It has been just over a year since Open AI first released the infamous text-based chatbot ChatGPT. It has quickly established itself as a technology with an increasingly central relevance to our society, and we have begun to feel the presence of AI in many disparate corners of life, from healthcare to entertainment to the professional world. Unsurprisingly, generative AI’s enticing promise of instant and infinite production elicited increased use by CA students throughout the first semester of the 2023-24 academic year. As society as a whole engages in intense dialogue regarding AI’s role in our world, conversations about AI at Concord Academy education have also become necessary.

Visual art and computer science teacher Ben Stumf has had to get creative with his response to potential AI abuse in his graphic design class. He recognizes just how tempting students may find the use of AI image generators to be: “AI is magical!” he exclaimed in our conversation. Stumf compromised with his students, permitting one layer of their projects to include AI-generated images, but he asked that students personally complete the dozens of other layers. Ben was supportive of bringing generative AI into the classroom, explaining, “If we are not teaching you how to use this tool well, how can we expect you to enter a world that’s going to use it? We have to prepare you for what that world is going to look like.”

However, he stresses moderation in AI use. In a world with highly accessible AI, Ben thinks “desirable difficulty” is an important question to consider. Growth and learning are often facilitated by the struggle of the process, which AI completely eliminates. Ben and countless educators worldwide justifiably worry that students using AI to complete assignments will not enjoy its benefits. For now, Ben hopes his classroom policies will provide that crucial balance between teaching responsible AI use and requiring hard work.

Humanities teachers have also had to respond to AI-written work. History teacher Kim Fredrick has added an AI clause in her syllabus, permitting students to submit ChatGPT-facilitated work, but requiring that students disclose their use of AI. Elaborating on this policy, she explained, “I see AI as a source, and it needs to be cited as a source.”

While individual class policies have already cropped up around the school, larger plans are currently under work. Visual arts teacher Justin Bull and English teacher Andrew Stevens recently received Department X funding for the upcoming semester to research and evaluate how we as a school might best respond to generative AI. Department X is a unique CA initiative that provides faculty with resources to pursue interdisciplinary research in the realm of education. Justin admired the faculty response to the rise of AI. He says, “[It is a] classic case of CA curiosity rather than fear.” He classifies the conversation surrounding AI at the school as more focused on AI’s potential and philosophical implications rather than punitive measures. Justin is optimistic that after an initial infatuation, students will recognize that while AI seems like it can do anything, its products are uncomfortably synthetic. He is heartened by observations that students at CA sometimes disprove of AI use, citing a recent all-school email snow day chain where students discouraged each other from using ChatGPT to formulate their wintery poems. Justin and Andrew’s work will place greater focus on analyzing and designing curriculum rather than addressing plagiarism, and their research will consider whether it is a flaw within the curriculum that students feel as though they must resort to AI use, which is detrimental to learning, in order to save time. While it is still very early in the process, Justin hopes Department X will provide useful resources for CA faculty on how to grapple with AI in their classrooms.

Perhaps AI itself might synthesize these three perspectives:

In the ever-expanding realm of artificial intelligence within education, educators at Concord Academy, such as Ben, Kim, and Justin, find themselves at the intersection of embracing technological advancements and preserving the intrinsic value of human effort. As AI's allure grows, inspiring both fascination and caution, the delicate balance between incorporating its capabilities and upholding the essence of human learning becomes a central theme in the educational discourse. This conclusion was brought to you by ChatGPT.