Districts looking to teach artificial intelligence lessons in middle and high school do not need to invest heavily in technology resources nor launch a separate stand-alone class: Instead, stakeholders and educators can begin by talking with students about ways they already use AI without even knowing it.
Students may not be aware that many applications they use daily are powered by artificial intelligence, from Google search results to music and video suggestions in Spotify and TikTok, said Nancye Blair Black, project lead for an ISTE and General Motors partnership, AI Explorations and Their Practical Use in School Environments.
When students discover how much is powered by AI and that they can use it themselves to create apps, design art or solve problems, Black said, “they are often inspired to find out more about how it works, how to best use it, and how it impacts them and the world around them.”
As artificial intelligence becomes mainstreamed into everyday life, educators and curriculum leaders are increasingly focused on how to bring the topic into classrooms. They can start by teaching students about how machine learning powers AI and serves as the primary decision tree computers use to process information.
District leaders may think they need to invest heavily in computer systems and machines to start students on the path to understanding how AI works and is designed. But educators can tap into several existing resources, many of which are free and can be woven across all subjects, as Jorge Valenzuela, an adjunct professor at Old Dominion University in Virginia, recently wrote for Edutopia.
One series produced by the ISTE and GM partnership, “Hands-On AI Projects for the Classroom,” pinpoints ways educators can introduce these lessons across different subjects and grade levels. They also integrate with standards often used in classrooms.
“For example, most elementary students learn about maps and navigation in their current standard core curriculum," said Black. "And the elementary AI Projects guide includes a project that addresses those standards while also learning about how AI-powered maps applications work and help people."
Although some students have opportunities to enroll in AI courses, not every state, district or school has the resources or opportunities to launch a stand-alone course. Yet, given the ubiquitousness of AI in work, learning and regular daily activities, Black said educators should focus on bringing the topic, and the learning behind it, into classrooms at any age.
“Given that AI is both an important and high engagement topic for today's students, all teachers should be looking for natural entry points in their current curriculum to integrate AI education,” Black said.