Seattle Public Schools bans ChatGPT; district ‘requires original thought and work from students’

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Seattle Public Schools is joining a growing number of school districts banning ChatGPT, the natural language chatbot from OpenAI that has sparked widespread attention in recent weeks.

ChatGPT has garnered praise for its ability to quickly answer complex queries and instantly produce content.

But it’s also generating concern among educators worried that students will use the technology to do their homework.

SPS blocked ChatGPT on all school devices in December, said Tim Robinson, a spokesman for Seattle Public Schools, in an email to GeekWire.

“Like all school districts, Seattle Public Schools does not allow cheating and requires original thought and work from students,” he said.

The district also blocks other “cheating tools,” Robinson said.

Other school districts in New York City and Los Angeles blocked ChatGPT, which has also drawn scrutiny for producing inaccurate answers.

RELATED: Seattle Schools vs. Social Media: What’s at stake in the suit against TikTok, Instagram, and others

Colleges and universities are more reluctant to ban ChatGPT, The New York Times reported on Monday, and professors are instead changing their courses in response. We’ve reached out to the University of Washington about its stance on ChatGPT and will update this story when we hear back.

Some believe the technology can enhance the learning experience by letting teachers “model the concepts they want students to understand,” and provide preliminary feedback on students’ work, noted Ben Talsma, a learning solution specialist for an education nonprofit.

“Students, and likely you, will come to use this technology to augment the writing process, not replace it,” wrote Marc Watkins, a professor at the University of Mississippi.

New York Times columnist Kevin Roose said banning ChatGPT at schools won’t provide the intended purpose because students can access the site on their personal devices, and more chatbots will become available. He suggested schools use ChatGPT “the way they treat calculators — allowing it for some assignments, but not others, and assuming that unless students are being supervised in person with their devices stashed away, they’re probably using one.”

TechCrunch reported that OpenAI, the Microsoft-backed startup behind ChatGPT, is exploring ways to detect text generated by ChatGPT. Others have already created apps to do this.

These tools could help in assessing whether a human or a robot did the work — a line that is becoming more blurred as artificial intelligence technology improves and is more accessible.

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