Should schools ban or integrate generative AI in the classroom? | Brookings (2023)

The start of a new school year is soon approaching, but there is a major question left unresolved: What are schools going to do about generative AI? Since ChatGPT’s release on November 30, 2022, educators have been slow to address questions regarding whether to allow its use in the classroom and how the tool affects pedagogy, student learning, and creativity. Debates have been intense among stakeholders—including teachers, parents, students, and edtech developers—about the opportunities for personalized learning, enhanced evaluations, and augmenting human performance against the possible risks of increased plagiarism and cheating, disinformation and discriminatory bias, and weakened critical thinking.

In this post, we review current responses to generative AI across K-12 public school districts and explore what remains to be done. Right now, public schools have varied between banning or integrating generative AI and reviews are ongoing without any definitive guidelines. After sharing how public schools are addressing these options, we suggest a path forward in which schools establish guiding principles, provide training resources, empower educators to implement those principles, and help over-burdened districts that already are struggling with instructional, infrastructure, and financial challenges.

Three paths of action from public schools

Colleges and universities are largely deferring to faculty to determine policies on generative AI, so a lot of higher education is moving on an ad-hoc basis that varies by classroom, course, and professor. There is neither a common approach across universities, nor agreed-upon policies on how to move forward.

In the case of K-12 public school districts, most administrators generally are taking institutional action and implementing decisions for entire school districts. They are not delegating the decisions to teachers but are enacting across-the-board decisions that affect every teacher and student in their jurisdiction. Their efforts fall into one of three categories: banning, integrating, or reviewing generative AI.

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Banning generative AI

By the end of May 2023, ChatGPT joined YouTube, Netflix, and Roblox on lists of websites either banned for school staff and students among various large U.S. school districts, where access would require special approval. The controversial movement to widely ban ChatGPT began when the two largest school districts in the nation—New York City Public Schools and Los Angeles Unified—blocked access to ChatGPT from school Wi-Fi networks and devices. Other districts soon followed suit.

Citing the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia restricted access to ChatGPT, since the chatbot may not be appropriate for minors. Texas’s Austin Independent School District cited similar concerns about academic integrity and child safety in its decision. Seattle Public Schools banned access to not only ChatGPT, but also six additional websites that provide AI-powered writing assistance, including Rytr, Jasper, and WordAI. While these were not full bans, student use restrictions affected teacher adoption and use.

However, one problem with the approach to ban or restrict ChatGPT is that students can always find ways to circumvent school-issued bans outside the classroom. ChatGPT and other such chatbot tools are accessible from home or non-school networks and devices. Students could also use other third-party writing tools, since it would be impractical to ban the growing number of websites and applications driven by generative AI. Besides, bans may only be band-aid solutions, distracting from the root causes of inefficacy in our school systems—for instance, concerns about ChatGPT-enabled cheating might instead point to a need for changing how teachers assess students.

But the biggest problem, by far, is that this approach could cause more harm than good, especially if the benefits as well as the opportunities are not weighed. For example, ChatGPT can enrich learning and teaching in K-12 classrooms, and a full ban might deny students and teachers potential opportunities to leverage the technology for instruction, or lesson development. Instead of universally banning ChatGPT, school districts should recognize that needs in adoption and use may vary by teacher, classroom, and student. Imagine using ChatGPT for a history vs. an art class, for students whose first language is not English, and for students with learning disabilities. Different issues can pop up in various use cases, so across-the-board bans, and even restrictions for that matter, could limit the ability of students and instructors to take advantage of relevant learning benefits, and in turn, have effects on adoption and use during postsecondary opportunities, or in the workplace.

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Integrating generative AI

New York City Public Schools—the first school system to block access to ChatGPT—was also the first to reverse its ban. Within four months of the initial ban, the reversal came after convenings of tech industry representatives and educators to evaluate emerging risks and understand how to leverage ChatGPT’s capabilities for the better. To support teachers, NYC school district leaders have promised to provide resources developed by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), along with real-life examples of successful AI implementation from classrooms in the district that have been early adopters of technology. The district also plans to create a shared repository to track each school’s progress and share findings across schools.

Schools like Peninsula School District in Washington had already been working to integrate AI into their curricula, so when ChatGPT arrived, they were prepared: digital learning teams visited classrooms across different grade levels to share how language models work, as well as how to identify and leverage AI-generated content. Alliance City School District in Ohio is also embracing ChatGPT’s potential, resolving to proactively set boundaries on its usage to prevent misuse. In Lower Merion School District, students from Pennsylvania will hone their critical thinking skills by analyzing and editing AI-generated writing. In all the above cases, responsibly integrating generative AI as a teaching tool will require school districts to invest in proper oversight procedures and professional development for educators.

As such, Garden City Public Schools in New York has held training sessions for educators to demonstrate the capabilities of different generative AI tools, along with how to incorporate them effectively and tailor materials to students’ needs. Schools like Norway-Vulcan Area Schools in Michigan also plan to provide professional development opportunities for teachers, as well as strengthen the school community’s understanding of its honor code and plagiarism policies. The district has encouraged teachers to use Turnitin’s AI detector to check for cases of plagiarism, as they prepare to teach with generative AI in the fall.

There are some schools that are being more cautious as they integrate generative AI. In Texas, Mineral Wells Independent School District has adopted a more cautious approach, testing generative AI use in an experimental set of classrooms, and sending those instructors for general training in AI. Elsewhere in Texas, Eanes Independent School District is similarly focused on helping teachers make the most of generative AI, as they first try ChatGPT for administrative use cases, like scheduling or lesson planning.

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Placing generative AI under review

While districts like Prince George’s County (MD), Jefferson County (KY), and Chicago (IL) have not banned ChatGPT, they have placed the chatbot under review. School districts that haven’t acted yet are watching and waiting, and most fall into this category. A recent survey by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) found that less than 10% of schools have implemented guidance on generative AI, and of the schools with policies in place, 40% reported that the guidance was only communicated verbally—not in writing.

Just as we demand transparency from developers on how AI is built, we need to provide transparency for students and teachers on how AI can be used. Not enough schools have issued formal guidance on generative AI. A nationwide survey of K-12 teachers revealed that 72% have not received guidance on generative AI use. Generally, the longer schools delay their deliberation of bans or integrated use of new generative AI technologies, the higher the stakes—especially with a new school year on the horizon. As one of many generative AI tools being used for education, ChatGPT is increasingly accessed by students and teachers, and the absence of institutional policies may enable counterproductive use cases. Without an educational sandbox for generative AI usage, schools run the risk of having students deploy these rapidly developing technologies in unplanned ways with unintended outcomes affecting safety, equity, and learning.

School districts also have a critical opportunity to govern the use and misuse of generative AI tools before the academic year begins. Districts can shape its use and role in the future of education, instead of letting generative AI write it for them. In California, education policy researchers have made a similar call to action. More important, national concerns around the digital divide in education can make technology more useful in bridging learning gaps created by the lack of home internet. But that also means that schools must support the equitable distribution of generative AI’s benefits. Being proactive about the adoption and use generative AI now will prepare school districts to set precedents about using future technologies in the classroom.

Recommendations for moving forward

Many classroom policies thus far are too narrowly focused on one tool: ChatGPT. Right now, there are thousands of generative AI products that are on the market, and more are being developed every week. School districts need to consider the use not just of ChatGPT, but other generative AI applications, like Llama 2 or BARD, as well as the widespread educational tools, like PowerSchool, Kahoot!, or Khan Academy.

(Video) The AI Education Revolution is Coming – or is it? | Dr. Philippa Hardman | TEDxSantaBarbaraSalon

In closing, we recommend strategies below for how school districts can approach generative AI governance, regardless of the product.

Establish guiding principles

In collaboration with edtech specialists, teachers, and students, school districts should develop a set of common, guiding principles for students and teachers around generative AI use. These guidelines should define the purpose and scope of generative AI in the classroom, along with acceptable use cases. These may also serve to establish privacy protections for students and formalize procedures for how teachers can supervise student usage, give feedback, and handle misuse.

Provide training resources for teacher professional development

Whether administrators and/or teachers fear generative AI may disrupt their classrooms or instead welcome its potential, school districts can offer accessible training that will equip all teachers to meet the present moment. These training opportunities may not have to be developed from scratch – districts can adapt online resources, like the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN)’s resource library and TeachAI, who also offer some guiding principles. When educators gain a robust understanding of generative AI, they can apply it productively in their classrooms, as well as support responsible use and understanding among their students.

Empower educators to implement principles

Recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all policy on generative AI, districts should empower educators to implement institutional recommendations and enforce academic integrity within their classrooms – while applying the technologies in ways that serve their students. This approach models that taken by Department of Education’s recent AI Report, which provides general guidance for learning and teaching with AI—without commenting on specific generative AI tools, due to their rapid progress. Teachers can reference district-level principles as a guiding framework, upon which they can design transparent, well-defined expectations for their students.

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Help overburdened districts

Finally, we need to help overburdened and under-resourced districts that already are struggling with instructional, infrastructure, and financial challenges. There remain sharp inequities in public school resources, and modern technologies often accentuate those disparities. Some schools have good digital infrastructures, while others do not. The same also applies to the equitably available financial means to integrate new teaching tools in the classroom.

As schools consider how to utilize generative AI, we should be cognizant of these disparities and provide help to make sure marginalized districts are not left behind. Federal and state officials could earmark money to public school districts who receive minimal assistance on using generative AI to help teachers, students, and administrators deal with its utilization. In the end, for districts to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion in the deployment of these tools, school leaders ought to level the playing field for their use, especially before its unyielding adoption and use.

The proposed strategies are not required of school districts in any order. Rather, they are the beginning of both immediate and future conversations for how to understand how to leverage generative AI tools in educational settings.


Should AI be allowed in classrooms? ›

Incorporating AI into the classroom provides an opportunity for students to develop a critical perspective on this technology and its impact on society. Teachers should encourage students to think critically about the ethical implications of AI and to consider the potential consequences of its widespread use.

How will generative AI change education? ›

This could be done by using generative AI systems to analyze students' learning patterns and preferences and then adapting the content and teaching methods accordingly. This would allow students to receive more targeted and effective support and achieve better learning outcomes.

What is generative AI in education? ›

Generative AI can be defined as a technology that leverages deep learning models to generate human-like content in response to complex and varied prompts. • Transformative education can be defined as education that is transformative in its process and product in response to grand challenges.

What are the negative impacts of AI on education? ›

One of the biggest concerns about AI's involvement in education is the potential job displacement of teachers and educators. AI-powered tools can replace important tasks teachers perform, such as grading and providing feedback. This could impact the demand for teachers, resulting in job losses.

Is AI good or bad for schools? ›

If not properly managed, AI can lead to a loss of human connection and personalized attention for students. But by regularly assessing student engagement and learning outcomes, teachers can help to ensure that AI is developed and deployed in a way that enhances education.

Should artificial intelligence be taught in schools? ›

AI learning can inspire students to generate ideas and solutions, fostering creativity and innovation – essential skills in today's competitive and evolving job market. It is particularly important to not exclude AI education from underrepresented student populations.

What is the downside of generative AI? ›

Intellectual property: Generative AI can create content that may infringe on intellectual property rights, such as copyright or trademark. Lack of human touch: While generative AI can create content quickly and efficiently, it lacks the human touch that makes content truly unique and memorable.

What are the negative effects of generative AI? ›

Poor security in the AI app itself

The addition of any new app into a network creates new vulnerabilities that could be exploited to gain access to other areas in your network. Generative AI apps pose a unique risk because they contain complex algorithms that make it difficult for developers to identify security flaws.

What are the disadvantages of generative AI? ›

Generative AI can be expensive to implement. It requires specialized hardware and software, as well as skilled personnel to operate and maintain it. This can be a major barrier for small and medium-sized businesses, as well as organizations with limited budgets.

How does generative AI affect students? ›

Students are leveraging generative AI in various areas to enhance both their academic and personal lives: Writing - generative AI assists students in generating ideas, organising and improving their writing, and receiving feedback. Tools like ChatGPT, Notion, Quillbot, Grammarly, and Turnitin are commonly used.

What are the advantages to using generative AI in school? ›

Generative AI can support the development of intelligent lesson systems that provide personalized and adaptive learning. These systems use machine learning algorithms to analyze student data, identify knowledge gaps, and provide recommendations and guidance.

How does generative AI help students? ›

Data analysis

Generative AI can analyse large sets of student data, providing insights into student performance and learning outcomes. These insights can help teachers identify areas of strength and weakness in their teaching, adjust their instruction methods, and provide targeted support to students who need it most.

Is AI harming students? ›

For example, when students use chatbots to complete homework assignments, they may not have the opportunity to develop problem-solving skills, leading to a dependency on AI-powered solutions. In the long run, this can harm their academic performance as they lack the necessary skills to tackle more advanced challenges.

What is the negative impact of AI on children? ›

Children and teens currently face an epidemic of social isolation, and AI-based systems could further reduce the time they spend interacting with others. If children become too reliant on AI-based systems, it could cause them to miss out on the critical human connection essential for their development.

How does artificial intelligence affect learning teaching and education? ›

With the ability to analyze data on student performance and preferences, AI can help educators to create customized lesson plans and assessments that align with each student's unique strengths and weaknesses. This can improve student engagement and motivation, and ultimately lead to better academic outcomes.

Why should artificial intelligence be allowed? ›

AI-powered systems can analyze real-time data from sensors, cameras, and other sources to make quick and informed decisions. This can enable features such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicles, which can help reduce human error and accidents.

What are the benefits of AI in schools? ›

Benefits of AI in Education
  • Personalized Learning. ...
  • Task Automation. ...
  • 24/7 Assistance with Conversational AI. ...
  • Detect Suspicious Behavior During Exams. ...
  • Secure and Decentralized Learning Systems. ...
  • Customized Data-Based Feedback. ...
  • Murf. ...
Jun 2, 2023

Is AI good or bad for environment? ›

AI has the potential to promote energy efficiency, reduce waste, and enhance sustainable practices. However, it also has the potential to contribute to environmental degradation and the depletion of natural resources.


1. Can a teacher detect if students are using artificial intelligence?
(NBC News)
2. How can teachers and students use ChatGPT and AI?
(Bloomberg Technology)
3. AI+Education Summit: Generative AI for Education
(Stanford HAI)
4. AI in Education - What Educators Need to Know
(Eric Curts)
5. How will ChatGPT impact education?
(Harvard Online)
6. Should ChatGPT be banned in schools?
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