13, 2023

Artificial intelligence is a field of technology that simulates human capabilities in machines. Ju Sun, Department of Computer Science and Engineering professor at the University of Minnesota, said one of the most mainstream models of AI at the moment, ChatGPT, aims to simulate human language patterns.

“A very popular, promising field nowadays is ChatGPT,” Sun said. “That’s a field called natural language processing. That emulates the way that people can read and speak — natural languages. We are still far away from matching human-level.”

On OpenAI’s website, anyone can create an account and start asking the powerful AI chatbot any number of questions in a matter of minutes. According to digital learning coordinator Angela Fransen, ChatGPT has been gaining traction among students due to its capabilities and convenience.

“What I know of ChatGPT and why this particular tool has become such a hot topic is because it really does draw from such a broad database, and in a way that really hasn’t been done before — or at least so well-publicized and so well-accessible,” Fransen said. “That has made a big impact that it became an open-source situation that could really be accessible by anyone.”

Some students have started turning to ChatGPT for writing essays and completing schoolwork as a new form of cheating, according to English teacher Kelsey Hanson.

“Students are like, ‘Oh yeah, this is a shortcut for me. I can turn this in and be done with the work,’” Hanson said. “But it is very easy (to detect AI) as a person. ChatGPT does not write like a student and it doesn’t even really write like a human. When kids think they found a shortcut, really what’s going to happen is the teacher is going to follow up and say, ‘I need you to redo this.’”

The multipurpose tool also has many practical applications in school that aren’t dishonest according to senior Denly Lindeman. He said he uses ChatGPT to help him get inspiration for his schoolwork. 

“As a tool, I think it’s great,” Lindeman said. “I use it to help come up with ideas for projects. I use it to help me write code. It’s a great tool to help get my creative juices going and help give me an idea of where to do more research.”

According to Fransen, teachers are split on a tool like ChatGPT — despite its positive capabilities, many fear the drawbacks of students using it for dishonest purposes.

“Some folks can get really excited about the possibilities, and then some folks get really fear-based,” Fransen said. “There’s a lot of concern about how it can be used inappropriately or how it can be used — we’ll use the word cheating, but even just to take information and make it a shortcut.”

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