Bringing AI into the Classroom

December 17, 2019

By: Actua’s network member Geering Up at the University of British Columbia, who recently participated in Actua’s AI education pilot project.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly becoming an industry norm. While the concept has been around long before John McCarthy first coined the term in 1956, it has only recently begun to be universally applied. Many AI solutions rely on machine learning, which involves programming a machine to recognize patterns and create groups, effectively ‘learning,’ on its own. This unique property allows AI and machine learning to transform virtually every industry.

AI plays a significant role in shaping the future of our world, making it an essential concept to introduce to youth early on. By participating in Actua’s AI education pilot, supported by and CIRA, Geering Up has had the opportunity to develop and test AI workshops with educators and youth. In these workshops, we begin by introducing the general topic of AI, explaining the differences between AI and machine learning. We then present examples of real-world AI applications, helping participants understand the role AI plays in their daily lives. Finally, through a series of online tools, we introduce the key concepts of AI. Some of the tools we find particularly useful for introducing these key concepts are:

  • Google’s QuickDraw web application, to demonstrate the value and importance of quantity and quality of data;
  • Google’s Teachable Machine, a simple and interactive machine learning web application, to explore the concept of ‘classification,’ using images and sound; and
  • IBM’s Machine Learning for Kids platform, which allows users to create their own text or image classifying machine learning models within minutes, and apply their model through open-ended programs like Scratch and Python.

During these workshops, educators and youth develop their critical thinking and digital literacy skills, identify ways to leverage AI to face global issues, and become familiar with emerging technologies.

So far, we have delivered eight AI workshops for teachers, and four for youth. Youth and teachers alike say they appreciated the opportunity to learn about an exciting emerging field while using resources they’re already familiar with.

“When we’re working with teachers we want to engage them in relevant activities which can be connected to their curriculum – the AI workshop is perfect for this! It is a great starting point for teachers just beginning to introduce technology in their classrooms, and has presented something new and exciting for those already teaching computer science.” –  Katarina Smith, Education Coordinator, Geering Up, UBC

A great part of being part of Actua’s AI education pilot project was exchanging content ideas with other Actua network members. We’re excited to continue to contribute to the content being developed across the network. We are also grateful to Actua for coordinating an extensive survey and feedback process to ensure our AI content is relevant and engaging. Moving forward, AI content will be delivered in our in-school workshop program for youth, and we will continue to offer AI workshops for educators. We’re excited to continue to find ways to inspire youth to understand, appreciate, and create AI.