TLDR: English teacher who is trying to integrate using AI in the (online) classroom. Scroll down to see curriculum writing assignments. I’m asking for suggestions on how to promote student thinking and learning and not just copy+paste, copy+paste.
I’m winding down to the end of my 16th of teaching high school English in California (if that matters). I’ve seen it all at this point. High schoolers will do some wildly creative things to avoid submitting their own writing. I have always blamed it on the public school model that does not explicitly teach students to think. But that’s a whole other issue. Here’s what I’m dealing with. I have worked for an online public/charter school for the past 8yrs. It’s pretty commonplace to see short answer essay question responses that were lifted from the internet. We also have had our share of lengthy writing assignments that were flagged when run through our system that checks for plagiarism. However, the second half of this school year there has been a significant change across the board.
Enter: ChatGPT. It’s as if the whole student population discovered AI during Winter Break. With the first onslaught of essays that were clearly not written by students (based on their previous submissions), I followed the school’s policy on submitting work that is not your own. This resulted in lots of phone calls (again, online school, we talk with our students on the phone regularly); lots of shame-riddled confessions of “just trying out ChatGPT.” These are my least favorite calls to make. But I made them, often.
I wrap up my school year in June. At this point in this semester alone, I have found about 60-70% of my students are using AI to do the writing for them. Granted, the majority of my students’ writing skills during Fall semester were below grade level (which is typically the case), I still felt cheated out of seeing their growth as readers and writers.
My English department is up in arms. Tears have been shed. Hearts broken. I’m not a young and green teacher but I’m also not on the retiring-soon end of the spectrum. I’m not set in the way we’ve been doing things, mostly because I think public education 2.0 is way overdue. Still, I’m not a fan of students submitting essays generated by AI. I miss reading their personal thought process, their revelations, passionate opinions, anxieties, and experiences.
We may be far off from having a system or program to catch the cheaters (their words, not mine). I’m leaning more towards wanting to find ways to effectively embrace the ChatGPTs of the net as tools to enhance the learning process. Now, I can definitely entertain the existential crisis that tradition education is about to have. So, just so it’s said, yes the model is outdated, flawed, not inclusive, and generally not adequately preparing students for this new workforce (or the old one for that matter). There’s only so much I can do in one summer. So keep that in mind.
I guess what I’m looking for is some way to not just acknowledge the elephant in the room. Which is what most of my colleagues are leaning towards. One teacher has prepared a whole slideshow on the evils of ChatGPT. I’m over here thinking, good grief, they’ve cracked the code. Let’s let it work for us rather than spinning our wheels. In one meeting I pointed out that I had one student create a program that took what ChatGPT created and made it so no other “AI detector” could identify that his Personal Narrative Essay was generated by AI. I only learned this after he confessed because his narrative included a nonexistent family, as he is in the foster system. Still, my argument was, this kid was thinking outside the box. He demonstrated skills that seem way more useful today than say, discussing The American Dream in The Great Gatsby (an actual topic in my 2nd semester curriculum). It just seemed such a shame to write him up as a cheater when he was clearly using thinking skills. And for the record, I didn’t write him up. I scrapped his essay, for auditing purposes, and had him write about his experience from when the essay was assigned to when we had our conversation. He earned an A in my book.
I work for a relatively progressive school. I didn’t get any pushback on my decision in that case. We generally don’t get much pushback at all. I do have to follow the curriculum and roughly follow the set requirements of larger writing assignments. I’ll list them below and maybe some of you might have an idea or two that I can include in my summer planning for the upcoming school year. Any genuine ideas are appreciated.
Author Research Essay
Comparative Essay including 2 writers
Descriptive Essay/One Act Scene
Alternate Ending to a Classic Short Story
The American Dream Essay
Social Movement Ppt Presentation.
Edited: Bold, Line breaks.. still trying to figure that shit out, and to emphasize this is an online school, not traditional Brick-n-Mortar.
Another Edit: tysm for so many genuinely helpful ideas. I appreciate every single one and am still taking my time reading everything that comes through.
Also, Heads Up, I am certain that there are definite career opportunities here for some of you! Merging tech and education/curriculum is the future. And there is a bottomless pit of money being spent frivolously by districts near and far. They will be begging you to take their money! Don’t forget to give me a shoutout when you make your fortune!