New York City’s Department of Education will rescind its ban on the wildly popular chatbot ChatGPT — which some worried could inspire more student cheating — from its schools’ devices and networks.
The news comes several months after the initial ban was announced.
In an opinion piece for Chalkbeat published Thursday, the chancellor of New York City Public Schools, David Banks, outlined the school system's plans to engage with ChatGPT, a chatbot created by artificial intelligence company OpenAI, and similar tools.
He said the ban was put in place "due to potential misuse and concerns raised by educators in our schools." However, he wrote, "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 said officials held discussions with tech industry leaders "about their platforms’ potential and the future possibilities for schools, educators, and students." They also "consulted our most trusted experts — citywide educators, many of whom had already started teaching about the future and ethics of AI."
“While initial caution was justified, it has now evolved into an exploration and careful examination of this new technology’s power and risks,” he wrote.
Going forward, Banks said educators will be provided with "resources and real-life examples of successful AI implementation in schools to improve administrative tasks, communication, and teaching." They will also offer "a toolkit of resources for educators to use as they initiate discussions and lessons about AI in their classrooms."
When asked for a statement, a spokesperson for New York City’s Department of Education referred NBC News to the chancellor’s op-ed.
Manhattan Borough President Mark D. Levine praised the decision to drop the ban, calling it “absolutely the right move” in a tweet.
"We need to prepare our young people for the new world that’s coming," he tweeted.
Although chatbots are not a new technology, ChatGPT exploded on social media in late 2022 after some declared the bot was a better search engine than Google thanks to its conversational speaking style and coherent, topical response style.
After its viral launch, ChatGPT was lauded online by some as a dramatic step forward for AI and the potential future of web search. But with such praise also came concern about its potential use in academic settings.
Use of AI in educational settings continues to stir discourse online.
This week, Texas A&M University–Commerce said it is investigating after a screenshot of an instructor’s email — in which he accused students of having used AI on their final assignments — went viral on Reddit. Many blasted him, and others came to his defense, noting that AI is still a very new tool.
In classrooms, AI technology is already being used to help detect plagiarism. Many students have long used computer-assisted writing tools, such as Grammarly or Google Docs’ Smart Compose. Platforms like Grammarly and Chegg also offer plagiarism-checking tools.
In April, Turnitin, a plagiarism detection service, announced it will activate its AI writing detection capabilities to “help educators and academic institutions identify AI-generated text in student-written submissions.”
A spokesperson for OpenAI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.