EDUCATORS are wrestling with complex questions posed by A.I. Schools slowly repeal bans on Chatbots. Some districts in America adopt the view that students eventually will need to learn A.I. tools.

For decades, Walla Walla High School in the wheat basket of Washington State has maintained an old red wooden barn on campus where students learn a venerable farming skill : how to raise animals and sheep.

NOW, as the new academic year starts, some teachers at the school are preparing to help students learn the latest digital skill : how to navigate A.I. chatbots like ChatGPT.

This month, Walla Walla Public Schools, which serve some 5,500 students, held a daylong workshop on the A.I. chatbots, which can generate homework essays, fictional stories and other texts. About 100 local educators showed up at the high school for the event.

It was a remarkable turnaround for a district that had blocked student access to Chatbot on school devices as recently as February.

'' I do want students to learn to use it,'' said Yazmin Bahena, a dual-language middle school social studies teacher. '' They are going to grow up in a world where this is the norm.''

The media furor over chatbots last winter upended school districts and universities across the United States.

The tools, which are trained on vast databases of digital texts, use artificial intelligence to manufacture written responses to user prompts. The bots also liberally make stuff up.

TECH GIANTS and billionaires promised that the A.I.tools would revolutionize learning. Critics warned that the bots would be more likely to undermine education, inundating students with misinformation and facilitating widespread cheating.

Amid the forecasts of imminent marvel and dooms, some public schools hit the pause button to give administrators time to catch up.In December, the Los Angeles School District, the nation's second-largest school system, blocked ChatGPT on school Wi-Fi and district-owned student devices.

Other districts soon followed, including New York City, the largest school system.

But administrators quickly realized the bot bans were ineffective. For one thing, wealthier students who owned smartphones or laptops could simply use ChatGPT, a chatbot developed by OpenAI of San Francisco, or similar bots like Google's Bard at home.

'' Children who have devices and unfiltered, unfettered connectivity at home are already benefiting from access to these tools, '' Alberto M. Carvalho, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, said in an interview.

'' Students who depend on district devices and connectivity are restricted.''

In May, New York City schools issued a public mea culpa, saying the district had acted too hastily and would UNBLOCK ChatGPT. This past week, Mr. Carvalho said Los Angeles schools were also working on more permissive policy.

As schools reopen for fall, educators and district leaders are wrestling with complex questions posed by the A.I. tools : What should writing assignments look like in an era when students can employ chatbots to generate prose for them? 

How can school teachers and students use the bots effectively and creatively? Does it count as cheating if students ask a bot to fabricate drafts that they then rewrite themselves.

The Publishing of the Master Essay continues. The World Students Society thanks author Natasha Singer.


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