Teaching AI Supports Digital Readiness
Artificial intelligence (AI) enhances the performance and functionality of almost every appliance, device, and vehicle made today. Students must learn to understand and manage AI and related technologies to be successful now and in the future.
Students will need to acquire digital skills, knowledge, and understanding to enable them to use technology responsibly and effectively. The term “digital readiness” describes the combined skill sets, toolsets, and mindsets that will prepare students for the future.
When today’s K‒12 students join the workforce, now and in the coming years, demand will continue to increase for employees with skills in AI, machine learning, data analytics, and other computer science specialties. The World Economic Forum1 anticipates that AI alone could create 97 million new jobs by 2025.
To support students’ digital readiness and future success, educators should introduce AI concepts, demonstrate AI use cases, and help students to understand issues surrounding ethics in AI. This learning can begin in the early primary grades to lay the groundwork for building advanced skills in the middle school and high school years.
Introducing AI Concepts
To prepare students adequately for an evolving job market, primary school educators and schools can support increased student engagement with AI in education.
By adapting lessons to the students’ current capabilities and incorporating hands-on learning experiences, educators can demystify this highly sophisticated, advanced technology and prepare students for a data-driven future. AI skills and understanding can be integrated into an engaging and actionable curriculum, even for the youngest students.
Many—or possibly most—students will never pursue further education or careers in computer science. Understanding AI will nevertheless be instrumental in their future success.
According to a report by the World Economic Forum:2
The top skills and skill groups which employers see as rising in prominence in the lead up to 2025 include critical thinking and analysis as well as problem-solving, and skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.
AI education can promote critical thinking and spur emotional intelligence as students explore AI applications and analyze societal implications and ethics in AI, even for students who never write a single line of code.
According to AI4K12,3 an initiative sponsored by computer science educators and AI practitioners, there are five big ideas that all students should understand about AI:4
- Perception: Computers use sensors to perceive the world.
- Representation and reasoning: Agents (algorithms, for example) maintain representations of the world and use them for reasoning.
- Learning: Computers can learn from data.
- Natural interaction: Intelligent agents require many types of knowledge to interact naturally with humans.
- Societal impact: AI applications can impact society in both positive and negative ways.
All five of these concepts can be conveyed in a developmentally appropriate way at any grade level. The AI4K12 initiative is working to establish national guidelines and share resources for teaching AI in grades K‒12 in the US.
Building AI Through Hands-on Learning
In middle school and high school, students can begin to engage in hands-on learning.
Lesson plans, activity guides, professional development programs, and other resources are available to educators from Intel® Skills for Innovation. In addition, sample projects and lessons can be found on the Intel® Future Skills site.
These resources and guidelines help educators and students to integrate AI and data science into computer science courses and clubs, from the most basic introductory level to college prep and advanced placement.
Ethics in AI
AI-enabled programs and tools can be extremely beneficial, but the technology can also cause harm. Ethical issues arise when AI algorithms or underlying data are deployed in a manner that introduces bias, violates individual privacy, or compromises other human rights.5
A discussion or workshop on ethics in AI could be a valuable addition to the curriculum of any school. This area of inquiry is as equally well suited to a philosophy or social studies class as it is to a computer science lab.
When computer science students grapple with ethics in AI, however, they can express their ideas in code as well as in class discussions and essays.
Another approach would be to have students develop their own ethical guidelines and implementation strategies, as an individual or in a group project.
Intel® AI for Youth
Hands-on experimentation in building AI models might be most appropriate for high school students. The Intel® AI for Youth program, a flagship program of Intel® Digital Readiness efforts, is an example of a successful, hands-on program that empowers young people with AI technical and social skills in an inclusive way.
The school-age participants deploy AI concepts—including data, natural language processing, and computer vision—to create their own AI projects, often with meaningful social impact.
The program, now available in many countries, includes other topics related to AI ethics, privacy, and potential biases, to hone problem-solving skills and spur creative thinking.
Choosing the Right Device for AI in Education
The right devices support students’ digital readiness, preparing them for higher education and future careers. Even if the students never pursue degrees in computer science, they will be better prepared to join an evolving workforce if they are adept at recognizing AI’s place in everyday life.
When teaching AI, it’s important to equip students with devices that can handle a substantial workload with minimal lag time. Students will be evaluating AI use cases and building AI models, analyzing large files of audio and video data, and engaging in other tasks that require processing power.
Manageability is also an important factor in determining which devices can be adapted to AI in the classroom.
For example, the Intel vPro® Enterprise for Windows enables IT professionals to fix devices in students’ homes remotely. This allows district IT staff to boost their productivity and spend less time in transit.
Out-of-band management tools are another key manageability feature. With tools such as Intel® Active Management Technology, IT staff can access devices and fix problems even when they’re experiencing OS problems or hardware issues.
To help students stay safe in the digital world, Intel offers an Online Safety for Kids program that teaches children ages five to 18 how to use the internet safely and responsibly.