AI and ML in Education

Image of two screens side by side. left with a childish idea of a lake and mountain, the right an AI realistic painting created from the childs image
nVidia's GAUGAN AI image creation
Computer programming as a mandated part of the curriculum began in the UK in 2013. Six years later we are beginning to see other educational regions requiring computer programing in the curriculum. But what about some of the more advanced tool? What about Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)? We live with intelligent tools daily now. Whether you are shopping online or asking Siri for the time you are connecting to intelligent machines. But we aren’t all discussing how to implement it in the classroom. My mission at ISTE 2019 in Philadelphia was to explore what we are doing with AI and education. Here’s what I’ve taken away. 
We have been asking an entire profession to pick up a necessary skill set by tomorrow. And we need them to do it again. Computer programming in the classroom integrated through various courses is very popular now. Many classrooms are drawn to block-based coding like Scratch or Code.org. Much of the content delivery can be done through a video tutorial and try it yourself technique. The educator doesn’t need to know much about computer programing just enough about technology to setup a digital classroom. While this is not the most effective way to educate it can get the job done. We need to begin approaching AI and ML topics in the classroom and this may be the way to get a jumpstart into it. 
AI and ML tasks are accessible now more than ever. Educational resources are out there to begin talking about and trying AI. Google has a number of projects which can spark a classroom conversation and exploration on the topic. One of my favorite tools is a visual training demonstration called Teachable Machine. Students can train the system to recognize objects. The concept of data being routed through neural networks is very clear from the visual layout of the website. It can spark conversation on the differences between sensing and perceiving. The extraction of meaning from the images to say a word, show a gif, or play a sound supports student understanding of the concept of perception. This easily integrates into biology curriculum as the human senses are explored. 
Large datasets can be engaged by our students in various ways. Gapminder provides a visually stunning display of over 100 years of data. We can see populations grow and shrink over time as it’s tracked over 6 variables. This timeline motion chart feature brings something to the classroom we would have to make a 100 page graph paper flip book to replicate in the physical world. While this is a goto dataset there are others to explore with classes. The conversation can be around math or history. It all depends on from what angle you want to look at the material. The life expectancy drops from world wars are very clear. 
Life expectancy and income compared overtime


The level or AI and ML learning our students need to be at when graduating high school as recommended by AI4K12.org is high. I agree with their guidelines and I’ve been working to educate myself but I still am about the level of a 6th grader.
Benchmarks for AI in the classroom "What students should be able to do."
Educators need more educational opportunities to be able to understand the emerging technology. Curriculum will be generated by the big tech companies but it’s a necessity for educators to have a bit of a deeper knowledge of the tools than the in-the-box materials provided. We need to know what’s possible in order to integrate the learning throughout our curriculum. The work of Dr. Scott Garrigan can be a wonderful place to start. He is an educator whose interest is in cognitive disabilities. He provides professional development on many topics. He understands the pedagogy and can help support in implementing AI and ML through a curriculum. 


While this is not an exhaustive list of resources they do provide places to get started. 



We will very quickly approach the point that we won’t be able to tell if a computer is speaking to us or a human. Just last year Google Duplex was demoed and is now released. If this is our reality now what will it be when our students graduate? Shouldn’t we begin making the effort to include AI in our curriculum now? We are seeing a scramble to include coding in the curriculum. AI and ML have coding in them but the concepts can be vastly different. If we wait much longer to push this into our schools we will miss the opportunity and fall behind. 

In light of recent political events I was deeply struck by a quote regarding AI: “Whoever becomes the leader Artificial Intelligence will become the ruler of the world.” -Vladimir Putin, 2017. Looks like educators have some work to do. 

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