Classroom Technology

New York City Does About-Face on ChatGPT in Schools

By Alyson Klein — May 23, 2023 2 min read
Close up of teen holding a mobile device and wearing an apple watch with a large AI and hi tech motherboard pattern overlaid on top of photo.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The nation’s largest school district has had a change of heart when it comes to artificial intelligence.

New York City public schools was the most prominent school district in the country to ban ChatGPT, an AI-powered writing tool that can churn out an essay on Shakespeare’s Macbeth or a sonnet on birds that can sound uncannily like something a human produced.

Citing concerns about student cheating, the district blocked the tool shortly after it was released late last year and started being used by students and teachers. It placed ChatGPT on a list of restricted websites that also includes Netflix, Roblox, and YouTube. Other large districts, including Los Angeles, also blocked the site.

But last week, New York City’s chancellor, David C. Banks, said the district had been “caught off guard” initially by the technology. Now, he’s encouraging schools to use ChatGPT and other AI tools to help students explore the technology, including its potential, drawbacks, and impact on society.

“The knee-jerk fear and risk overlooked the potential of generative AI to support students and teachers, as well as the reality that our students are participating in and will work in a world where understanding generative AI is crucial,” Banks wrote in a first-person piece published May 18 by Chalkbeat New York. “Like many others, we had much to learn about the promise and perils of AI in our schools and communities. We have embarked on this journey and are eager to proceed hand-in-hand with our community—knowing that other districts will be looking to New York City schools for guidance.”

Banks and his team saw how some New York City teachers at a Queens middle school used ChatGPT to debate the ethical implications of AI and to investigate possible pitfalls, including researching the accuracy of the tool’s responses. Teachers at the school also used the tool for lesson planning.

The district now plans to offer teachers support in helping their students explore ChatGPT and other AI tools, Banks wrote.

It is not clear if the district will continue to restrict ChatGPT in some form. Education Week sought clarification in an email to the New York City department of education but has not received a response as of press time.

‘I can help you use these tools’

The district’s plan to encourage the use of ChatGPT as an AI teaching tool is a welcome change from an all-out ban, said Leigh Ann DeLyser, the executive director and co-founder of CSforAll, a nonprofit that seeks to promote computer science education.

Seeing how the technology could be used effectively in one of its schools gave the system’s leaders confidence that they could “support less technologically inclined teachers to roll this out in a way that doesn’t hurt kids’ learning,” DeLyser said.

Computer science educators elsewhere have made the same case to their leadership, she added. “We’re seeing computer science teachers across the country stand up as they’ve done for decades now, and say, ‘I can help you use these tools,’” she said.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Classroom Technology Spotlight Spotlight on Academic Integrity & AI
This Spotlight will help you examine how teachers are combatting AI cheating, discover how to structure lessons in AI literacy, and more.
Classroom Technology Opinion The Promise and Peril of AI for Education
As GPS did for our sense of direction, AI could erode students’ connection to knowledge.
8 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Classroom Technology What Educators Need to Know About AI’s Impact on Black Students
Four experts weigh the balance between providing access to AI and protecting students from its dangers.
3 min read
Teacher Helping Female Pupil Line Of High School Students Working at Screens In Computer Class
Classroom Technology Q&A Google Executive: What AI Can and Can't Do for Teachers
Jennie Magiera, Google's head of education impact, discusses the role AI should have in K-12 education.
8 min read
Close-up stock photograph showing a touchscreen monitor with a woman’s hand looking at responses being asked by an AI chatbot.