Grant for artificial intelligence in education project awarded to School of Education researchers

Researchers from the School of Education have been awarded $670,000 to study artificial intelligence as it relates to education. The grant from the National Science Foundation will help the team partner with local elementary teachers in an effort to teach kids about artificial intelligence, life sciences and other computing concepts.

Krista Glazewski, Associate Professor and Department Chair of Instructional Systems Technology, said the project aims to teach kids about AI and its possibilities, both good and bad.

“AI brings about a range of ethical implications that help make life easier but there is also the possibility of misinterpreting data or information,” Glazewski said. “It is our goal to show young learners the importance of artificial intelligence and especially how it can impact life around us.”

It is critical for our students to be able to understand these ideas and principles so that they can be informed democratic citizens and make contributions to our future society.

Krista Glazewski

Glazewski, along with faculty members Anne Leftwich, Cindy Hmelo-Silver and Adam Scribner, along with colleagues from North Carolina State University, will spend the next few years on the project. They will co-design activities with local teachers and implement PrimaryAI, a partnership to design curriculum that addresses the upper elementary computer science and science standards. Students will learn about AI through a virtual problem-based, game-based environment that places them in a simulation in which they explore how to use AI to save an endangered penguin species from a number of environmental threats. Students will design a virtual rover to collect data about the threats and work together in groups to devise and implement solutions. Since this program is designed for third through fifth grade, the team will leverage grade-level appropriate, block-based computer programming so that students can design and implement AI technologies.

Top row: Krista Glazewski and Anne Leftwich
Bottom row: Adam Scribner and Cindy Hmelo-Silver

“Today’s elementary students will someday be responsible for solving many difficult questions involving artificial intelligence, and many of these questions involve ethical considerations. For example, is it ethical for Siri to listen to all your conversations? Who has access to all of your data and what should it be used for? Who is responsible for self-driving cars if they get in an accident?” Glazewski said. “These are all questions that revolve around artificial intelligence and it is critical for our students to be able to understand these ideas and principles so that they can be informed democratic citizens and make contributions to our future society.”

Currently, there exists very little research on artificial intelligence education, especially at the elementary level and particularly with regard to ethical problem solving. Though curriculum is being developed by a few companies, the project team is interested in developing integrated curriculum with teachers in order to make it more affective by seamlessly integrating it into existing classrooms. They’re also starting a Teacher Fellows Program, making the project a local partnership that could eventually extend throughout Indiana and beyond.

“By developing our ideas with teachers to think across the curriculum and within the life sciences, we are targeting integrated thinking and problem solving,” Glazewski said. “It’s a relatively new thing to think of AI as relevant to elementary students, and we need to conceptualize and examine our efforts in partnership with elementary teachers in order to see how to best use it in the future.”