National Science Foundation Award #2022502.
Investigators: Irene Lee, Cynthia Breazeal, Helen Zhang.
Primary Place of Performance: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as a foundational technology that impacts on every sector of the economy and every corner of society. AI’s rapid expansion across fields and industries and its dramatic impact on the economy and national security necessitate developing a workforce knowledgeable and capable of working with AI. There is an urgent need to research K-12 students’ capacity to learn AI concepts and processes and how best to support their development of AI skills and career interests. Meanwhile, broadening participation in AI is an important need in AI workforce development. Engaging students from underrepresented groups in AI education can help ensure that the design, development, and utilization of AI technologies are inclusive and equitable. The objective of this project is to build field-advancing knowledge about 1) appropriate measurements and instruments to assess middle school students’ concept knowledge, awareness of AI and perceptions about AI, and career orientation; and 2) whether and how students are able to learn key AI concepts and become more interested in AI and related careers. This knowledge will be generated through investigating the learning outcomes and efficacy of an AI curriculum in informal learning contexts with students from diverse backgrounds, including Hispanic/Latinx and African American learners. The project specifically addresses middle school students (ages 11-13) because the middle school years are a critical time for students to begin exploring careers related to their interests. In order to develop a diverse AI workforce, it is important to expose students to the wide range of applicability of AI and the career options it confers. Many of the AI learning activities produced through the project are not dependent on the availability of computers, contributing to multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in AI learning experiences for underserved students who do not have consistent access to Internet services . This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students’ knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers.
Researchers will focus on four research questions:
- What are students’ perceptions and attitudes towards AI and how do they change, if at all, as a result of the interventions?
- What knowledge and skills do students develop through the interventions?
- What kinds of interactions between youth and curriculum materials, tools, and peers facilitate students’ conceptual development? and
- What connections do students make, if any, between the skills they learn and application of those skills in various STEM and computer science careers and fields?
The project team will use a design based research approach in conducting expert reviews, focus groups, and a pilot test to iteratively test and refine the curriculum, measures, and assessments. The team will then conduct an efficacy study to collect and analyze data to generate estimates of the impact of the intervention on youths’ perceptions of and attitudes toward AI, learning of concepts in AI, and career adaptability. Additionally, video and interaction analyses, cognitive interviews, and case studies with thematic analyses will be used to gain an understanding of student engagement with the AI activities; student interactions that facilitated learning such as interactions between students and curriculum materials, students and tools, and students and their peers; and the best strategies to support them to pursue AI related careers. The project’s deliverables include: the Developing AI LIteracy (DAILy) curriculum; the Attitudes Toward AI, AI Concept Inventory and AI Career Futures surveys; and the research findings. The project’s outcomes will build the knowledge base on appropriate measurements and instruments, students’ learning processes, how and to what extent students can learn AI concepts in middle school, and the efficacy of the intervention with an audience of underrepresented youth. The research has potential to advance the field of AI education by contributing to the definition of AI literacy, forming the basis for subsequent research on learning trajectories in K-12 AI education, and generating understandings that are foundational to developing education programs that will prepare a workforce knowledgeable and capable of working with AI.
Publications Produced as a Result of This Research
- Ali, Safinah and DiPaola, Daniella and Breazeal, Cynthia “What are GANs?: Introducing Generative Adversarial Networks to Middle School Students” Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence , v.35 , 2021
- Ali, Safinah and DiPaola, Daniella and Lee, Irene and Hong, Jenna and Breazeal, Cynthia “Exploring Generative Models with Middle School Students” CHI ’21: Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , 2021
- Ali, Safinah and DiPaola, Daniella and Lee, Irene and Jackson, David and Kiel, Jeff and Beal, Kerri and Zhang, Helen and Cheng, Yihong and Breazeal, Cynthia “Adapting K-12 AI Learning for Online Instruction. 2nd International Workshop on Education in Artificial Intelligence K-12” Proceedings of German Journal of Artificial Intelligence 2/2021 , 2021
- Lee, Irene and Ali, Safinah “The Contour to Classification Game” Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence , v.35 , 2021
- Lee, Irene and Ali, Safinah and Zhang, Helen and DiPaola, Daniella and Breazeal, Cynthia “Developing Middle School Students’ AI Literacy” SIGCSE ’21: Proceedings of the 52nd ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education , 2021