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Are computers taking over the classroom?

I seem to be less concerned than others about the danger that ChatGPT poses to the education and cognitive skills of students at nearly all levels of schooling.  The possibility of cheating on assignments seems to be a principal fear.

Probably because I’m retired and no longer have to read end-the-semester term papers or nearly impossible to decipher illegible essay final exams.

I haven’t tried to use ChatPGT yet.  Our son and his wife, (a former seventh grade teacher), have tried it and I was impressed with the results.

Markham Heid writing in The Washington Post argues for handwritten assignments instead of digital copies.

But I had to smile when I recalled the first time I had to write by hand a long essay.  By long I mean only two thousand words (2,000).  However, as a seventh grader, it was a daunting task.  And I spent days and hours at the Public Library doing the research, writing, writing and counting, counting.  I didn’t think I’d ever finish. 

The assignment was worthwhile because of the research I was required to do.  I confess I’d have preferred to do it with a computer had they existed.

I’m not sure that I believe there is a significant difference between content produced in cursive vs. a laptop.  Mistakes happen in either process.  And scratching out an error on paper is only slightly more time consuming than a digital correction.

I will give paper compositions the nod in one respect; they don’t give a prompt on how to possibly finish a sentence.  I hope that I’d use my own thoughts to complete the phrase rather than accept a suggested cliché.  But spell checker is nice.

There is a place for programs like ChatGPT—as a first draft on a topic you’re writing about.

For example, our son used ChatGPT to produce a sample five-paragraph persuasive argument on why James LeBron is the best professional basketball player to ever compete in the NBA.

It was a generally well-written piece but—as a draft—it suggested several research questions.  The prose stated that James’s statistics argue for his greatness.  So, of course, I would and should have to dig up those figures.  I’d need examples to further strengthen the essay.

If schools require their students to handwrite essays, how do you do it?  Do you accept short work that can be completed during class time?  Some very bright students need or would want extra time to think about their arguments while other students couldn’t care less. The latter would only want to finish and leave class.

An alternative would be to allow students to use their computers unconnected to the internet as suggested in the Washington Post article.  But the ability to type quickly and accurately seems little different from the challenges of cursive or hand printing. 

I could offer other possible alternatives.  But, you know what?  I’m retired.  I don’t have to worry about this. And am content to let contemporary teachers and professor wrestle with the problem.

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