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NYC schools to introduce AI-powered teaching assistant into classrooms, despite concerns of tech's left-leaning bias
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NYC schools to introduce AI-powered teaching assistant into classrooms, despite concerns of tech's left-leaning bias

After initially banning the use of ChatGPT, the New York City Department of Education confirmed during a Thursday City Council meeting plans to be a "global leader" in bringing generative artificial intelligence into the classroom, the New York Post reported.

In January, New York City Public Schools briefly banned the use of AI but reversed course last month. The school system announced it would partner with Microsoft to develop a custom AI-powered teaching assistant to provide students with "real-time feedback and answer questions."

The district's chief product officer, Zeeshan Anwar, told Microsoft earlier this month, "When ChatGPT launched, it literally shook up the entire IT universe."

"And our first reaction was to block it in schools because we didn't know how teachers and students would react and use the technology," Anwar added.

"Eventually we just realized that technology is not something we can hide from students," Anwar continued. "You need to embrace it, introduce it in a controlled fashion. So we said, 'OK, we have a data foundation. ChatGPT and OpenAI are here. Let's work with Microsoft to bring this into the classroom.'"

The learning assistant was built on Azure OpenAI Service, which the district stated will ensure the security of students' data.

"It is critical for everyone to understand that the model and the data only live in the [Department of Education] environment," Anwar explained.

The new technology was recently piloted for two weeks in three high school computer science courses, Microsoft reported. During that testing period, 100 students asked the AI-powered chatbot over 2,000 questions.

The district's digital learning and innovation team director, Tara Carrozza, noted that the implementation of the teaching assistant aims to provide students with "individualized support." She stated that the AI-powered tool will advance the district's "equity" goals.

"We must embrace emergent technologies that are pervasive across the world, to increase the equity of access and opportunity for our students, particularly for our Black and Brown students and our students with disabilities and multilingual learners," Carrozza told Microsoft. "Our mission is for students to graduate on a pathway to a rewarding career and long-term economic security, equipped to be a positive force for change. Our kids need to be exposed to these tools, to be fluent in them. If we are not using AI in education, we're putting our students at risk of being behind."

Maud Maron, co-president of Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum and Education NYC, an organization dedicated to ensuring quality education, warned that ChatGPT and other AI tools are biased. Maron also expressed concerns about over-reliance.

"It's heavily biased, so kids should not be using AI for information gathering because there's a very ... liberal slant," Maron told the New York Post. "It's like going to Wikipedia as a source of information. It's not the ... Encyclopedia Britannica that I grew up with. It's people's point of views and perspectives and, of course, has a bias."

An August report from researchers at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, United Kingdom, revealed that large language model ChatGPT displayed "significant and systematic political bias." According to the report, the system favored the Democratic Party in the United States and the Labour Party in the United Kingdom.

The American Accountability Foundation reported earlier this year that several technology giants had formed a "partnership" to ensure "equity and inclusion" would be baked into AI systems. Partnership on AI was formed in 2016 by Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and IBM.

PAI's website states that the group aims to create "a future where Artificial Intelligence empowers humanity by contributing to a more just, equitable, and prosperous world."

The AAF accused the tech companies of attempting to "rig AI to be woke."

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