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Schools in northern Nevada ban ChatGPT, others welcome it for classwork

Students on computers using ChatGPT at Bishop Manogue High School (KRNV)
Students on computers using ChatGPT at Bishop Manogue High School (KRNV)
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ChatGPT is a new software program that uses artificial intelligence to write dialogue with the person using it. Students have used it, without teachers' permission, to write school papers. Even so, not all educators are banning ChatGPT, but allowing it and using it in the classroom.

Bishop Manogue Catholic High School not only welcomes the tech tool, they encourage kids to use it. Principal Bri Thoreson says she blew out the agenda for her December staff meeting and let the teachers play with program to see what it could do.

"The first reaction from some was, 'oh my gosh tragic this is coming out,' but then as they played with it, they figure it out how it can be a tool, how they could do creative stuff in class, how they could make things better for kids using it," Thoreson said. "We are exploring with it, we’re letting teachers play with it, make the decision to use it, or not."

Since then, teachers have been sprinkling it into their curriculum.

Manogue English and journalism teacher Craig Charboneau allowed his students to use ChatGPT on a mock trial on the assassination of Julius Caesar.

"So they were using ChatGPT to ask questions to gain information to historical context," he said.

Manogue history teacher CJ DeRyter has students use ChatGPT for study guides.

"When I saw it and it can give me a whole study guide with bullet points and key topics, I was like OK, this is a life changer," said Bishop Manogue junior Amaya Aramini.

DeRyter said he's teaching his students a responsible way of using ChatGPT.

"It’s a technological tool, and if you’re not using it, it’s going to be used anyway and teaching responsible use of it and all the ways you can work it into curriculum, and into student learning is going to be the best way to do that," he said.

But students have to be careful of the information the program spits out. Like anything on the internet, the information is not always accurate.

"I think it’s a serious problem because it’s not accurate all the time. It’s a chatbot at the end of the day," said Charboneau.

Author and software expert Thomas Fellows believes schools need to work with and use ChatGPT.

"If you look at the calculator several decades ago, when it came out, people said 'hey, we shouldn't be having our kids using calculators' but you're going to be using the calculator in the work force. You're going to be using ChatGPT in the workforce and we've got to have our students be prepared for the actual workforce," he said.

The Washoe County School District and the Carson School District staff are exploring the new technology and say they're still learning how to proceed and explore the uses and potential abuses. Both districts block ChatGPT on the schools' devices and internet service. WCSD specifically said at this point, it's not allowed for school projects.

Coral Academy of Science High School staff are cautious.

"I haven’t had conversations about not using it explicitly. I think students know that you shouldn’t have other people or technology write the material for you," said English chair Wesley Lydon. "It is certainly concerning, it is terrifyingly easy."

Lydon sees ChatGPT as a tool but has concerns about how the program would take away learning opportunities.

"Well, long term you have students that are not going to be able to engage in basic course work if they’re consistently relying on other things," he said.

Nevada Connections Academy is an online school where teachers can't always monitor kids' school work.

"I think it’s important that we don’t eliminate it completely and we need to teach students about it. There are jobs already coming out that are asking for ChatGPT experience," said Chris McBride, Superintendent.

There are artificial intelligence detector tools to help teachers spot work created by ChatGPT. Educators say those tools are not always reliable to spot potential plagiarism.

Educators say say the best way to spot students misusing ChatGPT is to make sure they really know their students and their work -- that way, the artificial intelligence writing will likely stand out.

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