In a previous article, I suggested how teachers could discourage students from using AI tools, such as ChatGPT, to do their schoolwork for them. Many educators think that the use of such tools constitutes cheating because students are not doing their work. But before coming down too hard on students for taking advantage of technology that helps them do their school work more quickly and easily, teachers should examine their use of technology and evaluate if they are using it ethically.
Teachers are busy and often spend hours outside of the classroom preparing lessons and grading assignments. Some teachers, in order to get their work done more quickly and easily, are using ChatGPT to write lesson plans, create assignment rubrics, give assignment feedback to students, respond to emails, and compose letters of recommendation and to write journal articles or compose lectures and presentations.
It is unethical to copy from another source, such as ChatGPT, and claim it as your own. Disclosing or citing the incorporation of material generated by ChatGPT, or similar tools, might satisfy plagiarism concerns, but other issues remain. I previously wrote about the requirement for online higher education teachers to engage in regular and substantive interaction with students. If teachers use AI to give assignment feedback or reply to students in an online discussion forum, then they are not interacting with students; the bots are. The purpose of the regular and substantive interaction requirement is so that teachers will be personally engaging with students.
Another factor for teachers to consider, which touches on both ethical and legal issues, is that if an AI tool produced the material, then they cannot claim authorship or copyright ownership. It is unethical to make it appear as though material was human-created or authored if it was, instead, produced by AI tools. In addition, people do not have legal copyright ownership of material created by AI. Current copyright law states that people own the copyright on their original works of authorship fixed in tangible form, and the United States Copyright Office has specified that AI-generated material does not qualify for copyright registration because it is not a product of human authorship.
Although there are ethical and legal considerations with using certain technology, that does not mean that every use of technology in education is problematic. However, advances in technology and its increasing use by teachers in and outside of classrooms means that there is a need for ongoing examination and evaluation of their ethical use.
• If students are prohibited from using tools, such as ChatGPT, to do their school work, then perhaps teachers should not use it to do their teaching work.
• If AI is used to produce work, then that use should be disclosed and cited. Failure to do so constitutes plagiarism.
• If AI created it, it is not human-authored and, thus, not under copyright protection and not eligible for someone to claim authorship or ownership.
• If teachers are using ChatGPT, or similar tools, to do their work, then they should make sure such use accords with educational policies. Some businesses are prohibiting employees from using AI to do their work, and publishers are changing their submission policies or no longer accepting submissions, even if authors disclose that they used AI tools. Teachers need to continually review their use of technology by the light of educational, institutional, or organizational policies under which they are working.