New York City public schools ban access to AI tool that could help students cheat

New York

Students and teachers in New York City public schools will be prohibited from using ChatGPT, a powerful new artificial intelligence chatbot tool, on the district’s networks and devices.

The move comes amid growing concerns that the tool, which generates highly persuasive answers and even essays in response to user requests, could make it easier for students to cheat on assignments. Some worry that ChatGPT could be used to spread inaccurate information.

“Access to ChatGPT has been restricted on New York City Public Schools networks and devices due to concerns about the negative impact on student learning and the security and accuracy of content,” Jenna Lyle, deputy spokesperson for New York Public Schools, said in a statement. “While the state may be able to answer questions quickly and easily, it does not develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are essential for academic and lifelong success.”

Although the chatbot will be restricted under the new policy, New York City public schools can apply for special access to the tool for educational purposes related to artificial intelligence and technology.

The news was first reported by the education publication ChalkBeat.

New York City appears to be one of the first major school districts to crack down on ChatGPT, a month after the tool was first launched. last month, The Los Angeles Unified School District told CNN this week that it has moved to block the site in advance on all networks and devices in its system “to protect academic integrity while conducting a risk/benefit assessment.”

While there are genuine concerns about how ChatGPT can be used, it is unclear how widespread it is among students. Other regions are moving more slowly.

Peter Feng, public information officer for the South San Francisco Unified School District, said the district is aware of the potential for students to use ChatGPT, but “hasn’t issued an outright ban yet.” Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia School District said they were “not aware of any students using ChatGPT and have not received any complaints from principals or teachers.”

In a statement shared with CNN after its release, a spokesperson for OpenAI, the artificial intelligence research lab behind the tool, said it introduced ChatGPT as a research preview to learn from real-world use. A spokesperson called the move “a critical part of the development and deployment of capable, secure artificial intelligence systems.”

“We are constantly incorporating feedback and lessons learned,” the spokesperson said.

The company said it aims to work with educators on ways to help teachers and students take advantage of AI. “We don’t want ChatGPT to be used for deceptive purposes in schools or elsewhere, so we are already developing mitigations to help everyone identify text generated by this system,” the spokesperson said.

OpenAI opened access to ChatGPT in late November. It ranges from factual questions such as “Who was the president of the United States in 1955” to “What is the meaning of life?” can give long, thoughtful, and thorough answers to questions and instructions to more open-ended questions such as

The tool has stunned users, including scientists and some in the tech industry. ChatGPT is a large language model trained on an online dataset to generate its own responses. It comes from the same company behind DALL-E, which creates a seemingly infinite number of images in response to users’ requests.

ChatGPT went viral within days of its launch. Open AI co-founder Sam Altman, a prominent Silicon Valley investor, said on Twitter In early December, ChatGPT came out on top one million users.

But many educators fear that students will use the tool to cheat on assignments. One user, for example, asked ChatGPT an AP English exam question; answered with a 5 paragraph essay About Wuthering Heights. Another user asked the chatbot to write an essay on the life of William Shakespeare four times; got a unique version with the same query everytime.

Darren Hicks, an associate professor of philosophy at Furman University, previously told CNN that it would be more difficult to prove that a student abused ChatGPT than other forms of cheating.

“In the more traditional forms of plagiarism—spoofing the Internet, copying materials—I can go and find additional evidence and then bring it to a board meeting,” he said. “In this case, there’s nothing I can point to and say, ‘Here, they took it.’

“It’s really a new form of an old problem, where students will pay someone or have someone write their paper — say an essay farm or a friend who has taken the course before,” Hicks added. “It’s just instant and free.”

Feng, of the South San Francisco Unified School District, told CNN that “some teachers have responded to the rise of AI text generators by using their own tools to check whether student submissions are plagiarized or generated by artificial intelligence.”

Some companies like Turnitin — a detection tool used by thousands of school districts to scan the Internet for signs of plagiarism — are now investigating how its software can detect the use of AI-generated text in student presentations.

Hicks said teachers will have to revise assignments so they can’t be easily written by the tool. “The biggest challenge,” Hicks added, “will be the administrations who have to figure out how to handle these kinds of cases.”

— CNN’s Abby Phillip contributed to this report.

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