AI for schools

How One should approach AI in schools

Recently CBSE introduced Artificial Intelligence as a part of curriculum and this has left administration, students and “Industry experts” divided in terms of opinion. What was once something reserved for undergrads to explore is now being pushed as a subject for high school and pre-high school students. This article tries to cover how much compression of syllabus is required and what should be the definition of an “AI course” at schools, the desired outcomes, and what is the student achieving by indulging in such a curriculum. In reference to the same I want to make 7 major points:

Don’t make it seem Mysterious

If one is making a sci-fi movie or a catchy you-tube thumbnail it seems fair to create an “aura” of unimaginable mystery and talking humanoids; but from an academic perspective its important to make the students realize that its just some math and it has assumptions and flaws of its own. Any fantastic tech that you see can be boiled down to some intelligently crafted algorithm.

An Analogy with Physics

I will draw an analogy with something that people, (students and teachers) are already familiar with- the way we teach the development of atomic theory in high schools. We don’t expect the students to come up with theories of their own , neither we provide mathematical proofs of every statement we make. The obvious reason for doing the same is a lack of mathematical skills developed at the corresponding age. Same goes for AI ; the first couple of years should not focus on “numerics”, but rather on creating an understanding of what AI tends to achieve rather than “how” it does it.

Its not Just about running a program

One of the biggest problems I observe when students participate during a Robotics, AI or any tech related workshop is that the quality of the workshop is judged by the fact that whether at the end of the day, a student has been able to build a running prototype or not, even if it means rushing the concepts. Don’t rush these things , it takes 2 minutes to download some random code and run it on your system, but it might take two days to understand how the same code functions.

AI Business cases/use cases

Another important aspect that students should be taught is that there are different expectations from an academic vs an engineering venture. AI as an engineering marvel is easier to witness for young students in their daily lives, i.e. the websites one visits, the online store one buys stuff from and the streaming services they use, analyzing what problems these platforms solve and why “AI” is something that has lately become indisposable for themĀ is one the best ways students can develop their understanding of AI.

This method of learning will also increase awareness about the suite of online services that are omnipresent and also create data literacy- something that is extremely important in a digital world where privacy is almost a myth.

Make students aware of scaling issues

Its a brilliant opportunity for students to understand the problem of “scaling up” any software/business and how resource optimization is a skill of its own. This will help them understand AI as a product and how data can be used to draw beautiful insights.

I hope that students make the most of this amazing opportunity where for the first time in a while they are getting a chance to deal with a subject that belongs to these past few decades and not something that is centuries old.

Where not to use AI

AI shouldn’t be forced everywhere just because it sounds cool. It has its own costs and downsides. And no, by downsides or dangers I don’t mean invasion over humanity, I mean AI can be stupid and non-reliable at times, hence it is of utmost importance to understand what is at stake whenever we are asking a machine to take decisions on our behalf.

You don’t need AI to make a software that adds two numbers. When you use Amazon for shopping or Google for getting search results, as a consumer you don’t care about the database they use or what cloud services are being utilized , you want your parcel on time that’s it , isn’t it. AI should add as a brilliant weapon in your arsenal of problem solving skills, but its not wise to cut apples using a sword.

A sad reality

While some of today’s kids can boast of having a customized Assembled pc , we still have instances/places where even basic computer literacy hasn’t reached fully yet. I hope Inclusion of skill based subjects will narrow down these differences in the coming years.

College students/interested school students with good mathematical background can check out this 3 video long syllabus for AI beginners.

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