The AI Investment Every Parent Should Make
By: Roozbeh Aliabadi
Many parents and teachers, or I should say grown-ups view self-driving cars, Siri or Alexa voice assistance and other considered cool artificial intelligence technologies as revolutionary, radical and sometimes annoying. Our children do not have the same attitude as grown-ups. In the next decade or so and for most of today’s K-12 children Artificial Intelligence will be their co-workers, drivers, insurance agents, customer service rep, bank tellers, receptionists, radiologists and in sum a natural part of their lives.
As parents and teachers, we do have an important obligation to prepare our children so they can use AI and big data effectively, so our children can understand the inherent limitations, and build better platforms and intelligent systems. Today’s elementary education needs significant upgrades to adjust for the current realities and be equipped to prepare the next generation.
As AI is taking over repetitive work and frankly most manual tasks in the workplace, we must continue to teach and insist our children on qualities that genuinely distinguish human from AI such as; creativity, adaptability, and interpersonal skills. Too often we do not focus on issues that encourage problems solving and teaching kids how to work cooperatively in teams.
At ReadyAI we observed first hand there is tremendous interest in inquiry-based or project-based learning at K-12 in the as related to AI. Furthermore, through AI education at K-12, we have the opportunity to focus on values and ethics that deserves far more awareness and recognition in classrooms and in our communities and neighborhoods. AI technologies of today face many ethical dilemmas; for instance, how to eliminate racial, gender and ethnic prejudices from the automated decision. Or how autonomous cars should balance the lives of its passengers with those of pedestrians? Our children are vital to the future where they need to make these-thought-out contributions to these types of the decision-making process.
Many parents, teachers, and colleagues ask me if we started ReadyAI because we are obsessed about teaching programming and coding to children. Although it is okay to do so, if children enjoy it, of course, we believe programming is something children can actually learn later on in their education path. It is not smart nor reasonable for parents to develop the sentiment that we don’t need to worry at all about learning to code and AI concepts are very much confusing and complex.
Our world is becoming increasingly digital. It is not hidden that computer science is something that is vital in arts and sciences as writing and math are. Teaching AI early on is not to urge or pressure children to become roboticists or computer scientists, we believe AI education is something that will help children do more in whatever field they choose and play a more impactful role in their profession of choice in the future.
Also expanding AI education early in a child’s education not only will help the learners and the future, but it will undoubtedly help the field of AI by urging more students – and a more diverse group of students – to consider various career paths in this growing field. We believe this will help to include more girls, minorities, and otherwise disadvantaged children to be part of the future and improve in building a more diverse workforce of the future. Those undoubtedly will be the most useful skills for tomorrow’s data-driven workforce.
At ReadyAI we learned quickly that it is critical to upgrade how we teach skills of the 21st century in AI to children. In STEM, STEAM or STREAM education, we frequently teach as if still are in the 90s, details of coding and really boring stuff. Usually, parents believe if their children can work through programing language details like Python, they might learn something, but it is still a big slog – we believe it shouldn’t be that way. We believe AI education for K-12 is more of a creative activity, so developing a programming course that is fun and exciting is not only doable but much more effective. For example in the first every World Artificial Intelligence Competition for Youth we implemented project-based learning and brought the fun aspects of programming to the kids. Why can’t we follow suits in every school and every classroom?
One of the major difficulties is that our communities and schools suffer from a severe shortage of teachers who are trained to teach AI at K-12. That is why we have built an AI learning community so AI enthusiasts, parents, teachers, and community members have a chance to learn and spread the knowledge throughout the community. We believe we need thousands of educators teaching millions of students around the world and we are ready to be part of it. We believe in order to move forward we need constant and solid commitment.
In order to build a better future for our children, much more is demanded. At ReadyAI we believe, investing in how the next generation understands and interacts with data and AI is the most vital investment that will pay off in the long run for all of us.