Starting September 11 in School District 203 — among the largest in all of Illinois — students grades 8-12 now have full access to ChatGPT on all district devices.

The artificial intelligence technology, once feared by many educators as a tool for shortcuts or flat out cheating on essays and math assignments, has in recent months become embraced by schools and universities around the country and here in Chicago.

Northwestern Professor Nina Wieda has been using ChatGPT as a resource tool since January of this year.

“Students brought it to my attention that they are already using it extensively outside the classroom and pointed out to me that it would be honest to address it together instead of pretending that it is not happening,” she said.

Meanwhile, at Columbia College a student was caught using ChatGPT on a quiz leading to the formation of an ad hoc faculty task force to come up with a plan for dealing with the AI going forward.

Professor Stephanie Frank was on the committee.

“There are skills students need to learn, like how to write a paragraph. ChatGPT would be cheating and for things like that, we wanted to come up with a way to exclude it,” Frank said.

Ultimately, Columbia decided to treat ChatGPT like they do Google or Wikipedia.

“The history of technology is not the history of rolling things back, that’s not how things work,” Frank said.

At Northwestern, nine months later, ChatGPT remains a valuable resource inside Professor Wieda’s classroom.

“I recommend that they use ChatGPT as a conversation partner, as a brainstorming body, as something that can provide them with potential criticisms and perhaps point out counterarguments,” she said.