Asheville, Buncombe schools discuss ChatGPT as school year starts; What are policies?

A digital graphic that says Chat GPT floats above a laptop computer.
A digital graphic that says Chat GPT floats above a laptop computer.

ASHEVILLE- Instead of banning the latest artificial intelligence technology, local Asheville schools are stepping into the new wave of tech and learning how ChatGPT can be helpful inside the classroom.

Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer, commonly known as ChatGPT, launched in November of last year. It's a large language model-based chatbot that was developed by OpenAI. This new technology provides human-like responses to questions. Users can put essay prompts, homework questions and ask the technology to spit out cover letters when applying to specific jobs — and it's as easy as creating a free account on OpenAI.

Marietta Cameron, dean of natural sciences and professor of computer science at UNC Asheville suggests that teachers use ChatGPT as a tool in the classroom.

"When people are going through the process of getting a job, they go and find examples of templates of cover letters, and example templates of resumes," Cameron told the Citizen Times Aug 16, explaining how using ChatGPT isn't that much different than what we've already been doing.

"People use a word processor because it helps correct misspellings. The same thing with calculators that could do derivatives. Mathematicians figured out a way of how to incorporate that into student learning. So, there's a similar idea here."

Marietta Cameron, professor of computer science and dean of natural sciences at UNC Asheville, who is an expert in artificial intelligence.
Marietta Cameron, professor of computer science and dean of natural sciences at UNC Asheville, who is an expert in artificial intelligence.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology said that AI can aid educators in the classroom. The Office of Education Technology put together a handout about AI and the future of teaching and learning with it.

On this handout, the department listed up to seven recommendations for educational leaders on how to implement and use new technology.

One of the recommendations is to inform and involve educators: "Now is the time to show the respect and value we hold for educators by informing and involving them in every step of the process of designing, developing, testing, improving, adopting, and managing AI-enabled educational technology," the handout said.

The handout also suggested that AI can support students in the classroom by providing feedback and working with a student's strengths while also working around any obstacles the student may have.

Since ChatGPT is so new and is always adapting and changing, universities in North Carolina don't seem to have a specific policy on it — leaving it up to individual professors to decide.

Cameron said that UNC Asheville is responding to this new technology by hosting workshops on ChatGPT and how to use it in the classroom, as well as learning circles where faculty can express their concerns and share their ideas.

"I think we have a larger discussion to really get involved in on how we are using these technologies, to make decisions about people and make decisions for ourselves, and how it's affecting all of us and how we should be the leaders," Camerson said.

"We can be educating the broader community about the technologies. We can learn about them and how they can be used and how they can be misused."

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ChatGPT impacts on K-12

ChatGPT isn't just being talked about in higher education, but also in K-12 classrooms.

Asheville City Schools has an AI advisory team, which is engaging in conversations about the impact of AI on teaching and learning and includes how instruction will change with the availability of generative AI. ACS will continue to address academic integrity and ethical concerns surrounding new technology, according to city school's spokesperson Dillon Huffman

"We are responsible for preparing students to become productive adults. This includes helping them learn to use technology tools ethically, effectively, and efficiently. We need to make sure students can write well in the ways that adults write, which means both with and without the support of technologies like spell check, word prediction, and generative AI," Huffman told the Citizen Times in an Aug. 16 email.

Not only can this tool be used to support educators and teachers in the classroom, but Cameron said it can also be used to help with equity.

"We already have people who are privileged to cheat. Why are we worried now that more people will have access to something similar? The thing to do and to realize is that this is a tool that could be helpful and teach students early in middle school on how to use the tool appropriately and effectively," Cameron said.

Rob Jackson, superintendent of Buncombe County Schools told the Citizen Times Aug. 16 that it's the schools' responsibility to help students understand how to use ChatGPT in an authentic way.

"Historically, in education, we've always had some worry about students' work being their authentic work. We're going back to when they first put erasers on pencils and teachers worried kids can erase their answer and maybe copy each other's answer. And then when cell phones first came out, and then when smartphones came out and each time, educators embraced this new reality for our students and families," Jackson said.

BCS has a student integrity policy that prohibits behavior such as "plagiarizing, including copying the language, structure, idea and/or thought of another person or of a work produced by artificial intelligence and representing it as one’s own original work."

Jackson told the Citizen Times that as of yet, he hasn't heard any major concerns from teachers about the new technology, and that BCS will continue to grow and learn together as needed.

A study done by the Pew Research Center this year says 58% of U.S. adults are familiar with ChatGPT but only 14% of them have used it. The study showed that young adults who have heard of the new AI technology are more likely than their older counterparts to use ChatGPT. After being launched in late November it exceeded a million users over its first week.

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McKenna Leavens is the education reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at or follow her on Twitter @LeavensMcKennna. Please support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Asheville Buncombe schools to use ChatGPT to help students teachers