AI + Ethics Curriculum for Middle School

Ilana Pelzman-Kern

How do we raise conscientious consumers and designers of AI?

Children today live in the age of artificial intelligence. On average, US children tend to receive their first smartphone at age 10, and by age 12 over half of all children have their own social media account. Additionally, it's estimated that by 2022, there will be 58 million new jobs in the area of artificial intelligence. Thus, it's important that the youth of today are both conscientious consumers and designers of AI. 

This project seeks to develop an open source curriculum for middle school students on the topic of artificial intelligence. Through a series of lessons and activities, students learn technical concepts—such as how to train a simple classifier—and the ethical implications those technical concepts entail, such as algorithmic bias.

These materials have been translated into several languages, which you can access here:

Throughout the curriculum students learn to think of algorithms as opinions, are taught to consider direct and indirect stakeholders in a system, and engage in design activities to reimagine familiar artificial intelligence systems.  For example, students are asked to consider the stakeholders in a platform such as YouTube, and how they might redesign YouTube's recommendation algorithm to meet the needs of those stakeholders. 

The ultimate goal is to enable students to see artificial intelligence as manipulable—from a technical and societal standpoint—and to empower students with tools to design AI with ethics in mind.