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Artificial intelligence model ChatGPT won't ruin education, UMKC professors say

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Carlos Moreno
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KCUR 89.3
Using ChatGPT is like having a conversation with a search engine, albeit with errors, says UMKC English professor Antonio Byrd.

The chatbot has educators scrambling to make sure students don't use it to cheat. Two UMKC professors think one way to address the issue is to incorporate the new technology into lesson plans rather than ban it.

The artificial intelligence language model ChatGPT has been a source of contention in the academic world since it became widely available to the public last fall. While concerns over cheating and plagiarism have prompted some school districts to ban the emerging technology, others have decided to embrace it.

“Urging our students not to use these tools because we don't like them is not a viable strategy,” said Brian Hare, a professor of Computer Science at UMKC. “Our students are going to be graduating into a world where these tools are being used, and are sometimes being misused. And we have to prepare them for that.”

Hare and Antonio Byrd, an assistant professor of English at UMKC, have both incorporated ChatGPT into their lesson plans and said the technology has its benefits and downsides.

“It's very good at things like producing a first draft or a general summary, particularly of introductory material,” Hare said.

Byrd agreed, saying the technology solves the “blank page problem” by helping students to brainstorm ideas.

But the chatbot poses some real challenges to teaching, too. It regularly produces misinformation, and is limited in its use of dialects, such as Black English.

“ChatGPT is trained on language from the internet, and the majority of it has been written by white men,” Byrd said.

Accessibility is also an issue. Open AI, the company that designed ChatGPT, already has a subscription plan called ChatGPT Plus that costs $20 a month.

“When that cost goes up, there’s going to be an economic issue,” Byrd said.

Byrd and Hare joined Up To Date to talk about how they're approaching ChatGPT in their classes.

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
Claudia Brancart is an Up To Date producer for KCUR 89.3. She graduated from Pitzer College in Los Angeles where she majored in World Literature and Studio Art. You can reach her at claudiab@kcur.org.
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