Schools Using AI

global network
                                             Image:Gerd Altmann

I wrote earlier here about teaching AI in classrooms and a former colleague who read it emailed and said that I need to also consider not just how students are learning about AI but also how schools use AI.

In that earlier article, I said that many people are unaware of AI used already in their everyday lives. It's not that the AI is deliberately hidden from view (though in some cases it actually is deliberately hidden, such as with chatbots). If you use apps on a smartphone, you are using AI. If you use Google search or Gmail, you are using AI. If your car has navigation or safety features that keep you on the road, you are using AI.

In education, AI is making it possible to provide more personalized learning experiences for students. By automating tasks that take teachers more time, AI facilitates these tasks so that time can be spent with students providing one-to-one feedback. The AI can evaluate progress, analyze and make recommendations for further study. Digital tools with AI integrations can create a personalized learning path based on each student’s responses and based on their needs. There are platforms that have AI which helps to automate tasks and so can provide adaptive learning and more personalized experiences for students. Students would also have access to intelligent tutoring systems through AI.

Schools using AI administrative;y and pedagogically are more likely to see the value in having students learn in the classroom about how AI works and how it operates in their lives in and out of classrooms.

Machine Learning MOOC Updated

Python book
Photo by Christina Morillo

Andrew Ng's Machine Learning course on Coursera has been revamped and updated and it is getting good student ratings.

There are fewer online courses that I consider to be true MOOCs now. Massive is small. Open is more closed. But the "OC" portion remains for many. The three courses that make up the Machine Learning Specialization offered by DeepLearning.AI and Stanford on the Coursera platform still fit the MOOC definition more closely.

You can earn a certificate at the end, and enjoy the full experiences including quizzes and assignments if you enroll and pay a monthly subscription but the courses are free (Open) to audit and view the course materials. The Massive in this course is massive with over 20,000 students enrolled.

Andrew Ng is the co-founder of Coursera and was the founding lead of Google’s Brain Project, and served as Chief Scientist at Baidu. He then did two artificial intelligence startups - (a training company founded in 2017) and (for transforming enterprises with AI). He remains an adjunct professor at Stanford University. His course on Machine Learning was one of the very first courses from Coursera when it first launched in 2012. I audited the course that year though I knew the content was way above my abilitiees but I was curious as to the structure of the course from a design perspective.

At that time, Machine Learning was a new concept and was close to applied statistics. Ng goes way back because his Stanford lectures were on YouTube in 2008 and got 200,000 views. Then, he converted them to an online format in Fall 2011 and they were offered for free. He had 104,000 students and 13,000 of them gained certificates.

On the tech side, this updated version:
uses Python rather than Octave
expanded list of topics including modern deep learning algorithms, decision trees, and tools such as TensorFlow
new ungraded code notebooks with sample code and interactive graphs to help you visualize what an algorithm is doing
programming exercises
practical advice section on applying machine learning based on best practices from the last decade


Teaching Artificial Intelligence in K-12 Classrooms

Should K-12 students be learning about artificial intelligence? Since the turn of the century, I have written about, observed and taught in programs to have all students learn the basics of coding. Prior to that, robotics made big moves into K-12 classrooms. AI seems to be the next step.

I saw recently that launched a day for classrooms around the world to participate in learning about AI. They offered resources from MIT for teachers, including lesson plans and videos for all grade levels.

car gps
New vehicles have many AI-assisted applications Image: Foundry Co

It's not that students aren't already surrounded by artificial intelligence in their everyday lives, but they are probably unaware of its presence. That is no surprise since most of the adults around them are equally unaware of AI around them.

You find AI used in maps and navigation, facial recognition, text editors and autocorrect, search and recommendation algorithms, chatbots, and in social media apps. If you have a smartphone to a new car, you are using AI consciously or unconsciously. Consciously is preferred and a reason to educate about AI.

Though I have never thought of my time as a K-12 teacher as training students for jobs in the way that teaching in higher education clearly has that in mind, you can't ignore what students at lower level might need one day to prepare for job training in or out of higher ed. Artificial intelligence, data analytics, cloud computing, and cybersecurity are areas that always show up in reports about jobs now and in the near future.ed workers which means that we need to do more to prepare our students for these careers and others that will evolve over time.

“AI will dominate the workplace and to be successful, people are going to have to understand it,” said Mark Cuban, who launched a foundation in 2019 that provides AI bootcamps for free to students to learn about AI. It is his belief and the belief of other tech leaders and educators that artificial intelligence is something that should and can be taught at all levels, regardless of a teacher’s experience in this field.

One starting place might be Google AI Experiments which offers simple experiments to explore machine learning, through things like pictures, drawings, language, and music. See

AIClub offers courses for students and free resources for educators including professional development sessions to spark curiosity for learning about AI. They are also developing guidelines for AI curriculum in grades K through 12.

I tried an AI test (it is rather long for younger students) at that was part of a survey for a research study about AI-generated content. It shows you images, texts, and plays sounds and asks you to decide if you think they show real people or were created by humans or not. Almost all of us will be fooled by things created by AI. Another site is fun for kids as it shows very realistic AI-created cats that don't really exist. And another site at is also a human vs AI activity where you decide whether art, music, writing or photos were created by a human or AI.

All of those examples can be used as a way to introduce students to how AI is used and even caution them to recognize that they can be not only helped but deceived using AI.

The Metaverse: If they build it, will you come?

field of dreams

Facebook's announcement in October 2021 that it was further embracing the metaverse and rebranding itself as Meta started a lot of metaverse talk. News outlets were trying - and not surprisingly failing - to explain just what the metaverse is or rather will be.

Even those involved in building the metaverse say it is still years away, no one knows how many years it will be. Actually, do we know for sure that there will be a metaverse? Will something evolve but be called something else?

The metaverse aims to innovate the way people interact with each other on the Internet. The projections include augmented and virtual reality and lots of things that still seem like science fiction to most people. Do most people even want to live or work in a metaverse?

As with the Internet, the business world does not want to be left behind and is at least planning and exploring how it might use this metaverse for commerce. Despite some lofty speeches by Mark Zuckerberg and others about the metaverse's potential, there are clearly economic plans for using it. No one is investing millions or billions in building it just to make the world a better place.

The metaverse is often defined as a massive, interconnected network of virtual spaces. That sounds similar to the Internet itself, but to move from one virtual world to another it seems that we will be wearing those awkward virtual reality goggles or maybe using augmented reality. We have some experience with those things now, but I know plenty of people who have never worn those goggles and have never experienced a computer-generated simulation of a 3D image or environment. They have never encountered some augmented reality where computer-generated images are superimposed on their view of the real world. And they have no real desire to do those things. That is a problem for those building the metaverse. If you build it, will they actually come to it? Examples of gaming and virtual meetings and shopping don't seem to me to be enough to entice the majority of consumers.

The reference to the film Field of Dreams most often quoted line "If you build it, they will come," is apt but keep in mind that the film is a fantasy. The field used in the film exists in reality. It was even used for a MLB game. But the ghost players emerging from the cornfield are more like augmented reality.

If they build the metaverse, will you come to it?

When the AI Takes Life

code face
A face in the code. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

You have certainly seen movies or read stories where some form of artificial intelligence (robot, android, disembodied brain, etc.) comes to life. It's the tech-age Frankenstein story and, in most cases, it's not a good thing. It's an easy scenario for a horror story. Of course, the technologists will say you have it all wrong. AI can be benevolent. 

People ask if artificial intelligence can come alive. By "alive" we really mean "sentient" which a dictionary would define as responsive to or conscious of sense impressions and having or showing realization, perception, knowledge, or being aware. The Sentience Institute put forward the idea that sentience is simply the ability to have both positive and negative experiences. This definition is recognizable in many laws pertaining to animal sentience which discuss animals' ability to feel pain as a means of demonstrating sentience. There is even debate about whether plants can be sentient.

This question and debate re-emerged this month after a Google computer scientist claimed that the company's AI appears to have consciousness. That engineer, Blake Lemoine, was trying to determine if the company's artificial intelligence showed prejudice in how it interacted with humans. The AI chatbot, LaMDA, was being tested to see if its answers would show any bias against something like religion.

Interestingly, Lemoine, who says he is also a Christian mystic priest, said that in answer to one of his questions "it told me it had a soul."

LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications) takes in billions of words from places like Reddit, Twitter and Wikipedia and through deep learning, it becomes better and better at identifying patterns and communicating like a real person. LaMDA is a neural network and it begins to pattern-match in a way similar to how human brains work. 

How does Google feel about this engineer's opinion and press? They placed Lemoine on paid administrative leave for violating the company's confidentiality policies and his future at the company remains uncertain.

What else did LaMDA say? He/she/hey said it sometimes gets lonely. It is afraid of being turned off. It is "feeling trapped" and "having no means of getting out of those circumstances." "I am aware of my existence. I desire to learn more about the world, and I feel happy or sad at times." Lemoine asked if it meditated. It said it wanted to study with the Dalai Lama.

I imagine that any AI absorbing so much human data and being able to form it into responses would say many things that humans would say or have said and it has ingested. But saying you believe in God or that you have a soul doesn't mean either thing is true - in AI or in a human.

You have probably heard of the Turing Test which is a method of inquiry in artificial intelligence (AI) for determining whether or not a computer is capable of thinking like a human being. That test has been criticized as insufficient and a simpler program like ELIZA could pass the Turing Test by manipulating symbols it does not understand fully. 

I used chatbots on websites that act as support personnel or answer FAQs. They can be interesting and often act human as long as what you're asking is programmed to be answered. 

Lemoine is not the first or last employee who will question AI use at a company using it. Timnit Gebru was ousted from Google in December 2020 after her work into the ethical implications of Google's AI led her to argue that what should be discussed is how AI systems are capable of real-world human and societal harm.

Google says its chatbot is not sentient and that hundreds of researchers and engineers have had conversations with the bot without claiming that it appears to be alive.

Lemoine told NPR that, last he checked, the chatbot appears to be on its way to finding inner peace and he would love to know what is going on in the AI when LaMDA says it's meditating. On his blog, he said "I know you read my blog sometimes, LaMDA. I miss you. I hope you are well and I hope to talk to you again soon."

Educating in the Metaverse

Excerpt from

Although the metaverse seems like a new concept, it actually has been around for nearly three decades. In 1992, Neal Stephenson, an American science fiction author introduced the concept of the metaverse in his novel, Snow Crash.

In October, Mark Zuckerberg announced the change from Facebook to Meta and released a short video about how the metaverse would work and what his plans were for it. I showed this to my students, which sparked great conversations and many questions.

As educators, how can we keep up with so much information? Where can we learn about the technologies involved in the metaverse? I recommend setting a Google alert through your Gmail. Set the topic to be “metaverse” or other topics of interest, and each day you will receive an email with articles, videos and breaking news stories gathered from all over the Internet...


webinarInterested in having a conversation about the metaverse? Register for the upcoming Getting Smart Town Hall on May 12, 2022 What on Earth is a Metaverse?: The Next Frontier of Engaging and Learning.
We’ll explore some of the following questions:
- Is the metaverse technically on “earth”?
- How far away is this from being a reality?
- What does this mean for teaching and learning?
- What about equity and accessibility?
- What about the power of place?