Think AI is better left to the STEM experts? Dr Anne Forbes from Macquarie’s School of Education says on the contrary, all teachers need to be ready to integrate AI into their classroom practice.
(1) AI is a toolkit for solving problems – it’s not just about coding and technology
Using AI to solve problems requires skills and values which extend far beyond simply having knowledge of coding and technology. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rooted in Human Intelligence (HI), the way humans learn from experience, to adapt to new situations, to understand and handle abstract concepts, and to use knowledge to manipulate the environment.
Students learn to identify an authentic problem that would benefit from an AI solution and understand the range of possible solutions. The process of working towards that solution requires collaboration with others, Design Thinking, creatively brainstorming possible solutions, and then ethicallygathering and using datato train a computer to help solve the issue. Through testing the prototype with users, critically evaluating and using feedback to create a better solution, students build resilience and learn to view failures as instructive.
(2) AI is already here
AI applications are becoming ubiquitous in students’ daily lives, in school and at home.
Most students will have used social networking platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat, all of which use AI systems to target content and advertising. AI digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Google Now may have helped them search the web or ask for recommendations. Their parents may have received infringement notices sent from a traffic camera trained to read licence plates, and while travelling in the car, Google Maps may have been used to propose the fastest route to a destination.
A better understanding of these AI systems allows students to make informed choices about using them. In their future learning and careers, an understanding about AI will allow them to use smart machines to enhance their capabilities, not feel that machines are ‘the competition’.
(3) AI prompts ethical concerns
Machines (computers) do what they are ‘told’ through step by step instructions (algorithms) provided in a language that they can understand (coding). If the algorithms or coding are faulty or biased, then the machine will not perform as expected, or can reflect the biases of its human creators. For instance, racial and gender biases have been revealed in facial recognition technology used increasingly by big tech companies and in law enforcement.
Students need early learning experiences about AI, including the ethical implications of AI, to understand how these systems collect and use information. Ethical use of AI involves a focus on the wellbeing and privacy of users, the security of data, and transparency around when the system is being used.
(4) AI is relevant to every part of the curriculum
All AI systems process copious amounts of data and recognise patterns, but vary depending on the data source, such as images, text or speech, and what they are programmed to do with the data. AI can be used in any school subject. In Visual Arts, machines can be taught to recognise images of paintings and identify artists, as well as artistic genres. In Music, AI could provide feedback to students who are practising musical pieces, or students could train a machine to recognise and identify examples of a particular musical pattern. Students would learn not only how AI ‘works’ but that there are many instances where the particular musical pattern has been used.
(5) AI education fosters thinking skills
Authentic problems are usually ‘messy’. They do not have a single well-defined solution and therefore engaging with AI to solve these types of problems provides a perfect context for students to use 21st century skills of critical and creative thinking, collaboration and communication. They also use the processes of design thinking and computational thinking, and develop skills in data fluency and ethical decision making.
(6) AI literacy is an essential skill for the future
The changing world needs students to be ‘lifelong learners’ who continuously adapt and learn new skills in evolving workplaces. They will need to be digitally confident, global in their outlook, great problem-solvers, collaborators and communicators. By learning about AI, students develop a better understanding of their strengths as humans, identify their values, and develop the skills needed to solve real problems and put AI to good use.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) education for teachers is now available for enrolment from 26th October 2020 free on Coursera. The short course introduces K-12 educators to Artificial Intelligence and how it can be embedded into all areas of the curriculum. The course is based on the IBM Artificial Intelligence (AI) Curriculum Framework, which has been designed by Macquarie University In partnership with IBM. Artificial Intelligence (AI) education for teachers is part of a suite of global, open online resources for students and teachers that provide support for the development of the knowledge, skills and values needed to understand AI and its implications for society and the world and to use AI to solve authentic problems, now and in the future. We hope that you find the course to be educational and interesting and would appreciate comments about ways to enhance or maintain its efficacy.