Blog: How to Teach Kids About AI – The Wall Street Journal
Today’s middle schoolers may be the first “artificial intelligence natives,” a generation that’s grown up interacting with YouTube’s algorithm or Amazon’s Alexa smart speaker. Educators are grappling with how to teach children to be responsible consumers of the technology.
Blakeley H. Payne has one idea. A graduate research assistant at MIT Media Lab who studies the ethics of AI, Ms. Payne designed a curriculum to teach children about concepts like algorithmic bias and deep learning. She tested the week-and-a-half-long program in October with about 225 fifth- through eighth-grade students at David E. Williams Middle School in Coraopolis, Pa., outside Pittsburgh.
Ms. Payne, who does not have a background in education, developed the course of study with input from computer science teachers and researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her “unplugged” curriculum mainly uses pen, paper and craft supplies so that teachers can adapt it for their classrooms, regardless of budget or technological know-how. Each 45-minute lesson typically includes a short lecture and demonstration, followed by a group activity and open-ended discussion. In one exercise, for example, students wrote an algorithm to build a better peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Ms. Payne plans to do a second run at several summer workshops in the Boston area, where children will get about four hours of AI education daily. She also intends to open-source her curriculum online by the end of the summer.