Artificial Intelligence

Have you ever been looking at something on Amazon and then see advertisements for that exact product on your Facebook feed?  Do you ever think about how “suggestions for you” on your Kindle or Netflix make it incredibly easy to click on the next book or t.v. series?  These are little ways in which artificial intelligence is becoming a normal every day occurrence in our every day lives and we don’t even realize it and we also need to make our students aware of it too.

According to research, scientists are far away from the C3PO kind of artificial intelligence but the reality about A.I. being a part of our world is far from Science Fiction.   I firmly believe that teaching students how to think critically about how artificial intelligence works is important.  Recently I was a part of a workshop with Microsoft and Kids Code Jeunesse in which we explored some of the pros and cons of A.I. in general and then specifically in education. We need to have these serious, ethical discussions with our students so that they are aware of the implications of a world with A.I.  Those recommendations that are computer generated may be helpful or they may narrow your experiences.  Just because I like historical drama doesn’t mean I don’t want to also watch romantic comedies.  However, until I watch a few, those don’t come up in my Netflix recommendations.  The narrowing of choice can save money for companies too.  See where I’m going with the moral implications?  So…how do we have this discussion with students in a way that they can understand?  Inquiry.

During the workshop we used The Teachable Machine which is an online program designed to demonstrate how machines can learn.   It is an effective tool to show that the more data that is entered, the more accurate the outcome. If you have a moment to look up the Google image for “Blueberry Muffins and Chihuahuas” you’ll understand what I mean.  Microsoft has been working with educators to help foster an understanding of artificial intelligence and bring that awareness to students.  On their website they have a number of experiments that you can take your students through in order to experience artificial intelligence at work:  Experience A.I.  As students use software such as predictive text, Google Read and Write or even chatbots for frequently asked questions, challenge them to ask the questions of how does this work?

Teaching digital citizenship and critical thinking needs to be a constant discussion, not a one and done lesson.  Students need to generate questions and explore how to find the answers with guidance from their teacher.  I think it is also important to highlight that A.I. might be a scary thing for some students so they need to be aware that although there are skills that humans and machines share, the machines do not learn those skills without the input of a human.  Machines cannot replace the empathy, creativity, communication and relationship building capability of humans.  They also cannot replace the understanding and caring of an effective teacher.

Fore more reading on the subject of Artificial Intelligence in Education:

Ryan M Cameron, A.I. 101 A Primer on Using Artificial Intelligence in Education

Wayne Holmes, Maya Bialik, Charles Fadel, Artificial Intelligence in Education:Promises and Implications for Teaching and Learning

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The Author

Michelle Fenn

I am a teacher with the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board and I have been teaching for over 20 years. I am an Instructional Leadership Consultant with the portfolios of Innovations and NTIP. Which means that work with new teachers and their mentors as well as helping teachers develop 21st Century learning competencies with their students. When I grow up I want to be Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus.

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