Greenville, Charleston and Berkeley county school districts have blocked the new artificial intelligence technology ChatGPT from school devices.
They’re joining several of the largest school districts in the country that announced they were blocking the technology, which was released in November.
ChatGPT is an AI chatbot launched on Nov. 30 that has dominated headlines because it can write essays on topics like masculinity in the novel “Lord of the Flies” in seconds. It can also write code, poetry or reports on historical events.
Its release upended both the higher education and K-12 communities. Professors from schools like Furman University and Appalachian State University received essays they suspected were written by ChatGPT. Los Angeles Unified School District temporarily blocked access to ChatGPT and its parent company, OpenAI’s, website in December. New York City’s Department of Education and Seattle Public Schools also blocked the technology.
Tim Waller, a spokesman for Greenville County School District, said in a Jan. 24 email that the district saw a few attempts by students to access OpenAI’s website on school-issued Chromebooks but their efforts were unsuccessful.
“With any new technology, there are always concerns, but we are confident in our ability as a school district to adapt and take any necessary precautions,” he said.
He said the district is constantly evaluating what skills students must acquire for future success and that emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, may allow students to bypass those essential skills. He added that this has to be balanced with the duty educators have to embrace new technologies that can equalize education for the district’s most at-risk learners.
In a Feb. 9 media call, Charleston County School District’s executive director of information technology, Tom Nawrocki, said the district was blocking ChatGPT so they could take time to learn more about the technology and are cautious about viewing it as a “bad thing.”
“But it can be used for things like cheating or plagiarism, so from this standpoint right now, until we’ve learned more about this, we’ve blocked it completely, so no one has access within the district,” he said.
Nawrocki said he plans to meet with the district’s learning services department to see how both teachers and students can be trained to use the technology productively.
Some education experts have cautioned against unilaterally banning ChatGPT, saying that it could help children with communication disabilities. Others have said that blocking ChatGPT won’t prevent students from accessing the site since they could easily do so from their personal devices.
The left-leaning think tank The Brookings Instruction likened ChatGPT to a calculator, saying it has the power to help writers hone their critical thinking and communication in a Jan. 9 report. Chris Marsicano, an assistant professor of educational studies and public policy at Davidson College, told The Post and Courier in late January that ChatGPT offered him the opportunity to redesign his courses to better test students’ critical thinking skills.
Follow Hillary Flynn on Twitter @HillarySuzane.