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

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New York
CNN

New York City public schools will ban students and teachers from using ChatGPT, a powerful new AI chatbot tool, on the district’s networks and devices, an official confirmed to CNN on Thursday.

The move comes amid growing concerns that the tool, which generates oddly convincing responses and even essays in response to user prompts, could make it easier for students to cheat on assignments. Some also fear that ChatGPT could be used to spread inaccurate information.

“Due to concerns about negative impacts on student learning and concerns about content security and accuracy, access to ChatGPT is restricted on New York City public school networks and devices,” Jenna Lyle, Deputy Press Secretary for the New York public schools said in a statement. “While the tool can provide quick and easy answers to questions, it does not develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are essential for academic and lifelong success.”

While the chatbot is restricted under the new policy, New York City public schools can request specific access to the tool for AI and technology-related educational purposes.

Education publication ChalkBeat was the first to report the news.

New York City appears to be one of the first major school districts to crack down on ChatGPT, just a month after the tool’s launch. Last month, The Los Angeles Unified School District has moved to preemptively block the site on all networks and devices in its system “to protect academic honesty while a risk/benefit assessment is performed,” a spokesperson for the district told CNN this week. week.

While there are genuine concerns about how ChatGPT might be used, it’s unclear how widely adopted among students. Other districts, however, appear to be 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 its students to use ChatGPT, but “has not yet instituted an outright ban.” Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia School District said it “is not aware of students using ChatGPT nor have we received any complaints from principals or teachers.”

In a statement shared with CNN after publication, a spokesperson for OpenAI, the artificial intelligence research lab behind the tool, said it made ChatGPT available as a research preview to learn from real-world usage. The spokesperson called this step a “critical part of developing and deploying secure and capable AI systems.”

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

The company said it intends to work with educators on ways to help teachers and students benefit from artificial intelligence. “We don’t want ChatGPT to be used for deceptive purposes in schools or elsewhere, so we are already developing mitigations to help anyone identify text generated by this system,” the spokesperson said.

OpenAI opened access to ChatGPT at the end of November. He is able to provide long, thoughtful and complete answers to questions and suggestions, ranging from factual questions like “Who was the President of the United States in 1955” to more open-ended questions like “What is the meaning of life?”

The tool surprised users, including academics and some in the tech industry. ChatGPT is a great language model trained on a huge trove of online information to create your responses. It comes from the same company behind DALL-E, which generates a seemingly limitless range of images in response to user requests.

ChatGPT went viral just days after its launch. Open AI co-founder Sam Altman, a leading Silicon Valley investor, said on Twitter in early December that ChatGPT overcame one million users.

But many educators worry that students will use the tool to cheat on assignments. One user, for example, provided ChatGPT with an Advanced English exam question; responded with a 5 paragraph essay over Wuthering Heights. Another user asked the chatbot to write an essay on the life of William Shakespeare four times; he received a single version with same prompt each time.

Darren Hicks, an assistant professor of philosophy at Furman University, previously told CNN that it will be more difficult to prove when a student misuses ChatGPT than with other forms of cheating.

“In more traditional forms of plagiarism — cheating on the internet, copying and pasting things — I can find additional evidence, evidence that I can take to a board hearing,” he said. “In that case, there’s nothing I can point to and say, ‘Here’s the stuff they took.’”

“It’s really a new form of an old problem where students would pay someone or get someone to write the paper for them — say, an essay farm or a friend who’s taken a course before,” added Hicks. “This is just how it is instant and free.”

Feng of the South San Francisco Unified School District told CNN that “some teachers have responded to the emergence of AI text generators by using proprietary tools to check whether work submitted by students was plagiarized or generated via AI.”

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

Hicks said teachers will need to rethink assignments so they can’t be easily written by the tool. “The biggest problem,” added Hicks, “will be governments that have to figure out how they’re going to adjudicate these types of cases.”

– Abby Phillip of CNN contributed to this report.

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