HomeJuly 2023NEWS & JEWS- Pioneering program in artificial intelligence for 7th and 8th...

NEWS & JEWS- Pioneering program in artificial intelligence for 7th and 8th graders in Israel Prof. Oren Kurland Technion—Israel Institute of Technology

Background and Motivation
    Kids nowadays use a wide variety of applications which utilize artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Examples include the recommendation systems of TikTok and YouTube, Google’s search engine and more. Recommendations made by these systems, and more generally, results they present to their users, are often the basis for decision making. 
    Furthermore, AI technologies affect our perception of reality. As a case in point, the results retrieved by a search engine (Google, Bing and others) out of billions in the corpus represent the engine’s perception (and/or bias) of what is relevant to the query. 
    In light of the reality just described, it is becoming increasingly crucial for kids to better understand the AI technologies underlying applications they use. Such understanding is important not only for being critical thinkers of the technologies but also for becoming more effective users. Furthermore, better understanding will serve the kids in carefully adopting new technologies as they emerge.
The Study Program
    Prof. Oren Kurland leads a team composed of AI experts and pedagogical experts. The team created a unique study program in Artificial Intelligence for 7th and 8th graders. A pilot of the program takes place in a school in the city of Ramat Gan in Israel, by Tel Aviv. The uniqueness and novelty of the program is in teaching the basic math behind artificial intelligence technologies to kids. Indeed, artificial intelligence technologies are based on mathematical methods. Thus, in contrast to other study program, kids in Prof. Kurland’s program not only use AI technologies but also understand the math that gets them to work.
    The ability to provide such education with the highly limited math at the level of 7th and 8’th grades is based on a series of patents, careful selection of representative algorithms and technologies that can be explained, and devising new algorithms whose math can be explained. Heretofore, the pilot is showing a huge success in terms of students’ satisfaction and their ability to grasp the basic mathematical principles underlying major AI technologies.
Topics Covered in the Program
1. What is artificial intelligence (AI)? The Turing test for artificial intelligence.
2. Search engines. How do they rank documents in response to a user’s query?
3. Recommendation systems. How does YouTube recommend the next video to watch? How does a news website recommend the next article to read?
4. Supervised classification. How can we train the computer, using examples of pictures of dogs and cats, to decide whether a new picture is of a dog or a cat?
5. Ethical concerns in using AI technologies. For example, what kind of biases these technologies can bring about and how can we ameliorate them. Furthermore, we highlight the importance of fairness and transparency in AI.
Forward Looking
    The main goal is to deploy this study program in 7-10 years in all schools in Israel. As a first step, we will extend next year the current half a year program to a full year program and will start deploying it in additional schools
    Prof. Kurland and his team are all full-time volunteers. Three students were hired to help in preparing presentations and teaching in class. These students are the only ones who earn salary for their work in this project. Funding is completely based on donations. We are looking for additional donations that will help us to wrap up the pilot this academic year in the most successful way.
About Prof. Oren Kurland
    Oren is a Full Professor at the Faculty of Data and Decision Sciences in the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology. He obtained his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Cornell University in 2006. Oren’s main research area is information retrieval. He is a member of editorial boards of top information retrieval and artificial intelligence international journals.   


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