ChatGPT: AI and the Death of Homework

The concept of homework has been the subject of intense debate for over a century. Not only have parents, students, educators, politicians, and pundits debated the amount of homework that should be assigned, the difficulty level of homework, and the value of homework, but more importantly, whether or not homework should even be a thing that students experience. It is now becoming more and more clear, however, that the time for debate is coming to a close. The rise of certain online tools has rung the death knell for homework as we know it. Homework is soon to be a thing of the past.

The Release of ChatGPT

On the last day of November, 2022, a company called OpenAI released a new product that they call ChatGPT. OpenAI is an artificial intelligence research and development company, and ChatGPT is a “bot” that uses artificial intelligence to respond to human inquiry in a way that feels normal and natural. So natural, in fact, that it should be impossible to tell that you, a human, is interacting with a machine. According to the OpenAI website, ChatGPT can answer your questions, learn from your replies, admit its mistakes, and correct itself.

Already, only days after its release, students are using ChatGPT to help them do their homework. Rather than do the work to find information in a book, through a study group, by asking a teacher, or investigating on the internet, students can just type a question into ChatGPT’s interface and get a well-written, factual answer. No learning necessary.

Artificial Intelligence and Its Role in Homework

How will teachers know if students are completing homework by putting in the work or by letting ChatGPT do all of the heavy intellectual lifting? If ChatGPT has the correct answers, and the responses are grammatically correct and written in a style indistinguishable from real human writing, then teachers cannot know.

For now, though, the worse problem is that ChatGPT does not have all of the correct answers. Recently, technology pundit Ben Thompson recounted the story of helping his daughter with her history homework on his professional blog Stratechery. While preparing for the role of seventeenth century philosopher Thomas Hobbes in a class reading of “The Trial of Napoleon”, she asked her father if Hobbes believed in the concept of separation of powers. He decided to ask ChatGPT rather than visit multiple websites to uncover the answer. ChatGPT provided a very detailed, well-reasoned, and well-written response. The problem was, ChatGPT was completely wrong.

The bot would have gotten that unsuspecting student an F on her homework, had this been a homework assignment instead of character research. Whether that is better or worse than the bot feeding a student a correct answer is for you to decide.

I, instead, will offer this suggestion to teachers and school administrators: stop relying on homework. The debate is over. Doctors do now perform surgeries on their dining room tables after work. Electricians do not fix other people’s wiring in their bedrooms on the weekends. Students should no longer have to do school work at home after school. Lengthen the school day, while providing more recesses and breaks, and have students complete their work in school. Homework is unnecessary and, often, punitive. It is also now unreliable. Homework is finally dead.

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