David Williamson Shaffer offers insight on ethics, role of artificial intelligence in classrooms

School of Education faculty member David Williamson Shaffer recently offered his expertise on artificial intelligence in the classroom to a news story aired on WAOW-TV in Wausau. 

David Williamson Shaffer

Shaffer is the Sears Bascom Professor of Learning Analytics and the Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Learning Sciences in the Department of Educational Psychology at the UW–Madison School of Education and a Data Philosopher at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research.

In the story, Shaffer explains the telltale signs of a student using an artificial intelligence tool like ChatGPT for a classroom assignment. 

“What you’ll find is that it quickly starts to sound like an undergraduate who skimmed the reading and is trying to fake their way through class,” Shaffer said of artificial intelligence. “It has the tendency to make things up when it doesn’t know the answer.”

Shaffer also pointed out some benefits of using artificial intelligence in school settings. 

“We’re able to get feedback faster, we’re able to calculate faster, we’re able to do things more quickly,” Shaffer said. “That moves us further along our learning path sooner.”

Shaffer also encouraged educators, parents, and students to seek a deeper understanding of how the technology works — including its ethical limitations.

“I guess the bottom line is, ultimately what students need to learn is how to use these tools thoughtfully,” Shaffer said. “That includes considerations of bias, fairness, how much energy it consumes, whether it’s accurate and so on.”

Earlier this year, Shaffer published an op-ed in Newsweek about the effect of ChatGPT on classrooms. He has been quoted in several media stories on the subject in recent months.

Read the entire WAOW story here.

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