Why New York City Public Schools reversed its ban on ChatGPT

The move comes at a time when school districts are still split on whether or not to embrace the technology over fears that it will dissolve students' academic integrity.

In January, the nation’s largest school system New York City Public Schools restricted access to OpenAI’s ChatGPT for students and teachers using school-issued devices and internet networks. Just four months later, that rule has been scrapped as educators are now eager to “embrace its potential.”

The announcement came Thursday in an op-ed from Chancellor of New York City Public Schools David Banks on ChalkbeatWhile their initial decision to ban the technology was justified, he writes, “It has now evolved into an exploration and careful examination of this new technology’s power and risks.”

“Naturally, our best-laid plans are sometimes disrupted by the advance of technology and innovation,” he notes.

Now, the school system is encouraging its educators and students to learn and explore this “game-changing technology” and share those experiences across their schools. In addition, they’re supporting teachers by giving them resources and real-life case studies of AI implementation in schools to “improve administrative tasks, communication and teaching,” the op-ed reads.

“We will also offer a toolkit of resources for educators to use as they initiate discussions and lessons about AI in their classrooms. We’ll continue to gather information from experts in our schools and the field of AI to further assist all our schools in using AI tools effectively.”

Other school districts, however, remain locked in on their decision to ban the chatbot. Seattle Public Schools made its decision in December to encourage “original thought and original work” among students, SPS Spokesperson Tim Robinson told Axios. But some see such restrictions as a losing battle.

“Banning ChatGPT is like using a piece of paper to block this flood that is coming,” University of Washington Professor Jason Yip told The Seattle Times. Although students don’t have access to it on district-owned devices or its network, they have unlimited access at home, which they can leverage to email themselves the answers, The Seattle Times adds.

Similar to NYC’s approach, SPS leaders anticipate that they will revisit the issue in the coming months.

“This is all so new that the digital team at the district is talking about it constantly,” Robinson told The Seattle Times. “There is nothing set in stone. I think the directive will be modulated here in the future.”

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Other districts have already embraced it, and they have been for some time. Manor Independent School District in Texas is helping students understand how to leverage generative AI for learning.

“Our energy doesn’t need to be focused in trying to stay ahead of what the kids can find on their own devices anyway or at home anyway,” Manor New Tech High School Teacher Samantha Miller told KVUEShe said the district isn’t worried about cheating because of their teaching methods.

“You have to present things [using] oral communication, [showing] your ability to speak clearly and concisely in an engaging manner,” she said. “That’s not something ChatGPT can do for you.”

In Ohio, Alliance City School District Superintendent told The Repository in April the district’s plans to incorporate ChatGPT in its classrooms.

“We can’t stop the hands of time. It’s going to be here,” he said. “Our students are going to use it in the workplace someday. Why not teach them how to use it?”

Micah Ward
Micah Wardhttps://districtadministration.com
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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