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Teaching AI: What K-12 Educators Need to Know

Updated: 6 days ago

by Anne Fleming


Only a few years ago, artificial intelligence (AI) may have seemed closer to science fiction than reality, but in today's world, this technology has become an inescapable part of our daily lives. From virtual assistants on our smartphones to self-driving cars, AI is already revolutionizing the way we live and work, and this trend will only continue. The workforce of the future will need to be equipped with the right knowledge to succeed in this increasingly AI-driven world. Today’s educators hold the power to make this happen.  


What & Why 

The concept of AI refers to computer systems that can perform tasks typically requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, and decision-making. It encompasses machine learning, neural networks, and various algorithms that enable computers to learn from data and improve their performance over time. Like any new technology, AI has both positive and negative potential ramifications. For example, you may have heard that AI will make many jobs obsolete, and this could be true. However, it’s also true that AI and other emerging technologies will create a plethora of new careers across different fields. In fact, it’s estimated by the Institute for the Future that 85% of the jobs that today’s learners will be doing in 2030 don’t yet exist – and that’s just a few short years away. What will the workforce look like when today’s kindergarteners enter it?  


Of course, we have no way of knowing exactly what the future will bring, but isn’t that even more reason to help our students learn about the technology shaping their world? Additionally, integrating AI-focused lessons has broader applications outside of educating about the technology itself. Learning about artificial intelligence also encourages critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills, which are valuable across all subjects. To facilitate this learning, how can we effectively integrate AI into the K-12 classroom? Below are some ideas to get you started – remember that while AI may be a complex topic, you do not need to be an expert to teach it effectively. There are numerous resources and tools available to help educators bring AI learning to life. 


Strategies for Teaching AI 

  • Cross-Curricular Approach: AI is not confined to a single subject; it touches multiple areas of study. Math teachers can explore AI through the lens of statistics and data analysis, while language arts lessons can discuss AI's impact on language processing and communication. In social studies, we can explore the societal and ethical impacts of AI, and art teachers can examine the concept of AI-created art and creative collaboration between humans and AI. 

 

  • Hands-On Learning: One of the most effective ways to teach AI is through hands-on projects. For example, interactive platforms like Scratch and Google’s Teachable Machine are designed to introduce students to AI models in a user-friendly manner. Hands-on lesson kits are another resource – here’s one from Photon Education. Educators themselves can also get creative with AI, and utilize tools like ChatGPT to help design lesson plans. 

 

  • Real-World Examples: Incorporate current, real-world AI examples to create engaging and relatable lesson material. Discuss the use of AI in a variety of applications including healthcare, transportation, finance, and entertainment. Encourage students to explore the ways AI is already in use around them and what they have heard in the news about this topic.  

 

  • Collaborative Projects: Students can work together in groups to brainstorm AI-powered solutions to real-world problems or put together a presentation on the different AI technologies available today and their applications. This facilitates shared understanding and encourages discussion between students, developing teamwork skills. Teachers can also leverage education forums online to collaborate, share experiences, and stay up-to-date on the latest AI news. 

 

  • Explore Ethical Implications: To give students a well-rounded understanding of AI, it is crucial to address ethics and responsible use of this technology. To do so, educators can lead students in a conversation around data privacy, the potential for bias in machine learning, and the consequences of responsible vs. irresponsible use of AI. To kick off an engaging discussion, try prompting your students to ask ChatGPT how it handles the data it collects, or what strategies can be used to mitigate bias in AI. 


Final Thoughts 

Teaching AI is not only about preparing students for future careers, but also empowering them to understand and shape the world around them. By introducing AI concepts in practical, relatable, and responsible ways, educators can lead the students of today to become AI-literate and responsible digital citizens, ready to thrive as leaders in the world of tomorrow.  


Teachers take on a profound responsibility in their work: to guide young people as they learn, grow, and prepare for the rest of their lives in a changing world. We at MindSpark Learning strive to celebrate, lift up and empower educators with inspiring professional learning experiences, custom designed to spark sustained transformation.  


Learn more about AI in education or explore our on-demand courses in Responsible AI (RAI) or Applied AI (AAI).

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