Robots Aren’t Taking Over Yet! How to Prepare Your Students for Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer just a theme of science fiction films, it’s becoming a part of everyday life. This is apparent everywhere from our online shopping experiences to the classroom, and the AI industry is only accelerating. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is investing $1 billion in creating a college specifically for teaching AI, emphasizing the importance of introducing AI to students early on.

Teaching is difficult enough without having to navigate an entirely new technological demographic. However, consistent research and implementation of AI concepts are working to prepare the industry for more advanced tech. Global management consultancy McKinsey & Company has set up a microsite where they report on how AI will impact various industries in the future.

The AI movement, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, may eliminate as many as 800,000 jobs by 2030, but it will also create many new ones. Incorporating AI in the classroom works to prepare students for a future that may more closely resemble the deck of the USS Enterprise than a standard factory floor.

As educators, it’s essential to start narrowing the technological gap as quickly as possible. It helps if you learn about AI yourself and become comfortable leading provocative and meaningful conversations in the classroom. Keep reading to learn how to make AI more accessible to students.

The basic types of emerging and existing AI

A good education always starts with the basics. For this, we need to identify the three primary types of AI:

  1. Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI) or weak AI can only perform a narrow task, like playing chess, or responding to a narrow range of questions—like Siri!
  2. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), also known as strong AI or human-level AI, refers to a machine that can perform any intellectual task that a human being can. Using more complex neural networks, computers can “think” on their own. Development of these networks is underway, and machines have already written books and produced films.
  3. Artificial Superintelligence (ASI) is the next phase, in which machines have the potential to become even smarter than humans.

Techniques for successfully introducing AI in the classroom

We are at the early stages of AI adoption. Much like the path of the Internet, it will evolve rapidly and become pervasive. What does this mean for educators? It means that we need to find a way to start including AI technology and ideas into the classrooms without overwhelming the “human element.” This can be done by making the tech accessible to different age groups alongside other age-appropriate studies. There are some fantastic ways to do this, including:

Adaptive learning programs

iPads, laptops, and STEM programs are taking center stage at many schools across the U.S. (and the world). The use of high-tech teaching tools provides educators with opportunities to introduce adaptive, or AI-driven, learning programs. The beauty of these types of programs is that they learn from what the student is doing and adjust the activities accordingly. There are several programs already being used in schools, and the learning curve is minimal.

Using robotics as a way to personify AI

Especially when teaching younger students, the introduction of AI-driven robots into the classroom can make the concept easier to digest. Robots like Dash and Cozmo have made the rounds, engaging students at nearly every grade-level; and inspiring the use of coding and active AI interaction.

Better tutoring through AI

There are numerous programs available that take education to the next level. These differ from the adaptive programs in their ability to address the specific educational needs of students. AI tutoring programs can engage students directly and help to improve classroom performance in nearly every subject.

Introduce chatbots

There are AI chatbots of all (virtual) shapes and sizes that can be both appropriate and educational. Even Siri can be a fascinating digital companion for anyone who’s just dipping their toes into the veritable ocean of up-and-coming AI concepts. Allow students to try and “outsmart” different chatbots, and discuss ways that the AI is adapting to the conversation.

Always adjust the tech for your students

Remember to keep things simple. Unless you’re teaching graduate studies at MIT, make sure that the language and concepts are kept as age-appropriate as possible. The learning curve will dwindle with time, and in a few years, AI may be so integrated that it needs no introduction beyond preschool.

AI and employment.

We have already seen how basic automation has had an impact on employment, with routine tasks (like toll-taking or checking in for flights) transitioning to machine solutions. Foodservice and transportation (self-driving vehicles) are among the industries that are the most obvious hotbeds for AI-driven changes. But even more sophisticated professions like teaching, marketing, and journalism are integrating AI technologies.

HubSpot created a list of jobs that are “safe” from being assumed entirely by AI and those that are at risk. The Guardian goes one step further and explores the types of jobs that are less likely to be automated. Jobs that involve genuine creativity, those that involve building complex relationships with people (like nurses and event planners), and vocations that involve a high level of unpredictability such as plumbers who are called to emergencies at various locations.

Popular media has stirred up fears that thousands of jobs will be replaced by robots. The reality is that although many jobs will be eliminated, people will need to develop new and varied skills to work with AI. In fact, many of the students of today may do jobs in the future that do not currently exist. Just think about it. In the 1960s, “coder” was not even close to being a mainstream job title.

The reality is that a lot of leaders look forward to an AI-powered workplace, as it will relieve them of mundane tasks and create new opportunities. An interesting example is Walmart employees, they seem to love working side-by-side with robots, and the company’s automation program has been expanded as a result. So, it’s more important than ever that we introduce students to AI and make them aware of what the future holds so that they’re ready.

AI is also a provocative discussion topic for people of all ages. Movies and television have sometimes made artificial intelligence seem like a prospect that is far away, as well humans don’t want to believe that a machine can ultimately be as smart as they are. However, if we focus on the opportunities that automation will create, it will help keep the conversation positive and prepared people for the inevitable.

Be sure to engage other teachers in your conversation and compare ideas for classroom exercises. After all, even your job will change in the Fourth Industrial Revolution!

Creating a curriculum together

Although Pinterest is filled with ideas for STEM class projects, very little currently exists to teach students about AI, its implications for future careers, and even its basic definitions and applications. Engaging your students and other educators in discussions will help shape the curriculum of the future. Learn how you can take your classroom discussions to the next level.

Get the conversation started in your classroom! Our free e-book will help you plan a great AI discussion and get your students thinking about the jobs of the future. Please let us know how you’ve incorporated AI in your lesson plans or focused on the skills that the workforce of the future will need.