ISTE 2018 emphasizes AI in classrooms

A new initiative aims to connect underrepresented students with AI, STEM career opportunities

A new partnership between ISTE and General Motors, announced during ISTE 2018 and explored during an ISTE panel session, examines how students are being prepared to work with artificial intelligence (AI) in classrooms and in the workforce.

The multi-year initiative includes professional learning for teachers and hands-on school-based pilots supporting student-driven classroom explorations. More than 25 districts have benefited since work began in September 2017, and educators from some of those districts participated in an ISTE 2018 panel to share their experiences.

ISTE recruited schools with STEM initiatives serving underrepresented students in order to ensure those populations had exposure to and awareness of AI and STEM career opportunities.

“We started the program with ISTE asking two key questions: How do we bring machine learning and AI into classrooms to prepare the next generation for the AI-driven present and the future of work? And, how can it enable innovative ways of teaching and learning in the classroom? As the program enters its second year and as we scale our efforts and continue to try to answer these questions, we’ve been impressed by the level of enthusiasm and the high quality of project output by teachers and students,” said Hina Baloch, manager of Global Social Impact and STEM Education for GM.

“ISTE sees AI as a critical component of the STEM curriculum, and in this work with GM, our aim is to shift students from consumers of AI technologies to creators of AI technologies that address real problems,” ISTE CEO Richard Culatta said in a release about the partnership. “The professional learning and student opportunities we are creating through this partnership with GM are incredible.”

Many of today’s students will hold jobs that don’t yet exist today, and to prepare them for that workplace, teachers must be prepared to transfer essential skills and knowledge.

“Think about AI not from the point of view of how it will replace teachers–it needs to be for students,” said Dr. Joseph South, ISTE’s chief learning officer. “How do we help students understand and program AI? In order to do that, you have to prepare teachers, too.”

The initiative has already met a number of milestones, and highlights include:

  • Educators from Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois and Michigan participated in a new 10-week online course that focused on how the technology can facilitate learning and solve problems in schools and communities.
  • Educators from schools in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin introduced AI chatbots to students. Students were then challenged to program an AI chatbot solution for a classroom or schoolwide need.
  • Development of an online course, Artificial Intelligence Explorations and Their Practical Use in Schools, focused on AI for learning, project-based computer science learning and next generation skills. In the upcoming school year, this course will be offered to over 600 teachers, technology coordinators and instructional coaches.
  • Development of an AI and STEM Career Exploration Network of higher education and industry partners to provide participating educators with exposure to AI and machine learning research and development; computer science and engineering career awareness explorations; hands-on workshops and mentorship; and networking with experts who share insights and industry knowledge.

“What are we doing to prepare students–the future of the workforce? What are we doing to prepare teachers to help students? These concepts are great in research labs, but no one was making a concerted effort to bring them into the classrooms for PBL,” Baloch said. “This partnership with ISTE gave us the opportunity to bring deep learning to the classroom.”

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