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.

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
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.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

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 AI Is Common Thread Through the Big Challenges Schools Are Facing, New Report Says
Recruiting and retaining educators, cybersecurity, and scaling innovation across schools are some of the biggest challenges.
3 min read
School-aged boy using laptop in classroom.
iStock / Getty Images Plus
Classroom Technology 8 Tips for Schools to Avoid Chaos in the Age of AI
Most district leaders are in the beginning stages of figuring out how to integrate AI into K-12 education.
6 min read
A group of researchers studies elements impacted by artificial intelligence
Kathleen Fu for Education Week
Classroom Technology What Is Age-Appropriate Use of AI? 4 Developmental Stages to Know About
Child development experts and teachers offer advice on when K-12 students should start using AI-powered tech and for what purposes.
11 min read
Elementary, Middle, and High-school age children interact with a giant artificial intelligence brain.
Kathleen Fu for Education Week
Classroom Technology New York City Schools Went Online Instead of Calling a Snow Day. It Didn't Go Well
The nation's largest school system attempted remote learning again since the pandemic, but got it interrupted by technical difficulties.
5 min read
A woman plays with a child who is sledding in New York's Central Park Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Technology glitches kept many New York City teachers and students from virtual classes Tuesday—the first attempt by the country's largest school system to switch to remote learning for a snow storm since the COVID-19 pandemic.
A woman plays with a child who is sledding in New York's Central Park Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Technology glitches kept many New York City teachers and students from virtual classes Tuesday—the first attempt by the country's largest school system to switch to remote learning for a snow storm since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Frank Franklin II/AP