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AI Curricula for K-12 Classrooms

Don’t assume it will be years before you need to worry about AI in the curriculum you teach. Artificial intelligence already has seeped into nearly every facet of our lives. It’s been permeating the fabric of our world, quite literally.

Wearable technology like smart yoga pants and running socks have taken fashion into the future with connected sensors that monitor body data and measure workout efficacy. We rely on smart surveillance, smart vehicles, and smartphones to get us through our days. Why wouldn’t we also use smart curricula?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that artificial intelligence already plays a role in many classrooms. Schools have been redesigning how students learn by embedding the first phase of AI into the grades K-12 curriculum.

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By Matthew Lynch

What is artificial intelligence?

AI isn’t as scary as it might sound. There are two types of artificial intelligence. The one you use now is known as narrow AI. This level of artificial intelligence includes spell check and autocorrect, gathering and sorting data, and curating information such as collections of lessons or pinned ideas for classroom activities.

The second type, general AI, will be the next level of machine learning. Scientists predict that artificial intelligence eventually will develop the interpretive skills that teachers use to build, analyze, and evaluate the curriculum they use in the classroom.

3 ways to include AI in the classroom

University of British Columbia computer science professor Tara Chlovski makes artificial intelligence relevant for all students, regardless of background or income. Her non-profit organization Iridescent concerns itself with giving all children access to robotics and AI concepts by teaching what AI is and how to interact with it. The first step, however, lies in nurturing a curiosity for learning.

AI in the curriculum often appears in these ways:


Teaching coding is one of the first steps in teaching students about artificial intelligence. Even young children can learn coding basics thanks to programs like MIT’s Scratch. By beginning the coding experience in Scratch, students will be more ready to learn advanced coding skills required by Java or Python.

Hands-on projects

Like any learning, artificial intelligence is best learned hands-on, and one machine learning site has several lessons for projects that show students how AI is used in the real world. Students can manipulate language, create a virtual pet, or analyze data.

Complete immersion

Schools like those in the Pennsylvania Montour School District have mandated AI in the grades 5-8 curriculum, and they are expanded the initiative in other grades as well. Educators have embedded artificial intelligence in STEM courses, and other subjects like Music, Computer Science and Media Arts also include AI in their curricula.  Additionally, the district requires their students to take a stand-alone AI Ethics course that teaches students design and values.

Chlotski’s ultimate goal is to help people understand and accept AI so that it becomes more accessible to everyone. One of the strategies she uses is gamification. Chlotski states, “The “AI technology in educational games enables intelligent, ongoing personalization, and the ability to gauge whether the player is engaged and whether they’re actually learning.”

The inclusion of artificial intelligence in curricula is forcing us to re-examine not only what we teach but how we teach it. Narrow AI is quickly becoming a part of the PK-12 curriculum. It’s just the beginning of what’s possible in artificial intelligence.

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  • Nov 15, 2019 8:00:00 AM

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