From apprehension to acceptance, NYC schools chart a new course with ChatGPT.

“In a remarkable policy shift, New York City Schools are now embracing the use of ChatGPT, OpenAI’s powerful AI-driven program initially seen as a threat to education. This evolution in attitude was recently laid out in an essay by David C. Banks, the 31st New York City Schools Chancellor, published on Chalkbeat on May 18, 2023. He highlights the transformative role of ChatGPT and artificial intelligence as a whole in education.

ChatGPT, a generative AI system, creates original content from vast data sets. Following its public introduction in November, concerns about potential misuse led to its restricted use in New York City Public Schools. However, Banks emphasized that this restriction didn’t wholly ban the technology. Instead, it was a measure that required schools to request access for its usage.

The move to control ChatGPT’s usage generated much media buzz, triggering over 1,000 news articles since January. But amidst the anxiety, the significant potential of generative AI to support educators and students was missed. Furthermore, in an increasingly digital world, understanding such technologies is paramount for students.

Recognizing the role of AI in shaping future careers, Banks and his team embarked on a mission to grasp the promise and perils of AI. They started conversations with tech leaders and consulted educators who were already harnessing the power of AI in their classrooms through programs like the Computer Science for All initiative.

Several educators have started leveraging AI to enhance their teaching methods. In a Queens middle school, students debate the ethical implications of AI and use ChatGPT for educational activities under teacher guidance. The school’s educators also use AI to personalize lesson plans and grade papers.

With an evolution from initial caution to exploration, the New York City Public Schools are now encouraging and supporting their students and educators in learning about this transformative technology. They aim to establish a repository to share findings about AI usage across schools and provide resources to educators to integrate AI discussions in their classrooms.

As the world celebrates the Day of AI, the work of these schools is given prominence. With resources developed by MIT, all schools are encouraged to engage students in activities exploring AI’s societal impact.

Banks underscored the importance of ensuring an equitable distribution of AI’s benefits, preventing a further widening of socioeconomic gaps. He emphasized educating students about the ethical concerns of AI while preparing them for today’s job market and future opportunities influenced by technological innovations.