ChatGPT Ban: US Schools Announce Change of Direction
Shortly after ChatGPT was released, fears circulated in (US) schools that their students would cheat and turn to Open AI’s chatbot for help for homework, work and exams. A rethink is now taking place in schools and among teachers. They are looking for ways to integrate text AI into the classroom and prepare their students for the digital future and world of work.
A problem with poverty
Earlier this year, just months after the release of ChatGPT, the largest school district in the US shut down access, rendering the chatbot unavailable from networks and devices controlled by New York schools. As early as December of last year, the generative AI in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest US school district, was no longer accessible from the school Wi-Fi and school devices, reports the New York Times.
One problem is that wealthier students who have their own smartphones or laptops at home and have access to the internet would benefit from these tools. Alberto M. Carvalho, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, explained that students who depend on the school’s devices and access were left behind.
The world of tomorrow
Meanwhile, a public school in the US state of Washington said that it would like its students to learn how to use ChatGPT, Google Bard and Co. in class. “You’re going to grow up in a world where that’s the norm,” said a teacher at Walla Walla High School, which offers raising pigs and sheep as part of its classes.
The school districts of New York and Los Angeles have since backtracked, saying they acted hastily or were working on “a more permissive policy.” The NYT reports that ChatGPT will be reactivated in New York.
Challenges that have arisen with ChatGPT
While some school leaders and educators wrestle with complex questions that have arisen with the introduction of AI tools: what should homework look like in an age when students can use chatbots to create their texts? How can students and teachers use the bots effectively and creatively? Does it count as cheating if a student lets a bot create a rough draft and then rewrites it themselves?
Other districts are much more advanced and are testing specialized chatbots that were specially developed for tutoring students. For example, Khanmigo, a chatbot tutor, is used for testing purposes at the Khan Lab School in Palo Alto. Other counties are using ChatGPT as a tool to teach students how generative AI “cobbles together misinformation or mimics human prejudice.”
“We just didn’t know enough about the technology”
The widely acclaimed release of the OpenAI chatbot presented US schools with further problems for which those responsible needed time and therefore banned them. For example, one district was concerned about student privacy, as both ChatGPT and Bard require new users to provide personal information. At the beginning it was unclear how the companies would deal with the information and input from the students.
“We just didn’t know enough about the technology,” said Keith Ross, the Washington state school district’s director of technology and information services, who suspended students from ChatGPT in February. “We locked it to give us some time so we know what it is and how to support the teachers and possibly the students using it.”
Departure into a new era
The district has established an advisory committee of 15 artificial intelligence teachers and administrators to explore the benefits and challenges of giving students access to AI chatbots and has planned more training for teachers on these tools. Workshops were then held with a technology trainer for teachers – the result was that some of the participants were enthusiastic, but expressed concerns that students might find it difficult to look at the AI-generated texts sufficiently critically.
The technology trainer recommended schools to reconsider their bans. The prerequisite is that the teachers, the families and the students are trained.
Germany (slowly) on the right track?
Stefan Düll, the new president of the German Teachers’ Association, also supports the use of ChatGPT in schools. “We also have to approach it with a certain amount of confidence, show the children the chances and also use it in the classroom,” he told the German Press Agency. In German lessons, for example, the AI could write a baroque poem in order to then compare it with an original poem.
Duell personally still struggles with the “prompts” to the AI chatbot ChatGPT. He had to give up trying to write a graduation speech with generative AI. “The constant reworking with new orders to the AI was too stupid for me at some point. I have to get used to it more.”
“The world our children are growing up in is going to be full of artificial intelligence and we need to make sure they are well-equipped for it, both for the better and for the worse,” said Wade Smith, the superintendent of Walla Walla Public School, recently in an interview. “Tucking your head behind the curtain or under the covers and hoping it goes away is just not realistic.”
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