Artificial intelligence challenges students to produce genuine, authentic work.
Artificial intelligence challenges students to produce genuine, authentic work.

Educators struggle with threat of AI generated material by tech savvy students

High school teachers all over the country are searching for ways to combat the growing problem of student misuse of artificial intelligence (AI). Pleasant Grove High School has taken actions, but there are questions about whether the strategies will prevent students from using AI to cheat.

“AI is helpful sometimes, but it can be misused by young teenagers,” said PG English teacher Russ Young.

According to a McKinsey and Company article, “Artificial intelligence is a machine’s ability to perform the cognitive functions we usually associate with human minds.” 

This means that generally human-based actions, such as writing long answers or essays, translating languages, and generating responses can now be done by technology. This has led to more and more students using AI to cheat in school.

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A growing number of students attending Pleasant Grove High School have been using AI in their schoolwork over the past few months. Websites like ChatGPT and other essay writers have been tools that students turn to when they are unable to complete their school work independently. 

“Cheating has greatly increased with AI,” said Young. “I like to say that if students put as much time into actually trying to get the assignment done as they do on finding ways to cheat, they would be star students.”

Students may use AI to answer questions or write essays.

Pleasant Grove sophomore Jayna Hanson said AI will limit creativity and critical thinking for high schoolers who are not accustomed to minimizing their outside resources.

“People are not going to get any better if they are cheating their way through everything,” she said. “I feel like people are not mentally strong enough to only use AI as a reference. People are not going to use it to help with their essays. It will become their essay.”

PG sophomore Greta Eller expressed a similar sentiment.

“A lot of kids around me use AI to get answers for assignments,” said Eller. “When students get to the tests, they are not going to know what to answer because they cheated their way to the test.”

Young believes the negative fallout from using AI could follow high schoolers to college.

“It will be a struggle because most college grades are based on a single writing assignment,” said Young. “Now if that’s an in-class writing assignment, that is something else altogether.”

Young worries the problems associated with cheating will grow worse as AI technology advances.

“The Chat GBT version that they have now is only the first iteration … and it’s only going to get better and better,” he said. 

Pleasant Grove teachers and district officials have taken action to address problems related to AI use.

English 9 and 10 teacher Theresa Kaur uses tools such as Illuminate Lockdown Browser and in order to catch students who are using AI in their writing.

“Oftentimes we have such particular requirements for things, that when students do use AI, it’s not a good essay anyway,” said Kaur. “It’s usually a C quality essay since its not adhering to all of the little tiny things that we are looking for in an essay.”

Kaur also is able to see a shift in the voice of a student’s writing when they begin using AI. 

“Along with the vocabulary usage, you get familiar with the way that students write,” said Taylor. “When suddenly they write and use vocabulary in a way that isn’t typical for that student, the warning light immediately goes on.”

The Elk Grove Unified School District has attempted to stop student usage of AI by blocking sites like Chat GBT from school Chromebooks. 

But some teachers do not believe that this will stop students from using AI, because they could just continue using it on their smartphones or personal computer devices.

Despite the cons of AI usage, some teachers express hope that AI can benefit students.

Kaur said she aims to be “optimistic about AI.” She added, “Because when calculators came out people thought that it was a form of cheating and the same thing with Google, saying that we should be using encyclopedias and dictionaries…so I hope that we will be able to adopt it like we did before.”

A few teachers even use AI to help students write or learn better in their classes. Textbooks are also making advancements by incorporating AI.

“The next round of our textbook that comes out online is going to have a place where if a kid uses one of the essay prompts, it will give the student feedback before they click submit, and then once they click submit, it will give the teacher recommendations for how to grade it, and that’s all AI,” said Kaur.

Other teachers think AI can be used to guide students who are struggling to see what their essay should look like.

“AI can help you get started with something, like brainstorming ideas,” teacher Diana Shoop said. “It can also help with research and be a really easy tool, but not a crutch… I still think that it will be hard for students not to rely on it too much. That’s what I think the deep temptation is.”

In general, many teachers support some type of AI use by students, as long as it does not harm their ability to write independently or hinder their creativity.

“It can be used as a way of efficiency … as long as we don’t allow it to interfere with our own intelligence,” said Kaur.

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