Many schools and universities call this cheating, but banning AI is not the right policy.
The Problem With Banning AI
Louise Stivers was falsely accused of cheating by using AI at UC Davis. She was in the process of applying for law school. Luckily, she was found innocent, but even so, she has to report the accusation on her law school applications (even if proven innocent). To compound this further, some state bar exams ask for similar information during their character and fitness screenings.
Many teachers, schools, and universities have responded to the growing use of AI by banning it. Schools assume that students aren’t learning when they use AI. And even when they are learning, they may be learning incorrect information because of the finicky nature of AI’s training data.
On the other hand, AI detection software used to enforce the bans are concerning. Teachers assume that they can use AI detection software to find students who are using AI to complete assignments. But existing versions of this software are riddled with problems that can lead to false positives. It is unreliable, often identifying a student’s own work as being generated by AI. At best, as one company claims, AI detection can detect AI with 98 percent accuracy.
Even if that claim is true, that means that one out of every fifty students will be wrongly accused of cheating using AI. That is far too frequently when the penalty for cheating is so high.
What’s often ignored is the potential for legitimate uses of AI for learning.
The solution to these problems lies in the middle. Schools should not ban the use of AI but should guide students in its effective use. You can view a model policy here.
Teachers, schools, and universities need to help students use AI wisely. Just like anything found on the internet, information provided by AI should be questioned. Does the answer provided make sense, and can the answer be verified through other sources?
After all, students are already using technology like calculators, spell-check, and search engines to help them learn. And if a technology can make learning more efficient, it makes sense to let them use it.
It’s like asking someone to wash their clothes using a washboard instead of a washing machine. Why not allow the new technology to be used?
Of course, the missing ingredient is that students must be taught how to question information — especially information provided by AI. This is a great skill in any situation. This is critical thinking. Teachers can guide students on AI’s proper use by asking students to provide how they used it in the assignment, including what prompts were used.
Japan just approved this policy for their schools. “Students should comprehend the characteristics of AI, including its advantages and disadvantages, with the latter including personal information leakages and copyright infringement.” This is exactly what is needed.
The Future of Education
AI has great potential, including becoming a one-on-one tutor for students as part of an individualized education that meets their needs. And companies like Khan Academy are developing an AI to do just that.
Banning AI doesn’t help students learn; it holds them back. Sooner or later, using AI well will become a necessary skill set for any young professional. And we ought to be guiding students, teaching them critical thinking skills along the way, to use it well and prepare them for that future.