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New AI software is forcing educators to adapt

by Jack FiggeSpecial with yeast

ATCHISON — As ChatGPT, the advanced language model developed by Open AI, becomes more prevalent in Catholic education, educators are facing new challenges, such as the ethical implications of relying on AI-generated responses and the need to balance technology with traditional teaching methods to ensure that students receive a comprehensive education.

The opening sentence of this article is neither the work of a human author nor of divine inspiration. Instead, it was spawned by new technology programming software called ChatGPT, which responds to a user’s prompt with a unique set of scripts.

For Catholic educators, not only has the creation of ChatGPT forced them to rethink teaching methods, but also to reflect on the fundamental mission and purpose of Catholic education.

Released on November 30, 2022, ChatGPT has risen to prominence as people flock to the site looking for instant and easy answers to their inquiries. Upon receiving a request, ChatGPT scours text databases and online resources to write human-like text.

Across the country, students at every level of education are turning to ChatGPT to write papers and complete assignments, opening a new front for educators in the battle against cheating and plagiarism.

Since the release of ChatGPT, educators and archdiocesan high school and college administrators have sought to address this issue and understand how ChatGPT should work with the mission and identity of Catholic education.

The Catholic Church recognizes the value of technology in helping advance society and build the kingdom of God. Archbishop Stuart Swetland, president of Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas, believes that almost any technology can be used for something Good.

“The church is never against the ethical use of technological advances,” he said. “Technology is in the service of building up the kingdom. There are very few technological advances that don’t have good and bad uses.

In regards to Catholic education, technology should be used as a tool to enhance a curriculum rooted in personal relationships and faith. Kimberly Shankman, principal of Benedictine College in Atchison, acknowledges that when you rely too much on technology, you lose the relationship aspect that is central to a Catholic education.

“The important thing to remember from the perspective of Catholic educators is that technology must always be the tool, not the engine,” Shankman said. “Catholic education is primarily based on a human relationship, as Pope Benedict tells us. That relationship can’t be faked with your computer, your amazing tablet, or any other technology you own.

Assistant Professor of Theology at the Benedictine Dr. Mariele Courtois recognizes the value of relationship building within her class. ChatGPT, however, encourages college students to consult technology rather than teachers or faculty members for help.

“What I’ve explained to my students is that often times people are tempted to cheat because they’re trying to avoid some kind of relationship,” Courtois said. “For example, if they need a longer deadline, instead of talking to the professor and asking them, they will try to find a shortcut, like ChatGPT, so they can still meet the deadline. Or, if they have questions about citing sources, instead of asking a librarian or the Writing Center, they’ll try to find a way they can get the answer quickly without knowing and understanding it.

What distinguishes a Catholic school from its secular counterparts is its mission to not only teach students but to train them into saints. In area high schools, administrators see ChatGPT as a threat to the education process by providing students with shortcuts.

“Technologies like ChatGPT can give the impression that the only thing that matters is getting the product done,” said Dr. Shane Rapp, principal of St. James Academy in Lenexa. “ChatGPT is really forcing us to reconsider what the purpose of the school is. For us, as a Catholic institution, the purpose of schools is the formation of a person”.

When a student uses ChatGPT to write an article, schools consider the act plagiarism. In the eyes of the church, using another person’s work—or in this case, the work of a computer—violates the seventh and eighth commandments regarding the act of stealing.

“Morality tells us that if we want to be honest and not violate the Seventh and Eighth Commandments, we must only present our ideas in writing, not things we have taken from other sources,” said Msgr. SWETLAND. “It is both a question of justice and honesty. ChatGPT is just another source you could plagiarize with.

As ChatGPT is currently in its infancy, teachers and administrators have had little conflict with students using it to cheat. Yet there have been some cases. This semester, several Benedictine teachers have added clauses to their curriculum prohibiting the use of ChatGPT.

Additionally, teachers are assigning papers that prompt students to write more personalized musings instead of research-based papers, which students could use ChatGPT to complete with minimal work.

“In my program, I have a new part of the academic dishonesty section that specifically names ChatGPT,” Courtois said. “Another thing I want to do is make sure students understand why they’re doing each of their assignments.”

In a larger sense, Catholic administrators such as Maureen Engen, principal of Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park, seek to help others recognize that a Catholic education is about more than intellectual development; her mission is also social and spiritual formation.

“Our goal is for each of these students to know they were created to do something no one else was created to do,” Engen said. “Our schools don’t exist to make sure our kids have all of these answers. They exist to help these students become saints.

“We do it only by promoting virtue.”

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