GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — It’s a hot topic of discussion lately, artificial intelligence in the classrooms.

How can it automate tasks like grading assignments and offering personalized learning? Also, the ethics surrounding it like privacy with students’ data and accountability.

Officials with East Carolina University and Pitt County Schools say there’s a learning curve when it comes to artificial intelligence. It’s hard to make up-to-date policies for a program that’s constantly learning, growing and changing.

So what is artificial intelligence, or AI? Experts at East Carolina University say it’s technology thinking like humans.

“Whether that’s, you know, vision. Being able to recognize objects like humans do, in terms of speech to recognize words like humans do,” said ECU Computer Science professor Dr. Nic Herndon.

We asked Chat GTP the same question. It agreed. The simulation of human intelligence processes by computer systems.

So what is Chat GTP? Pitt County Schools officials say Chat GTP is a piece of AI technology.

“Chat GPT is a human-like tool that deals with language and processing, that allows you to have a conversation as if you’re talking to another human,” said Pitt County Schools Assistant Superintendent of Educational Programa and Services, Steve Lassiter.

It starts with a simple command. Write a paper about the American Revolution. Make a cubism painting of penguins surfing. The possibilities are vast. Ways to stop people from using it are not.

At Pitt County Schools, the school system is in the starting stages of figuring out how to bring it into the classroom.

“I think we’re going to work on embracing it,” said PCS District Learning Specialist Beth Madigan. “There was some initial shock of what was to come and now our teachers are embracing it and learning how can it help my teaching. How can I engage my students?

“We’re going to take it very slow and learn the systems and ethical uses before we push it out to our students.”

At ECU, officials there see how students and faculty could use it as a tool.

“It’s intimidating to stare at the blank page,” Herndon said. “So having, you know, even a draft a rough draft, that, OK, this is the idea for the essay, and then modify it, whether that’s with an AI tool, or just from the rough draft to modify it and create a final product.

“I think that’s going to be quite helpful. Same with the staff. For example, we have to write so many emails, and if we already have most of the emails written, and it’s just a matter of proofreading and modified to reflect the answers that we want to provide, that’s going to be quite beneficial.”

Policy for AI in classrooms is still in the works.

“Having conversations with our principals, conversations with our teachers, and then presenting a plan to our superintendent that he will then later take to the board so that we would share to the board, what our plan would be, and therefore they create the policy,” Lssister said.

ECU said their current policies already consider artificial intelligence.

“We do have a policy, that every piece of work that is turned in, you have to cite all your sources,” Herndon said. “So Chat GTP would be one of the sources. So, the current policy already covers. This is just up to the instructors to decide how to adjust their assignments to modify what they require from students.”

Is AI in the classroom ethical? We asked Chat GTP. It says there are concerns with data privacy. The technology relies on collecting student information to create personalized learning.

There are issues of equity. Not everybody has the same access to technology, especially at home. This could lead to a digital divide. One thing is certain, AI is here to stay.

“We use AI intelligence throughout our daily lives, things that we use, on our phones, on our devices on our computers,” Madigan said. “So it is our job as educators to educate our teachers and our students on how to use that in appropriate and responsible ways.”

“Artificial intelligence isn’t going away,” Lassiter said. “We’ve been using it for years. And we just want to make sure we stay on the cusp and not be fearful of it.”

“I think we might see a shift that we can embrace this technology and use it to basically unleash the creativity of the students and the technology, a combination of them,” Herndon said.

For Pitt County Schools, officials say the earliest people can expect policy about AI in classrooms is spring 2024.

East Carolina issued a statement about plagiarism and how that relates to the use of artificial intelligence.

“At this point, there are no changes to our Academic Integrity policies due to AI because plagiarism is already covered in our definition.

“2. Plagiarism: Copying the language, structure, ideas, and/or thoughts of another and adopting the same as one’s own original work. Examples of plagiarism include, but are not limited to: submitting a paper that has been purchased or downloaded from an essay writing service; directly quoting, word for word, from any source, including online sources, without indicating that the material comes directly from that source; omitting a citation to a source when paraphrasing or summarizing another’s work; submitting a paper written by another person as one’s own work (Faculty Manual Part 6 Section2).”