4 Ethical Ways to Use AI For School

The rapid rise of AI leaves us with more questions than answers about how it will impact the world moving forward, but there are some things we know for certain…

  • Firstly, like most things in this world, AI can be used for good or it can be used for bad. Whether we’re talking about using AI to entertain and make funny song parodies, or we’re talking about bad actors using AI to trick people or manipulate them, there’s no denying that this magical tool can be used in a positive way or a negative way. That’s obvious!
  • Secondly, we can all agree that AI will have a huge impact when it comes to all levels of school, from elementary school all the way up to people who are working on their Master’s degrees.

Now, the first thought some people have when it comes to AI and school (especially when it comes to large language AI models that can write pretty solid articles, essays, etc) is that this could be a huge issue when it comes to plagiarism and cheating. That’s a valid concern, and it’s also very concerning when we take into account that many of the “AI detector” tools, who sell themselves as being able to detect AI-written content, are not very accurate. So, there will undoubtedly be many students using AI to cheat on their homework and projects, but there will also be many students who are accused of using AI for their work even if they didn’t use it. It’s going to get messy!

Naturally, the negative and unethical ways to use AI for schoolwork are quite apparent (and we’ll discuss those more at the end), but it would be foolish to let those negatives completely overshadow the positive ways that AI can be used for school in an ethical and helpful way.

So, with that in mind, I wanted to go over some of the ethical and helpful uses of AI that shouldn’t run afoul of any rules at most schools. Now, keep in mind that specific courses and schools may have their own AI guidelines. For instance, some universities simply require that a student discloses how they used AI for their work, and that the student remains within certain guidelines.

Plagiarism And AI at School

Plagiarism is plagiarism, whether you’re taking your work from another writer or from an AI, so that’s something that is important to remember. When you use AI prompts to generate a response, you didn’t write that response, so you can’t pass that off as your own work, as if you had just written it normally.

But there are still many different ways that AI can help you learn, study, and understand all sorts of concepts across every subject, so let’s talk about those instead of focusing on the negatives!

How To Use AI Ethically for School (College, University, High School…)

using ai for math homework

1. Help With Math Homework

Math is a subject where the answer, at least in earlier school years, is often simply a number. It’s very easy to share and copy answers for math homework, but teachers solved this ages ago by requiring students to show their work. This makes it a bit harder to copy another student’s answer, but you could still copy the part where they show their work. The issue here is that if anyone makes even a small error that gets replicated, it’s pretty easy to tell whose cheating. Also, if called upon to explain the work, a student who simply copied it will have a tough time explaining the mathematical concepts or how they arrived at their answers.

With AI, if you give any of the major models a math problem, they’ll be able to do a decent job at solving the problem for you – especially, once again – in earlier years of school but even more advanced problems are something that AI tends to do quite well at currently. AI may struggle with counting, oddly enough (since it can do complex math problems), for instance if you ask it to count syllables in a sentence – however it should breeze through many types of mathematical calculations and problem-solving if you present the prompt correctly.

Not only can they solve the problems, you can ask the AI to shows its work and explain it to you, too.

I always had a hard time trying to do math homework, I just wasn’t great at math, and once you fall behind a bit, it can be really tough to catch back up. I wish there were AI tools when I was taking math in school, not because they could simply tell me the answers (Actually, at the time? I probably would have been fine with that, to be totally honest), but in hindsight it would have been great to use AI to help me actually learn the material. I could have asked it to explain math problems to me, and I could have had a dialogue that I could have shaped to further guide my understanding in math. It would be like having a personal math tutor who was always there to help, and can explain things in 100 different ways until it finally clicks.

Even though you can get the AI to show its work, but it’s important that you actually understand how to do it, too. Don’t just use AI to do all of your homework for you, instead you can use it as a learning tool to help you understand and grasp the concepts so that you can do the homework yourself with ease.

4. For Helping With Essays and Papers

You need to be careful with this one!

AI can do a great job of writing about a number of different topics, but it can struggle in other areas. Also, you don’t want to tell it to write your paper and then just copy/paste it over, because that’s plagiarism. Yes, you can plagiarise an AI model, even if you’re the one who gave it the prompt. It’s taking credit for work you didn’t do, and that can be a problem.

Having said that, there are still a number of useful ways that you can use AI to help you with writing essays and papers, blog posts, letters, and plenty of other things, too.

The way to use AI to help write your paper in an ethnical way would be to use it for planning, brainstorming, to bounce ideas back and forth, and the like. You could ask it to give you a bulleted-list of ideas or things that you should include in your paper, and then you can write those things out in your own words.

If you want to make extra-sure that you aren’t plagiarizing, make sure to ask the prompt for concise responses, not to use complete sentences, and similar requests. This way, you aren’t just trying to sit there and re-write stuff that the AI model wrote in your own words, because you’re stopping it from writing out complete sentences in the first place, so you can’t inadvertently neglect to re-phrase or re-write things enough for it to be your own unique work.

This safety-rail will allow you to use AI to help with the planning and drafting process, without having to worry about using it in an unethical way. There’s nothing wrong with using an AI to help write your paper in general, the problem is if you’re using it to actually write the final version – but there are many steps in writing a paper, and AI can certainly help with many of them.

Research is another area where AI can really shine, but if it’s a more niche or obscure or uncharted topic, just be very mindful to double-check any facts it gives you because AI are still prone to hallucinate and confidently produce completely incorrect info.

3. Planning and Managing Your Life

A great way that AI can help a busy student is by planning and managing their schedule, commitments, and so on. Using AI as a tool to help you manage your time and solve problems can be very beneficial, and is entirely ethical and won’t cause you to run afoul of any of your school’s ethics policies (as long as you aren’t doing anything nefarious with the AI, of course!)

I’ve used AI to help me some up with a daily schedule, or to help with time-blocking my optimizing my schedule and routines around which times of day I feel most productive. A simple conversation with any of the major AI language models will give you some helpful insights.

A useful trick I like to use is to ask the AI to ask me questions that would allow it to help me with planning or managing something, like “What would be 5 useful questions you could ask me about XYZ, where the answers would help you to help me plan such and such?” That type of prompt allows you to let the AI tell you exactly what it needs to know in order to help you.

4. Guidance and Advice

Some of the biggest challenges that students face is all of the stuff that’s adjacent to school outside of the actual school work itself. Things like extra curricular activities, figuring out how to apply for scholarships, helping you work through personal issues or challenges, and a lot more…

AI can be great when it comes to giving you a different perspective, even if its responses tend to be very “safe”. It can be a good way to gauge what the “normal” response or action would be in certain circumstances, or to be used as a sanity check. If you need advice on something, AI can generally guide you in the right direction, especially if you use a more complex prompt with a lot of details and instructions.

Unethical Use of AI For School

We’ve talked about the ethnical ways to use AI for school. It might be worth considering that different people will have different morals and ethics, but when we talk about ethical and unethical in this context, we’re generally referring to what the school allows and what they prohibit in terms of AI usage.

You, personally, might not see any ethical issues with coming up with prompts that lead an AI to write a perfect school paper for you, or to do all of your math homework, but your school certainly will.

It’s entirely possible to plagiarise AI, and it’s easier to do than you think. There’s a misconception that if you feed the AI the prompts yourself, then the output is your unique work, but it’s not really, not in terms of passing it off as your own writing, at least.

If you need help with school work, it’s better to use the AI as a learning tool – this is completely ethical and fine, and not something that could land you in hot water if you aren’t passing off the AI’s output as your own work.

Also, as quick as we are to talk about AI replacing many long-standing professions in our world, there’s still something to be said about having a human to help you with your school work. While an AI can help in many ways, notable by being available at all hours and at little to no cost, they still have a long way to go before they’ll be able to replace the hands-on help of a great teacher or tutor, or a caring guidance counsellor with all of their years of experience and expertise.

As powerful as AI can be at helping with your school, it’s also going to get better and better at detecting itself, so if you’re thinking of using AI to write your schoolwork for you or to do other homework for you, even if you get away with it right now, it could come back to bite you later on.

On the other hand, if you use AI in ethical ways to HELP you, instead of to do the work for you, then you’ll be taking advantage of the cutting-edge of technology in a perfectly ethical way and gaining a big leg-up over people who are using AI to cheat, because they won’t understand the work, and you will, and that’s going to be worth it.

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About the Author

Ken Jayes is a lifelong tech enthusiast. He's the guy who family and friends call when their tech isn't working. With his role as the main contributor to RSSCloud.org, Ken is now your tech guy, too.