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Encore: A new tool helps teachers detect if AI wrote an assignment

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

ChatGPT is a buzzy new AI technology that can write research papers or poems that come out sounding like a real person did the work. Some teachers are understandably concerned, but one student has an idea on how to help. Janet Woojeong Lee, from NPR's Education Desk, reports.

JANET WOOJEONG LEE, BYLINE: Teachers around the country don't know what to do. Since ChatGPT launched in November, many say they're worried this powerful technology could do their students' homework. Some school districts, including New York City and Los Angeles, have blocked access. But Edward Tian thinks that's the wrong way to go.

EDWARD TIAN: I'm not for these blanket bans on ChatGPT usage because that does really nothing. Students can get around it, just like you can use ChatGPT on your Wi-Fi at home.

LEE: Tian is a 22-year-old computer science student at Princeton University. Just a month after ChatGPT got teachers worried, he built a bot to help them. It's called GPTZero. You can copy and paste any text, and it'll analyze each sentence, each word and judge how likely it is that a real person or a fake person wrote it.

TIAN: And teachers can, you know, make their own decision of, like, wow, this essay is, like, 100% ChatGPT written, or this essay is, like, uses ChatGPT where it really made sense to help influence thought. That works. Teachers can make their own informed decisions.

LEE: Tian says having a handle on what is and isn't written by AI, down to the percentage of an essay, could help teachers who are intimidated by this new technology feel more in charge. There are other AI detection tools out there, too. Tian wrote his as a winter break passion project. He shared it on Twitter and was surprised to hear quickly from many teachers and even college officials who wanted to learn more.

TIAN: My own high school principal reached out. My own high school English teacher, Ms. Studka, reached out, and admissions officers have reached out saying they're interested.

LEE: Tian is now building a community of educators and students who want to figure out what to do with AI in the classroom. He believes instead of cheating, AI might be able to help teach and learn responsibly.

TIAN: Responsibly means somewhere in the middle. It can't be, like, students don't write any homework and don't do any homework anymore. But it also can't be, like, OK, we completely can't use these new technologies and are just ignoring them. So it has to be somewhere in the middle.

LEE: Students should learn how to use AI to their benefit, Tian says, because the technology is here to stay.

Janet Woojeong Lee, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Janet W. Lee