Can ChatGPT Pass for a Student’s Work?

By Morgan Jay ’25

Recently there’s been a lot of talk about Open AI’s new chatbot, ChatGPT. Students and professionals alike have been testing its power in their everyday writing tasks. For example, Dr. Jeremy Faust, who writes a medical newsletter, instructed ChatGPT to write an ER medical chart for a patient after providing eight short sentences about their status. He described the result as “eerily good” and “on point,” a testament to the bot’s power. I thought it might be interesting to try this out at Woodberry, but on an essay rather than a patient chart.

First, I wanted to play around with it. I asked ChatGPT to write a letter to Dr. Hulsey asking for permission to use the bot, which is currently not allowed for academic work at Woodberry without a teacher’s permission. It produced the following:

Dear Dr. Hulsey,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to request permission to use the language model, ChatGPT, for an upcoming English assignment assigned by Mr. Wright. I have been using it in my studies and have found it to be a valuable tool for improving my writing and understanding of language. My purpose of using this tool is to test its capabilities and write an article about my experience with it for the school’s newspaper: The Woodberry Oracle. I understand the concerns that have been raised about the use of AI in education, but I believe that ChatGPT can be used responsibly and ethically. It can help me improve my writing skills, and I can also share my observations and insights about the tool with my peers. I would be more than happy to provide you with any additional information or demonstrations of how I plan to use ChatGPT for this assignment. I would also be willing to sign any agreements or contracts outlining the responsible use of the technology.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Morgan Jay

For something written in 20 seconds, it’s really good. Rather than actually showing the letter to Headmaster Dr. Byron Hulsey, I asked Dean of Third and Fourth Forms Mr. Frazier Stowers and Dean of Students Dr. Ansel Sanders if I would be allowed to submit a ChatGPT essay to see if my English Teacher, Mr. Charlie Wright, noticed. Both were against it, citing Woodberry’s honor system; however, they did agree to ChatGPT’s use on the condition that I turn in two essays and ask Mr. Wright to differentiate between the two.

The assignment was to write a character sketch of a recluse, misfit, or outsider, while using ten “pancake-participles,” named after renowned author Ann Pancake, who visited Woodberry this past month and served as our 2022-2023 writer-in-residence. I pasted the prompt into ChatGPT and watched the bot write.

In its first go around, ChatGPT used the first example pancake-participle that Mr. Wright provided as the basis for the entire story. I directed it to rewrite with a different focus, and it obliged. I pasted the new essay into a Google Doc and made some minor stylistic fixes, probably consuming two or three minutes of my time.

And there I had it, a completed two-page essay, done in mere seconds. I hastily wrote my own version and turned them both in to Mr. Wright. In the time it took for the class to file in, Mr. Wright spotted the ChatGPT-written essay, describing it as “impersonal” and additionally noting that the bot had forgotten to add dialogue.

Still, I found the writing to be pretty creative; you can see the full story at the end of this article.

It was easy for Mr. Wright to pick out the bot-written essay when looking for it, but I held out hope that ChatGPT would earn itself an A or A-. Tragically for both ChatGPT and me, Mr. Wright brought our essays to the chopping block, earning us a B- and B, respectively. The principal issue Mr. Wright raised was the lack of dialogue and the clear lack of real-life inspiration, given that this assignment was fundamentally personal. Still, he complimented sections of the writing, which leads me to the conclusion that ChatGPT might still be a successful tool for use in other forms of writing.

In the end, I’d characterize the website as good but better used for factual writing rather than the type of assignment I asked it to answer. That said, it’s certainly creative and powerful, and I’m interested to see how it develops.

The Rain-Dogged Hermit of Hollow Hill

Hollow Hill was a place of mystery and fear, a place where the rain pelted down mercilessly and the mud seemed to suck at your boots, but for one man, it was home. 

The hermit of Hollow Hill was a strange and solitary figure. He was a small, wiry man, with hoof-puddled skin and a head of matted, unkempt hair. He walked with a potbellied gait, his home-canned left foot dragging behind him. His clothing was ragged and stained, seldom-washed from years of living in the wild, and his hands were rough and calloused, like they had been worked over by a lifetime of hard labor.

He was a misfit and an outsider, a man who had chosen to live alone in the wild, away from the judgmental eyes of society. He had a reputation for being a little-boned, barrel-bellied old coot, who talked to himself in a foul-mouthed way, but in reality, he was a kind and gentle soul. His soft-spoken voice sounded like wind-driven whispers, and his manner of speech was slow and measured, as if he was always choosing his words carefully. He had a deep-rutted wisdom that came from years of living alone in the wild, and he was known to help lost travelers and animals that were injured. He was rain-dogged, but not in a bad way, just that he had seen things, seen things that no one else had.

People would often see him wandering the woods, his vine-swallowed frame bent over as he searched for wild berries, or sitting by the river, his silt-colored eyes fixed on the water as he fished. He moved with a slow, deliberate grace, as if he was in tune with the rhythms of the earth. He had strange habits, such as his hunger-doped binges on wild berries and the rust-bitten collection of trinkets and treasures that he hoarded in his ramshackle cabin, but it was all part of his eccentric personality.

Despite his kindness and wisdom, the hermit was also a deeply private and reclusive person, who shunned the company of others. He was a man who had been hurt by the world, a man who had retreated into the wild to heal his wounds. His mind was like a tangled-up knot, and he rarely shared his thoughts or feelings with anyone. But those who were lucky enough to spend some time with him knew that he was a man of great wisdom and insight, who had a unique perspective on life and the world.

The people of the nearby village would often speak of the hermit of Hollow Hill in hushed tones, telling tales of his strange and rain-dogged ways, but they also knew that he was a good man, a man who lived in harmony with nature, and a man who was at peace with himself. Some would even say that he had a special connection with the rain, that it seemed to follow him wherever he went, as if it was a companion that he had made peace with.

In the end, the hermit of Hollow Hill was a rain-dogged shadow of a man, feared and revered in equal measure, but always alone, content in the company of the rain and the wild. The hermit’s passing marked the end of an era, and his memory lived on in the hearts of those who had known him, a reminder of the power of nature and the strength of the human spirit. His cabin, now abandoned, still stands on the top of Hollow Hill, a testament to the man who had chosen to live his life on his own terms, in harmony with the rain and the wild.

Categories: Today

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