The ChatGPT AI tool is blocked by D.C. schools

Many school systems in the metropolitan area block access to the ChatGPT AI tool.

During a recent theology class at DeMatha Catholic High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland, a student used his phone to access the ChatGPT artificial intelligence tool.

The site is blocked on school-issued Chromebooks, said Principal Daniel McMahon, so the student put his phone on the chair next to him and typed in computer-generated AI responses to complete the task.

Another student used the Tool Responses to write a paper and was brought in by the school leadership to discuss the consequences of plagiarism.

McMahon said that although DeMatha blocked the site, students could still access it on their personal cell phones and computers.

School systems across the country are grappling with whether to ban the new tool entirely, or allow students to use it to help out under the right circumstances. ChatGPT, which launched on November 30, 2022, uses and enables artificial intelligence Create paragraphs worthy of human conversation-like text. It’s free (So far) and acts as a written conversation between the system and the user to ask questions.

Last week, New York City school officials announced plans to ban ChatGPT, and several jurisdictions across the metropolitan area have begun to do the same.

Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland’s largest school system, said it has blocked access to the site as of January 3. A spokeswoman said the province promotes the use of technology to learn new information, but “this must be done responsibly, ethically and with caution.”

The school district is working on guidelines to share with teachers and staff.



Meanwhile, Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia said the site is prohibited on county-issued devices “under federal Child Online Protection Act educational guidelines, because it is a new technology that has not yet been fully evaluated for suitability for consumption by minors.”

It is also creating a working group to review the “impact and opportunities” of new technology.

D.C. Public Schools and Prince George’s County Public Schools said they are also evaluating the tool. At DeMatha, McMahon plans to discuss the use of ChatGPT with parents later this month.

“We’ll use technology when we can,[but]we’ve got people planning to move to oral exams towards the end of the school year,” said McMahon. “In May, that will be a little complicated, but we’ll back that up so we know what the students know.”

The site works like autocorrect on cell phones, said Ryan Watkins, a professor of educational technology at George Washington University, but is “100 times more powerful, where instead of just training what you typed into your phone, it’s trained on millions and billions of things that have been typed and posted on Internet “.

ChatGPT predicts which words should follow other words, Watkins said, and can complete both broad and specific tasks. She has the ability to write student papers and can also write computer code.

“You can ask her anything from, ‘Tell me more about the French Revolution and what caused it’… You can ask her to write poetry of certain styles—you can ask her to write poetry as if Winston Churchill were writing poetry.”

At DeMatha, McMahon demonstrated ChatGPT to students by asking them to tell the story “Goodnight Moon” as if it was written by Stephen King. A teacher at the school used it to generate 10 test questions from the first chapter of a novel the students were reading.

At GW, Watkins said he would encourage his students to use them “in a way that maybe helps them think about creative ideas. Then, they can take over as human beings and start to incorporate those ideas and add their content to it.”

However, ChatGPT has its limitations. First, the trained data does not include information generated after 2021 — so ask it about the invasion of Ukraine or the recent midterm elections, and it falls short.

Sometimes, Watkins said, “will make up references, including references to people who weren’t there or to journals that were never published.”

But the best way to know if a requester is sending a ChatGPT response is because their job is to recognize the requester’s writing style. A Princeton University student recently developed an app that can determine this Whether the copy is written by a human tool or by artificial intelligenceCBS News reported.

“If I have students in sixth grade, and they start using really complex language structures, some really big words that they probably haven’t been able to hit in a lot of their reading, I might start to wonder ‘how much of this are they actually developing’ versus ‘what’.” Can they get it from somewhere else? “

While Watkins said he understands blocking it so teachers can receive ChatGPT training, he said its adoption could be beneficial.

“We can’t sit back and think we can just stop students from using it, just as we no longer want to keep calculators out of the classroom,” he said.

Out of curiosity, we asked ChatGPT to describe WTOP News as if it were talking to a middle school student:

“WTOP News is a radio station that broadcasts news, traffic, and weather information in the Washington, D.C. area. It’s like a radio station telling you what’s going on in your city and how to get around. They also tell you about the weather so you know if you need to put on a coat or bring an umbrella.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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