The University of Florida has taken some of the first steps in its artificial intelligence (AI) initiative by creating an AI curriculum geared toward K-12 students, including offering AI courses for UF students.
AI is a technology that helps people make decisions, said UF Associate Provost for Strategic Initiatives David Reed.
“You’re using AI when you use facial recognition to unlock your phone,” Reed said. “You use it when Amazon predicts products that you might want to buy. Self-driving cars use it when it senses the traffic light changing from green to amber to red and start slowing the car down for you.”
The UF has attached great importance to its AI initiative not only in the field of computer science, but throughout the university. AI is starting to lead the way in many industries, Reed said.
“The reason for that is that it’s applied in all these different disciplines,” he said. “It just made sense to start teaching people in artificial intelligence across the university.”
Part of the initiative was the creation of AI classes that students of all majors can take. Hannah Quintal, a UF student taking these classes, said she’s glad UF has a strong focus on AI.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s just so future-oriented. They try to be part of this new interdisciplinary field that will be so important and so relevant to each of our careers.”
These AI classes are not intended as a degree requirement or “to grind a grade,” but simply to allow UF students to have long-term knowledge of AI.
“They’re making it accessible to people with all majors and minors, and only people with an interest or (those who) didn’t know they had an interest in AI,” she said.
Along with on-campus classes, UF colleagues and students in the Education Technology and Computer Science departments have developed a curriculum for young students to learn the basics of AI.
Maya Israel, the associate professor of education technology and K-12 computer science education, said the goal in developing this education is for young students to learn something through technologies they are already familiar with, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home products learn about AI.
“Artificial intelligence influences a lot of what we do,” she said. “In order for children to be able to navigate a world that is so heavily influenced by AI, it is important that they can understand it.”
Israel said her lab at the College of Education focused on the curriculum side of the project, while Kristy Boyer, a professor in the computer science department, worked at the interface in her lab.
Both Israel and Boyer have led AI learning sessions at local summer camps for the past two years, where UF students have taught middle school students the basics of AI through their program called AMBY (AI Made By You).
“They were able to create chatbots in whatever they wanted,” Israel said. “Some created [chatbots] that would give moderation or provide historical facts or talk about sports. You could program Google Home to say things like “Hey Google, tell me where I can buy shoes” or “Hey Google, tell me facts about this basketball player.”
Quintal said she wishes she had had the opportunity to attend the courses Israel and Boyer created when they were young.
“I really think AI is something that everyone needs to know about, especially for people in middle school, even elementary school,” Quintal said. “AI will become even more relevant for them.”