A Student’s Guide to Using AI Ethically for Schoolwork

·5 mins
Christoph C. Cemper

Now that the era of generative AI tools like ChatGPT is here, people of all ages have been finding ways to use this technology, for good and for ill. Some students have started using ChatGPT to cheat on school assignments, and this has already happened enough to teachers to be alarmed about it. After all, students aren’t learning the material if they’re not doing the work to learn it. But ChatGPT doesn’t show any sign of going away anytime soon, meaning that we all need to adapt to it and find ways to use it responsibly. You don’t have to give up using AI tools completely, but it’s important to find ethical approaches that can help you to learn the skills you’ll need to succeed in life.

Think Critically About What ChatGPT Says>

Think Critically About What ChatGPT Says #

While AI can be used to quickly answer questions, not every answer should be accepted at face value. Everything that AI tools know is scraped from the Internet, and we all know that not everything on the Internet is accurate. ChatGPT’s answers may be biased, outdated, or just plain incorrect. But you can use these answers as a starting point for your own research: See what the AI says, then look for a trustworthy source that can either back it up or refute it. Examining information with a critical eye is a crucial skill, and using AI can help you to develop it.

Use AI as a Tool, not a Crutch>

Use AI as a Tool, not a Crutch #

ChatGPT can be a helper, but you shouldn’t ask it to do all of the thinking for you. Consider using ChatGPT as a brainstorming partner: It can help you settle on an essay topic and turn a basic idea into a detailed outline. You can also use ChatGPT as a tutor who can explain things you don’t understand: If you’re stuck on a math problem, for instance, ask ChatGPT to explain how you should solve it, then do the work yourself to figure out the answer.

Keep an Eye Out for Bias>

Keep an Eye Out for Bias #

Since ChatGPT was trained on human-created content, it can have human biases. It might leave out key information to make a point or even perpetuate stereotypes. For example, research has shown that ChatGPT often generates text that uses sexist assumptions about the gender of different types of employees and sometimes creates output that’s explicitly racist. It’s also very easy to lead ChatGPT to take a certain viewpoint in its answers based on how you word your  prompt.

Fact-Check Everything>

Fact-Check Everything #

Using ChatGPT is like using Wikipedia: There’s plenty of good information, but there can also be lots of completely made-up nonsense. ChatGPT is actually prone to “hallucinate” information it doesn’t know, confidently spitting back the titles of nonexistent books, making up fake legal cases to support its responses, or giving people dangerous advice about their health. A quick Google search can be all it takes to double-check the AI’s responses to make sure that they’re based in fact.

Be Transparent>

Be Transparent #

If using ChatGPT is allowed for an assignment, ask questions to get a better understanding of how the teacher wants it to be used. You might be asked to disclose how you used AI, like whether you had it proofread your essay, help with outlining, or brainstorm ideas. Once you’ve finished an assignment, you should also reflect on how ChatGPT was helpful and how it wasn’t.

Understand What Is Considered Cheating>

Understand What Is Considered Cheating #

If you cheat without realizing that you’re cheating, it will still count against you, so make sure that you’re clear about what’s acceptable and what isn’t. For instance, some students might think that if they come up with their own  prompt to make ChatGPT write something, the text it produces is fine to use for school. But the truth is that coping anyone else’s work, including the work of ChatGPT, is plagiarism and not OK. Your teachers might also have different rules about when you can or can’t use AI: One teacher might say that you can use ChatGPT to proofread your work or write an outline for an essay, while another teacher might not want you to use it at all.

Remember That AI Doesn’t Protect Your Privacy>

Remember That AI Doesn’t Protect Your Privacy #

We all know not to give out personal information online; if you don’t want it shared, don’t post it. Since AI tools are trained on the Internet, you should follow the same rules to protect yourself while using ChatGPT as you do anywhere else online. Anything you type into ChatGPT is collected and could end up being shared, so don’t give it any information that you don’t want the whole world to know.

Be a Good Digital Citizen>

Be a Good Digital Citizen #

You should know better than to use things like email, text messaging, and social media sites to spread rumors about people or bully them, and the same goes for AI tools. Don’t use AI in ways that could hurt other people or hurt your future self.

Additional Resources>

Additional Resources #