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Tech Comes of Age in Dallas-Fort Worth – dallasinnovates.com

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[Image: Michael Samples. Logos: the companies]
COVID-19 has amplified everything. Every expense, inconvenience, and pain point has raised one thought for company leaders: How the heck do we deal with this?
The answer has accelerated a trend that’s been happening for years—the move of tech companies to Dallas-Fort Worth. 
The search to reduce the friction of doing business led Antuit.ai CEO Craig Silverman to relocate his PhD-level artificial intelligence company from Chicago to Frisco nearly three years ago. Silverman himself lived in San Francisco for 10 years before moving to Dallas-Fort Worth to be closer to Antuit.ai.
“I just moved here from San Francisco two years ago,” Silverman says. “I know that ‘ocean fun’—it’s got its different vibe. But we’re an AI company that’s trying to help traditional brands transform their supply chain.”
While Antuit.ai says it can improve efficiencies for its customers by between 10 and 40 percent, the quality of its employees’ lives was floundering in Chicago, according to Silverman. “When you think about it, from an employee standpoint, you fight through the snow for five or six months, and the rain, and the rest,” he says. “And the commute—you’ve got to get through the Chicago traffic. And, oh, you’ve got to go visit a client in New York, and you’ve got to go through O’Hare? And then you’ve got to pay those state taxes.”
After a slight pause, Silverman shifts into a mode economic development professionals call “checking the boxes.”
“Then you think about what you’ve got here,” he says. “A super-safe place for families. Great school districts. And [DFW Airport, which] is as central a hub as O’Hare is. Then you’ve got that Legacy corridor, which is expanding, including NTT Data and others that have moved here.”
Between 2017 and 2020, DFW added more than 10,000 high-tech jobs—from computer systems analysts to electrical engineers to software developers and more—according to a Dallas Regional Chamber analysis of jobs data. Dallas recently landed second on CompTIA’s Tech Town Index 2020 for tech job openings, surpassing San Francisco. That’s a jump from seventh place last year.
“With the cost of living 2 percent lower than the U.S. average, more and more young people are putting down roots in this area,” CompTIA writes. “With a median IT salary of $94,044, plenty of live music and professional sports teams, tech professionals are finding opportunity and quality of life in Dallas.”
But to Silverman, it’s not about sports or the ping-pong table at Antuit.ai’s Frisco office.
“We’ve recruited people from all over—and obviously, there are some really good schools here, with good AI programs,” he says, noting the University of Texas at Dallas. “We’ve recruited people from all over the coasts who were tired of the hard-to-get-to-work in downtown San Francisco or New York.”
They come here as a lifestyle choice, Silverman says. “But they’ve actually come here to be part of a cool AI story. It’s a startup like you’d normally hear about in Silicon Valley.”
As he spoke, Silverman’s crew was working remotely at Antuit.ai, which also has offices in Chicago and India. The pandemic has put their spontaneous lunchtime brainstorming sessions on ice for now.
Will tech workers and others keep working remotely, even after COVID blows over? “It’s still too early to tell,” Clay B. Vaughn, senior vice president at CBRE says. “But once the pandemic is over, we think things are going to return to as close to normal as possible.” Currently, many believe that if workers are staying out of offices in the future, companies might not lease as much office space. Or, if they were previously thinking about relocating, why would they bother, if people are working remotely anyway?
Vaughn is with Silverman in believing that there’s no substitute for the role offices play—both in bringing people together and uniting organizations. But he thinks that offices will have to step up their games.
“Companies are going to have to make their office a destination where employees want to be,” he says.
“Dallas is on everyone’s radar, and I think we’re going to be the beneficiary of the impact COVID has had on our country. I think we will get 30-40 percent more companies relocating or establishing a significant presence in Dallas over the next five to 10 years. There’s doom and gloom in lots of markets around the country, but Dallas is filled with optimism.”
As companies from California to New York are looking at DFW, experts say the region has earned its stripes as a major player for tech companies.
One major checkbox that’s landed Dallas-Fort Worth on “everyone’s radar”: CBRE data that shows the region has a tech workforce approximating all large tech talent markets.


Based on an analysis of federal labor data compiled by CBRE in 2020, Dallas-Fort Worth is—by far—the most affordable metro among the
top-five markets for tech workers. While the Bay Area and NYC might have substantially more tech workers, their cost of living is almost double DFW’s. Metro D.C.—which ranks third for most tech workers in major tech labor markets—has a cost of living that’s roughly 50 percent higher than Dallas, per the analysis.That data doesn’t include a cost-of-living or cost-of-doing-business comparison. But the cost of living in Dallas stacks up very well against San Francisco, NYC, Boston, and most of the other cities on CBRE’s list.

West and East Coast tech companies could benefit financially by moving to Texas, says Dehrel Seahorn, the senior delivery manager of direct hire services at BGSF staffing services.
Seahorn believes the region’s economy is growing even more attractive to tech companies with continued expansions and relocations to the area. “Not only does Texas have a lower cost of living, but also one of the lowest combined corporate tax rates, which make the area quite appealing,” he says.
“I see Dallas as a smaller version of New York City—with a lot of business being done,” says Alejandro Laplana, CEO of Shokworks. The firm has settled on calling Dallas home, Laplana says, which he attributes in part to the diversity of its economy and the availability of capital for investment. Shokworks, which creates digital products from existing analog projects, announced in Fall 2020 that it was moving its headquarters from Miami to Dallas. Its clients include Real Madrid, Kinesis Money, Dupont Chemicals, and Fox Sports.
“Everyone knows that commercial real estate is booming in Dallas,” Laplana says. “But even so, you can find some interesting enclaves. Right now we’re actively looking for office space. We found a spot in the Design District which is 5,617 square feet. We’re looking to create the ultimate maker space, an invite-only situation.”
Dave Cochran has a theory about what attracts people like Laplana and Silverman to the Dallas region. Sure, he says, there are all those boxes to check—no personal income tax, lower cost of living, relatively easier regulations, and more.
“It’s not only about money—people want to work for something greater than themselves,” says Cochran, the executive vice president at Colliers International. He believes there’s a spirit here that’s almost like a mission.
In a lifetime of traveling and living in cities including Chicago, St. Louis, and elsewhere, Cochran has learned that Texans have a sense of pride that exists in only a handful of other places, like California and New York City. 
“Did I ever hear that when I lived in Chicago? Not really,” Cochran says. “L.A.? A little bit.” Californians are very proud of their state, and New York City is very proud of what it offers, he says. But Cochran finds Texans’ sense of pride to be “so pervasive” compared to cities like St. Louis, where he grew up.
“It’s not a perfect place by any imagination,” he points out. “We have our issues like every other metro area. But I think that the spirit that pervades this community is a little bit different than what you get in other parts of the country.”
That sense of mission isn’t confined to startups or relocations in North Texas.
Intuit found its way to Plano when it acquired Dallas-based software company Lacerte in 1998. Its employees contribute across Intuit’s business units.  
“Intuit’s mission is to ‘Power Prosperity Around the World,’” says Intuit VP of Product Management Jorge Olivaretta. “Whatever prosperity means to our customers, we’re committed to make it happen. In Plano, we focus on automation and data insights for tax and accounting firms.”
Olivaretta says that the tech developed by his Plano team helps produce better financial outcomes for financial firms and their clients. Largely, that means working to automate much of the work accountants and tax preparers might be doing.
“We focus on the areas that can solve their biggest problems,” he says. “This requires artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science. It also requires thinking and working beyond our immediate customers. We collaborate on solutions that solve similar problems for customers across Intuit’s businesses.”
According to Olivaretta, collaboration is a key element of the company’s culture, which also emphasizes integrity, customer obsession, and giving back to the community.
“We learn and share innovation practices with other companies in North Texas,” Olivaretta says. “We don’t have all the answers, so learning is important. We also work with local organizations, like nonprofits, to solve their important problems. Our innovation model, Design for Delight, focuses on what matters most to these groups. Our employees volunteer and share their expertise to help them achieve their goals.”
Some tech names, such as Match Group, are homegrown and others, like Texas Instruments, have been here for a while. The region has fast-growing startups, like Alkami, and laser-focused firms, such as Cysiv. Many more tech innovators are ramping up with expansions in the region including WiPro, InfoSys, Atos, Facebook, Amazon AWS, and Microsoft. Rounding out the technology landscape is a cadre of top-tier tech enablers, such as Deloitte, Accenture, Infosys, and Slalom, that offer support.
Salesforce—which developed the leading global customer relationship management software—chose the Dallas region for its central U.S. operations for two big reasons, says Lance French, SVP of business technology: The company saw a rich talent pool and a cultural fit. 
“Obviously, there was a highly skilled and diverse pool of talent to draw from,” French says. “But we also felt a strong sense of community in the area. This is a place where people care about each other and go the extra mile, and those values are deeply ingrained in Salesforce culture.”
An important part of that culture is “Ohana,” a Hawaiian concept that’s also one of Salesforce’s organizing philosophies. The idea is that Salesforce is a family—including employees, customers, partners, stakeholders, and members of the communities where it has offices—that is bound together in a sort of interdependent ecosystem.
“We take our Ohana culture very seriously and, while we’re growing at a rapid pace, we’re also very intentional about how we grow,” French says. “So we look for communities that share our values and have extraordinary talent and the ability to grow with us.”
Salesforce found what it was looking for in North Texas, according to French. Area universities are providing the talent the company needs to grow its workforce—particularly its Business Technology team.
“As an SVP for Business Technology, our internal IT organization, I also serve as the executive site lead for our Dallas hub,” he says. “That means I’m heavily involved in our recruiting and management operations in North Texas. Within Business Technology, we have hundreds of software engineers, developers, designers, product and project managers, change managers, and other IT leaders based here in Dallas. Our hub remains one of the top-growing global locations for business technology.”
As the Dallas-Fort Worth market has matured as a technology hub, a shared sense of mission is in evidence at many of the region’s tech firms.
At Cisco, where roughly 1,500 employees are working remotely from their North Texas homes, mostly in Richardson and Allen, COVID has expanded the company’s mission to help underserved communities access the internet.
“What we’re doing would probably fall more under economic development in helping to grow internet connectivity, for not only network connectivity, but also for the IoT,” says Cisco Regional Sales Manager Laura Baker.
In one local initiative, Cisco has partnered with the City of Dallas to install public Wi-Fi hotspots outside four libraries.
“I know children are in desperate need of basic Internet access, so they can do their homework,” says Cisco CIO Raja Singh.
Achieving that “ubiquitous internet” takes a village, said Nick Michaelides, Cisco’s SVP for the U.S. public sector, earlier this year. He said Cisco is proud of its initiative with the City of Dallas to provide Wi-Fi to underserved communities in this time of “seemingly essential need.”
That sums up tech and DFW in 2021: It’s a mutual gift that just keeps on giving.
Dave Moore is a data journalist and staff writer at the Dallas Regional Chamber.
Quincy Preston contributed to this story. A version was originally published in Dallas Innovates 2021: The Resilience Issue.
Our fourth annual magazine, Dallas Innovates 2021: The Resilience Issue, highlights Dallas-Fort Worth as a hub for innovation. The collective strength of the innovation ecosystem and intellectual capital in Dallas-Fort Worth is a force to be reckoned with.



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North Texas has plenty to see, hear, and watch. Here are our editors’ picks. Plus, you’ll find our selections to “save the date.”
MoviePass picks Dallas and two other cities for its beta relaunch; AI-enabled lending platform GoFi launches in Dallas; ItalianCarFest 2022 is coming to Grapevine’s Nash Farm; and more news from North Texas.
You’ve found Dallas Innovates’ archive of news briefs from July to September 2021.
You’ve found Dallas Innovates’ archive of news briefs from July to September 2021.
You’ll find deadlines coming up for Tech Titans Innovation Collider Grand Challenge, EmpowHERment Pitch Competition, the Pegasus Prize; and many more opportunities. New: Gotta new life-science company? Look for a chance at an Innovation Prize and your own Golden Ticket.
North Texas is a big place with plenty of opportunities. Here’s a curated roundup of contests and competitions; accelerator and recognition programs; and resource and grant opportunities for North Texas innovators. …
Amy Wheelus
Chairman of the Board 
Tech Titans
.…on the 2022 Tech Titans Innovation Collider Grand Challenge, via Karl Woolfenden’s podcast….
News travels fast. We’re here to help you keep up.
Each weekday, Dallas Innovates brings you up to date on what you may have missed in the region’s innovation, technology, and impact news….
North Texas is a big place, with plenty to do, see, hear, and watch. So, we scour the internet every week to find events and activities for you. As always, things may change at any time, so be sure to check the official website or registration page for the latest details….
Amy Wheelus
Chairman of the Board 
Tech Titans
.…on the 2022 Tech Titans Innovation Collider Grand Challenge, via Karl Woolfenden’s podcast.
Tech Titans—a forum that leverages the North Texas tech community to collaborate, share, and inspire creative thinking that fuels tomorrow’s innovations—has a deadline you should know about—September 5 at 5 p.m….
North Texas is a big place with plenty of opportunities. Here’s a curated roundup of contests and competitions; accelerator and recognition programs; and resource and grant opportunities for North Texas innovators. …
Amy Wheelus
Chairman of the Board 
Tech Titans
.…on the 2022 Tech Titans Innovation Collider Grand Challenge, via Karl Woolfenden’s podcast….
News travels fast. We’re here to help you keep up.
Each weekday, Dallas Innovates brings you up to date on what you may have missed in the region’s innovation, technology, and impact news….
North Texas is a big place, with plenty to do, see, hear, and watch. So, we scour the internet every week to find events and activities for you. As always, things may change at any time, so be sure to check the official website or registration page for the latest details….
Amy Wheelus
Chairman of the Board 
Tech Titans
.…on the 2022 Tech Titans Innovation Collider Grand Challenge, via Karl Woolfenden’s podcast.
Tech Titans—a forum that leverages the North Texas tech community to collaborate, share, and inspire creative thinking that fuels tomorrow’s innovations—has a deadline you should know about—September 5 at 5 p.m….
A collaboration of the Dallas Regional Chamber and Dallas Next, Dallas Innovates is an online news platform covering what’s new + next in Dallas – Fort Worth innovation.
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Biden begs for money for 2024 Campaign from local SF Bay Area tech leaders and talks AI

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Biden discusses risks and promises of artificial intelligence with tech leaders in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — President Joe Biden convened a group of technology leaders on Tuesday to debate what he called the “risks and enormous promises” of artificial intelligence.

The Biden administration is seeking to figure out how to regulate the emergent field of AI, looking for ways to nurture its potential for economic growth and national security and protect against its potential dangers.

“We’ll see more technological change in the next 10 years that we saw in the last 50 years,” Biden said as the meeting with eight technology experts from academia and advocacy groups kicked off.

“AI is already driving that change,” Biden said.

The sudden emergence of AI chatbot ChatGPT and other tools has jumpstarted investment in the sector. AI tools are able to craft human-like text, music, images and computer code. This form of automation could increase the productivity of workers, but experts warn of numerous risks.

The technology could be used to replace workers, causing layoffs. It’s already being deployed in false images and videos, becoming a vehicle of disinformation that could undermine democratic elections. Governments, as well as the European Union, have said they are determined to regulate and put brakes on AI before it is too late.

Biden said social media has already shown the harm technology can do “without the right safeguards in place.”

In May, Biden’s administration brought together tech CEOs at the White House to discuss these issues, with the Democratic president telling them, “What you’re doing has enormous potential and enormous danger.”

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White House chief of staff Jeff Zients’ office is developing a set of actions the federal government can take over the coming weeks regarding AI, according to the White House. Top officials are meeting two to three times each week on this issue, in addition to the daily work of federal agencies. The administration wants commitments from private companies to address the possible risks from AI.

Biden met Tuesday at the Fairmont hotel in San Francisco with Tristan Harris, executive director of the Center for Human Technology; Jim Steyer, the CEO of Common Sense Media; and Joy Buolamwin, founder of the Algorithmic Justice League, among others. California Gov. Gavin Newsom was also in attendance.

Biden is also in the San Francisco area to raise money for this 2024 reelection campaign. At his first fundraiser of the night, Biden spoke about what he saw as freedoms under siege, particularly for the LGBTQ community and with the overturning of abortion protections by the U.S. Supreme Court. And as president, it’s his job to help safeguard the right to choose.

“I think the American people need to have the confidence that we’re going to do what we say we’re going to do,” he said.

Climate change has also been a priority in Biden’s speeches at the fundraisers. On Tuesday, he told a group that he expects that John Kerry, the special envoy for climate, will soon return to China for talks on reducing carbon emissions.

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Associated Press writer Barbara Ortutay in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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Microsoft makes case for Activision merger amid EU scrutiny

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Microsoft makes case for Activision merger amid EU scrutiny

BRUSSELS (AP) — Microsoft’s Xbox video game division on Tuesday announced new partnerships with Nintendo and chipmaker Nvidia as it tries to persuade European regulators to approve its planned $68.7 billion takeover of game publishing giant Activision Blizzard.

A key audience for the announcements were the European Union antitrust regulators who held a closed-door meeting Tuesday with executives from Microsoft and some of its competitors, including Sony and Google.

Microsoft announced a 10-year agreement with chipmaker Nvidia to bring Xbox games to Nvidia’s cloud gaming service. Microsoft also said it has now signed a similar deal with Nintendo, formalizing a commitment it revealed late last year.

What it does not have is an agreement with Xbox’s chief rival, PlayStation-maker Sony, which has sought to convince antitrust regulators around the world to stop the Activision Blizzard merger.

The all-cash deal, which is set to be the largest in the history of the tech industry, faces pushback from regulators in the U.S. and Europe because it would give Microsoft control of popular game franchises such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush.

The European Commission, the 27-nation bloc’s executive arm, has been investigating whether the merger would distort fair competition to popular Activision Blizzard game titles. It’s scheduled to make a decision by March 23.

Microsoft first announced the agreement to buy the California-based game publisher early last year, but the takeover has also been stalled in the U.S., where the Federal Trade Commission has sued to block the deal, and in Britain, where an antitrust watchdog’s provisional report said it will stifle competition and hurt gamers.

Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Washington, has been counting on getting approval in either the EU or Britain to help advance its case in the U.S.

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Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, said at a Brussels news conference after meeting with regulators Tuesday that he was “not in a position to say exactly what was said in the hearing room” but emphasized that Xbox has a much smaller share of the market than PlayStation does in Europe, and asserted that the deal would be good for the industry by bringing more games to more people.

“For us at Microsoft, this has never been about spending $69 billion so that we could acquire titles like Call of Duty and make them less available to people,” Smith said. “That’s actually not a great way to turn a $69 billion asset into something that will become more valuable over time.”

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Amid ChatGPT outcry, some teachers are inviting AI to class

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Amid ChatGPT outcry, some teachers are inviting AI to class

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Under the fluorescent lights of a fifth grade classroom in Lexington, Kentucky, Donnie Piercey instructed his 23 students to try and outwit the “robot” that was churning out writing assignments.

The robot was the new artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT, which can generate everything from essays and haikus to term papers within seconds. The technology has panicked teachers and prompted school districts to block access to the site. But Piercey has taken another approach by embracing it as a teaching tool, saying his job is to prepare students for a world where knowledge of AI will be required.

“This is the future,” said Piercey, who describes ChatGPT as just the latest technology in his 17 years of teaching that prompted concerns about the potential for cheating. The calculator, spellcheck, Google, Wikipedia, YouTube. Now all his students have Chromebooks on their desks. “As educators, we haven’t figured out the best way to use artificial intelligence yet. But it’s coming, whether we want it to or not.”

One exercise in his class pitted students against the machine in a lively, interactive writing game. Piercey asked students to “Find the Bot:” Each student summarized a text about boxing champion and Kentucky icon Muhammad Ali, then tried to figure out which was written by the chatbot.

At the elementary school level, Piercey is less worried about cheating and plagiarism than high school teachers. His district has blocked students from ChatGPT while allowing teacher access. Many educators around the country say districts need time to evaluate and figure out the chatbot but also acknowledge the futility of a ban that today’s tech-savvy students can work around.

“To be perfectly honest, do I wish it could be uninvented? Yes. But it happened,” said Steve Darlow, the technology trainer at Florida’s Santa Rosa County District Schools, which has blocked the application on school-issued devices and networks.

He sees the advent of AI platforms as both “revolutionary and disruptive” to education. He envisions teachers asking ChatGPT to make “amazing lesson plans for a substitute” or even for help grading papers. “I know it’s lofty talk, but this is a real game changer. You are going to have an advantage in life and business and education from using it.”

ChatGPT quickly became a global phenomenon after its November launch, and rival companies including Google are racing to release their own versions of AI-powered chatbots.

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The topic of AI platforms and how schools should respond drew hundreds of educators to conference rooms at the Future of Education Technology Conference in New Orleans last month, where Texas math teacher Heather Brantley gave an enthusiastic talk on the “Magic of Writing with AI for all Subjects.”

Brantley said she was amazed at ChatGPT’s ability to make her sixth grade math lessons more creative and applicable to everyday life.

“I’m using ChatGPT to enhance all my lessons,” she said in an interview. The platform is blocked for students but open to teachers at her school, White Oak Intermediate. “Take any lesson you’re doing and say, ‘Give me a real-world example,’ and you’ll get examples from today — not 20 years ago when the textbooks we’re using were written.”

For a lesson about slope, the chatbot suggested students build ramps out of cardboard and other items found in a classroom, then measure the slope. For teaching about surface area, the chatbot noted that sixth graders would see how the concept applies to real life when wrapping gifts or building a cardboard box, said Brantley.

She is urging districts to train staff to use the AI platform to stimulate student creativity and problem solving skills. “We have an opportunity to guide our students with the next big thing that will be part of their entire lives. Let’s not block it and shut them out.”

Students in Piercey’s class said the novelty of working with a chatbot makes learning fun.

After a few rounds of “Find the Bot,” Piercey asked his class what skills it helped them hone. Hands shot up. “How to properly summarize and correctly capitalize words and use commas,” said one student. A lively discussion ensued on the importance of developing a writing voice and how some of the chatbot’s sentences lacked flair or sounded stilted.

Trevor James Medley, 11, felt that sentences written by students “have a little more feeling. More backbone. More flavor.”

Next, the class turned to playwriting, or as the worksheet handed out by Piercey called it: “Pl-ai Writing.” The students broke into groups and wrote down (using pencils and paper) the characters of a short play with three scenes to unfold in a plot that included a problem that needs to get solved.

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Piercey fed details from worksheets into the ChatGPT site, along with instructions to set the scenes inside a fifth grade classroom and to add a surprise ending. Line by line, it generated fully formed scripts, which the students edited, briefly rehearsed and then performed.

One was about a class computer that escapes, with students going on a hunt to find it. The play’s creators giggled over unexpected plot twists that the chatbot introduced, including sending the students on a time travel adventure.

“First of all, I was impressed,” said Olivia Laksi, 10, one of the protagonists. She liked how the chatbot came up with creative ideas. But she also liked how Piercey urged them to revise any phrases or stage directions they didn’t like. “It’s helpful in the sense that it gives you a starting point. It’s a good idea generator.”

She and classmate Katherine McCormick, 10, said they can see the pros and cons of working with chatbots. They can help students navigate writer’s block and help those who have trouble articulating their thoughts on paper. And there is no limit to the creativity it can add to classwork.

The fifth graders seemed unaware of the hype or controversy surrounding ChatGPT. For these children, who will grow up as the world’s first native AI users, their approach is simple: Use it for suggestions, but do your own work.

“You shouldn’t take advantage of it,” McCormick says. “You’re not learning anything if you type in what you want, and then it gives you the answer.”

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Associated Press writer Sharon Lurye contributed to this report from New Orleans.

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The Associated Press education team receives support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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