Teaching Artificial Intelligence at School: The why and how?
The discourse on AI and allied technologies has moved away from whether it is friend or foe to vying for a leadership position.
Vladimir Putin on September 1st 2017, in an open lesson of 45 minutes spoke to an audience exceeding a million children, and told them that “the future belongs to artificial intelligence,” and whoever masters it first will rule the world.
While there is competition between nations on the number of patents they have in the field, and the number of AI professionals they have, China has made a strategic move of a massive teaching of AI to its School students.
Canada has also created an AI curriculum for its School students delivered online. The US also has a program aimed at School children and Finland has created an AI awareness program open to anyone anywhere.
Sir John Ziman began the Preface of his well known book “ Principles of the Theory of Solids” (1964 edition),with the following opening lines:
“ The frontiers of knowledge ( to coin a phrase) are always on the move. Today’s discovery will tomorrow be part of the mental furniture of every research worker. By the end of next week it will be in every course of graduate lectures . Within a month there will be a clamour to have it in the undergraduate curriculum. Next year, I do believe, it will seem so commonplace that it may be assumed to be known to every schoolboy.”
Those words are squarely applicable today to the field of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning,and it is now reasonably clear that our school children must be acquainted with the key concepts and aware of the latest tools in the field of AI.
The mobile revolution has convincingly demonstrated that this nation can use self and peer learning to adopt mobile and web technologies. Awareness, adoption and internalisation of AI should also be a people’s movement. Already there are a number of Smartphones which have AI chips in them, and in the foreseeable future we may expect AI empowered mobile phones to be ubiquitous. And with devices such as Amazon Deeplens and Alexa, the use and applications of AI will become commonplace.
We, a group of School teachers teaching Physics, Mathematics and Computing in association with some University academics and industry practitioners have created a complete ecosystem for a massive AI awareness that could with the support of informed parents, passionate teachers and motivated learners prepare our young to play an important role in the 4th Industrial Age driven by Artificial Intelligence and allied technologies of AR, VR, Blockchain, IoT, 3D printing…….
We have developed a 6 month program that is designed for all students of Class 11 and 12 to start exploring the field of AI.
In keeping with the spirit of the 4th Industrial Age, it is delivered on mobile Smartphones, encouraging self-directed learning spirit of a lifelong learner, consensual learning, non-linear learning and badges for credentialing.
The program is named : “Learning to Learn AI/ML”.
The purpose of this program is twofold: one to introduce the young to the emerging field of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning and the other to guide them to become more aware self-learners who can continue to learn more about the field. The teaching-learning model is a combination of Flipped Learning and heutagogy with the goal of ‘playful exploration’ of the field.
Please watch this video on YouTube on the same topic : https://youtu.be/55BTXGpR4Bs
We have developed a list of 24 topics, structured as 6 groups/clusters) with 4 topics each; and one week devoted to each topic.
The first cohort is planned to run from July 2019 to December 2019. After that a new cohort will be created on the first Monday of every month.
This is an intensive academic program that a student covers in 24 weeks and is meant for high ability and highly motivated learners. Not meant for the faint hearted struggling with the regular mandated course load.
Teaching coding ( in Python) is not included here as there is already a course dedicated to this in the curriculum.
Cluster 1: Foundations:
Module 1.1: Why Learn AI ?
Module 1.2: Smart Learning
Module 1.3: Computational Thinking
Module 1.4: AI and the future of work in the Gig economy
Cluster 2: The Landscape of AI
Module 2.1: The Turing test: Meaning of narrow AI and AGI
Module 2.2: Swarm Intelligence
Module 2.3: Rule based expert systems
Module 2.4: Other emerging technologies: 3D Printing, Sensor Technologies, IoT, Blockchains, AR/VR
Cluster 3: Mathematics for AI/ML:
Module 3.1: Mathematical Modelling
Module 3.2: Linear Algebra
Module 3.3: Calculus for Machine Learning
Module 3.4: Bayesian Machine Learning
Cluster 4: Machine Learning Basics:
Module 4.1: Learning algorithms
Module 4.2: Decision Tree Learning
Module 4.3: Classification
Module 4.4: Regression
Cluster 5: Deep Learning:
Module 5.1: Neural Networks
Module 5.2: Basics of Neuroscience
Module 5.3: Artificial Neural Networks
Module 5.4: A survey of current applications of Deep Learning and future trends
Cluster 6: AI applications:
Module 6.1: Image and Object recognition and manipulation
Module 6.2: Speech generation and recognition : chatbots
Module 6.3: Recommendation Engines and Predictive Models : fake news
Module 6.4: AI and ethics
AI will be an integral part of our children’s future. The term AI may sound scary, with its possibilities of massive job losses and due to association with killer robots in science fiction. Another misconception is that AI is too complex for schoolchildren. But for digital natives born in the 21st Century it may not be so.
There are several benefits of teaching AI to school children. It fosters computational Thinking as a Complex Problem Solving skill, promotes data proficiency and incites and instigates questions about our humanity.
About a hundred years ago, while creating the BHU, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya expressed his views on technical education in the following words: “Even if we begin to-morrow the Technical Education of all the youth of twelve years of age who have received sound elementary education, it will take seven years before these young men can commence the practical business of life, and then they will form but an insignificant minority in an uneducated mass. It will take fifteen years before those children who have not yet begun to receive an elementary education shall have passed from the age of 7 to 21 and represent a completely trained generation; and even then they will find less than half of their comrades educated.”
I am sure he would be delighted to see today’s School Children learning about Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, 3D printing, Internet of Things, Blockchain, Deep Learning, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence.
It is sometimes said that the best time to learn AI was 5 years ago. The second best time is now. So let’s not wait further; let’s get started.