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Teachers Turn to Pen and Paper Amid AI Cheating Fears, Survey Finds

by Staff

The handwritten essay is making a comeback, even as more schools than ever issue a digital device to every student.

The trend is spurred by the rise of artificial intelligence tools that students can use easily to write essays for them, according to a survey of 228 high school and college teachers conducted last month by the research organization intelligent.com.

About two-thirds of high school teachers and college instructors, 66 percent, are rethinking their assignments in response to concerns that students will cheat using ChatGPT, an AI writing tool that can spit out an essay on the causes of the American Revolution—and just about any other topic—that sounds eerily humanlike.

Of the educators changing their approach, more than three-quarters—76 percent—are requiring or plan to require handwritten assignments. Sixty-five percent have students type assignments in class with no Wi-Fi access or plan to do so, and 87 percent have or will have students complete an oral presentation along with their written work.

Those findings jibe with those from an EdWeek Research Center survey conducted last spring, in which more than 40 percent of educators said students should complete math work using pencil and paper so they can’t cheat using AI-powered tools like Photomath or Symbolab.

Turning temporarily back to old-fashioned pen and paper in the face of a major technological leap may seem counterintuitive.

But it “is a good way for teachers to be able to put a pause on the change” that will stem from AI, giving policymakers, states, districts, and professional organizations time to come up with thoughtful guidance on using the technology responsibly, said Leigh Ann DeLyser, the executive director and co-founder of CSforALL, a nonprofit organization that seeks to expand computer science education.

“I think a lot of schools and teachers are reacting in the moment to adjust to the impact of AI within their communities, while [leaders] figure out best practices,” DeLyser said. “I would imagine a majority of the teachers in the United States feel unprepared to make up that answer themselves.”

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