A realistic view of the current adoption rate of AI in education, and pointers on how to ensure that it works, amidst the digital-learning hype.
When the kids in Montour school district (PA, USA) turned up to school that day in the fall of 2018, they were in for a surprise. They were told they would begin a brand-new course on Artificial Intelligence (AI). What on earth was AI? And what could it mean to kids in classes 5 and 6?
But this was a serious matter. MIT Media Lab and Media, Arts and Science Department at MIT, had come together and proposed to ‘catch them young’. The idea was to make an early introduction to concepts and practical AI lessons for middle school kids. All students from classes 5 to 8 would go through the AI Ethics program to identify use cases of gender / racial biases, privacy, and fairness. By the end of the 3-day course, they would know if such biases were embedded into the programs they would work on.
Welcome to generation AI. This makes millennium kids look antiquated. This new breed is sensitized to the good of AI and is aware of where it could go wrong.
That is not all. Montour School district STEM teacher has co-developed a six-week program with Carnegie Mellon Dept of Computer Science called AI in Autonomous Robotics for 7 and 8-grade students. The implementation rigor here is quality stuff as kids are asked to solve real-world problems.
Amper Music, the world’s first AI music composer and producer, has worked with music faculty at the school to develop a 10-day AI Music program for class 7 and 8 students. This school district is certainly leading the AI drive firing on all cylinders.
A host of universities, AI software firms, educators, and AI experts are coming together like never before to create early engagement for school kids into the AI world. And unlike what most of us would have thought: It is not only about STEM. In fact, the philosophy is to move from STEM to STEAM (with a liberal dose of Art – music, media, entertainment) thrown in for good measure. And this is happening in several pockets across the US.
AI in education sector – AI is here to stay, and the US campuses are already doing it
Across the United States, AI penetration within the education sector is tangible but may not be visible to the untrained eye. While varying in level of experimentation, schools and higher education institutes have embraced the tech and decided to learn how to harness its powers.
Pittsburg-based Carnegie Learning1 offers AI-based personalized math, applied sciences, and language programs for post-high school students to rediscover learning. The entire program is personalized and self-paced, giving a new approach to STEM learners post-K12 schooling. The results demonstrated in some school districts in Washington and Texas prove the program creates a positive impact.
Duolingo2 is an amazingly popular AI-based customized language learning tool that allows anyone to learn a language. This is based on machine-driven instructions optimized for students based on millions of similar learning sessions held earlier. And most of the learning is for free.
California-based Content Technologies3 is a pioneer in AI and has developed several advanced AI systems for education. The Cram 101 is an AI tool that converts any textbook fed to it into chapter-wise byte-sized summaries, true or false type questions, learning concepts in record time. The company has developed similar tools for different disciplines such as nursing education, high school, and so on.
Some of the interesting outcomes of the approach of starting them young came from a US scientist, Ms. Druga, who built Cognimates, an AI platform for building games and programming robots and training AI models. Cognimates was incubated in MIT Media Labs.
In a three-year study, where kids were taught to program bots to play games such as Rock and Scissors and build gaming applications using AI. One of the most profound observations came from Druga: When the kids came out after a session and said – “the computer is smart, but I am smarter”.
This was a powerful endorsement of how a young student comes away with a high level of confidence in the programmability of the computer to do what she wants it to do. This clearly establishes the argument about why AI perhaps should be started early on in school.
Next steps in playing this right – How can AI be used in education?
In general, schools and Universities must do the following to stay abreast of the AI curve and help imbue its benefits within the communities.
1. Create a qualified AI resource team within the institution so they can track AI developments in peer institutes, vendor implementations and research the use cases.
2. Understand own deployments, migration of data systems into the AI realm, define implementation road map and create necessary stakeholder education of the new systems that will come.
3. Educational institutions should also work with boards, government agencies, and accreditation bodies to define a structured AI curriculum for higher courses. This may require an industry interface also. This combination will create a Special Interest Group -university-industry – regulator group that will work together in ensuring the best interests of all concerned.
4. Faculty training, student and parent education, and awareness programs in terms of how the implementation could affect them need to be made available. Privacy and security rights of all stakeholders are paramount and need to be protected. How the schools intend to ensure data protection as machines become more powerful and open to sharing, receiving data from remote tutors, servers dynamically need to be shared transparently.
The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) launched the AI for K-12 Working Group (AI4K12) to define for artificial intelligence what students should know and be able to do.
There are several such movements developing effective programs to deploy at various levels. These can help institutes understand better where AI is headed and how to ride this new technology wave to harness its full benefits.
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