It seems that recently, my tech and education reading has been full of information and opinions about AI, Machine Learning and Robots. In this post I present you with a collection of articles exploring how humans learning to relate to learning machines interacts with our world of educating young people.

The first is an article from The Conversation, by Stephen Corbett, Head of School of Education & Childhood Studies, University of Portsmouth, No, mobile phones should not be banned in schools, in which the author explores ideas and options for dealing with students and smartphones in schools. “Whether we embrace it or not, mobile technology is a fundamental part of the modern world. Today’s students will have jobs that rely on technology, and they need to be mature enough to use it wisely – and appropriately.”

Artificial Neural Network delirium
by Google Research “iterative-lowlevel-feature-layer” flickr photo by The Liberty Looker shared into the public domain using (PDM)

Having considered this relatively simple question, move on to a post on FastCompany, The case against teaching kids to be polite to Alexa by Mike Elgan, exploring the idea of the “courtesy conundrum” and that “When parents tell kids to respect AI assistants, what kind of future are we preparing them for?” “The world is changing. And parents need to prepare kids for the world they’ll actually live in. We need to teach them the old things, like good manners, and the new things, like the truth about AI.” … “Being able to identify what makes humans different than machines is going to be a very important skill as AI devices infiltrate more and more aspects of our lives,” Golin says. For starters, kids need to learn that Amazon Echos and Google Homes do not fit in the same category as mom and dad, but in the same category as TVs and toasters.”

Next is a post from MIT Media Lab, Kids, AI devices, and intelligent toys by Stefania Druga and Randi Williams. The post presents a review of their findings presented in their paper Hey Google, is it OK if I eat you?: Initial Explorations in Child-Agent Interaction,” presented at the Interaction Design and Children conference at Stanford University on June 27 (2017). “Children are growing up with technology that blurs the line between animate and inanimate objects. How does this interaction affect kids’ development?” The authors’ research focuses on 3 key questions. “Beyond ethical and security issues, the emergence of these devices raises serious questions about how children’s interactions with smart toys may influence their perceptions of intelligence, cognitive development, and social behavior. So, our long-term research objectives are motivated by the following questions:

  • How could exposure to, or interaction with, these smart bots affect children?
  • What are the short- and long-term cognitive and civic implications?
  • What design considerations could we propose to address the ethical concerns surrounding these issues?

Fourth on the list is an article by AI researcher Sherol Chen, How to Explain AI to Kids: Science Fiction, Movie Trailers, and Youtube Videos I Use to Help Kids Understand Artificial Intelligence. ” … I’ve taught lessons on Artificial Intelligence in six different countries from ages as young as 11 to graduate student level, and regardless of culture, there are two important concepts that I make sure to introduce young students: curiosity and grit. Without the means to cultivate curiosity and grit, many students avoid Computer Science before they even begin.”

There are three ways I do this:

  1. Motivations from History: “The Why.” Give them the historical context and motivations for the technology they use everyday, making sure they understand that before these devices existed, they were just a crazy idea someone dreamed up.
  2. Productive Curiosity: “The What.” Give permission and encouragement towards asking the right questions of “Why?”, “What?”, and “How?” Lead them by demonstrating what the right kind of questions feel like by tying it to stories and concepts they are familiar with.
  3. Ideas worth Realizing: “The How.” Show them in what ways they could dream, while emphasizing that if it really was that obvious and easy, someone would have done it by now.”

Chen’s post ends with a paragraph which will resonate with anyone teaching and learning in the IB world: “So, do I ever actually tell them what AI is? Not really. I show them a bunch of YouTube videos and lead them through discussions on how they’d like to connect these dots. To me, how you define AI is only as meaningful as the community you find yourself in, and even then, it slightly changes every so often. What I’d rather encourage is the lifelong curiosity on what it means to be human, and how we can be better at that.

For a basic introduction to Artificial Intelligence, watch this 6 min video from HubSpot (“Software to fuel your growth and build deeper relationships, from first hello to happy customer and beyond.”)