The rise of ChatGPT in schools, businesses

At the forefront of an evolving artificial intelligence landscape, ChatGPT has taken the tech world by storm. 

The chatbot quietly debuted four months ago but quickly positioned itself as a leader in the world of artificial intelligence bots.

The language processing tool was rolled out by OpenAI, giving users the ability to have human-like conversations with a bot. 

"The technology itself is not new," said Ted Underwood, professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs with the University of Illinois’ School of Information Sciences. "But this version of the technology is much easier to use and it’s free and that’s why everyone is talking about it."

Between complex problem-solving, creating to-do lists, writing stories, and telling jokes, Underwood said ChatGPT is more realistic than other chatbot models that never took off.

"It’s created quite a stir," said Underwood.

For example, the system can generate emails, messages, and captions.

"There are also ways of making money with this that do probably involve replacing human beings who are doing simple tasks with writing that could be automated," said Underwood. "We should all think carefully about whether companies are really improving the service they provide when they do that."

In addition to businesses, the chatbot has found its way into schools.


"Some professors, some teachers are encouraging their students to explore the model and see what it can do," said Underwood.

That's the case in Diego Marin's 8th grade classroom at Old Orchard Junior High School, where the math teacher said he has seen a positive change since he introduced the bot last December.

"I think this has helped kids ask better questions…not just saying, ‘I don’t get it,’ but what specifically don’t you get," said Marin.

Marin said he encourages his students to use ChatGPT as a resource, but warns the bot’s math needs work.

"From the math end, it’s not 100 percent accurate," said Marin.

And because students are on their own during tests and quizzes, Marin said they still need to learn how to solve problems without it.

"I think it’s really revolutionary and it can change a lot of people’s lives in a positive way," said Shaan Amin, an 8th-grade student.

Marin has even taken to TikTok to share with his 1.4 million followers how the chatbot can benefit classrooms.

"ChatGPT for myself has just really accelerated a process that we’ve already been working on as teachers, which is providing rich tasks for kids to work on," said Marin.

According to a nationwide survey conducted earlier this year by the Walton Family Foundation, 51 percent of K-12 teachers reported using ChatGPT. Meanwhile, the majority of teachers and students surveyed agreed that the bot will be a tool for success in college and the workplace. 

However, a growing list of school districts have already banned the program or blocked access, citing inaccuracies and potential for plagiarism, including the New York City Department of Education and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"It’s very plausible and eloquent, but it doesn’t check to see whether everything it says is true," said Underwood. "There is also a concern of course that students may rely on the model in ways that don’t really help them learn."

Underwood said he anticipates several years’ worth of debate over if, how, and at what age the chatbot should be used in schools.

"This is going to be a challenge, both for students and for all of us, because it’s potentially a tool that helps us do things better – write more concisely; it also potentially is a threat, it could replace workers, that’s not necessarily good," said Underwood.

Recently, the system became even smarter with the launch of GPT4 – a newer version of the bot that boasts a more "powerful, accurate, and sophisticated" system.

Amid the company's success with ChatGPT, Microsoft released its own chatbot through its Bing search engine, and just last week, Google unveiled Bard – an experimental AI tool that is currently being tested by a limited number of users.