The benefits for schools to incorporate Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning into curricula to meet educational needs

Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are the propelling force of various sectors in business. Many job opportunities are derived from the machine learning and artificial intelligence demand. As an educator who aims to equip students to be future-ready, have you ever wondered how to leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence into the curricula and the benefits?

According to a global education technology company Promethean World, 86% of the teachers agree that technology should be a core part of education. It is indeed not so difficult to find successful cases of AI-incorporated education on the Internet nowadays. Many areas can potentially adopt AI and ML, ranging from school assessment, grading, smart school, online and mobile education to teaching AI and ML directly. MakerBay Foundation also provides different online AI and STEM workshops for primary or secondary school students.

Before jumping into the AI boom, why not get it clear with the benefits of adopting AI and ML to reinforce students’ performance in Hong Kong education settings?

Fostering Interdisciplinary learning by introducing STEM

與學生一起認識人工智能並用於珊瑚保育Learning AI with students and apply in coral conservation

STEM Education is an abbreviation that means educating students in four disciplines: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Though the subjects offered in school may vary, most of the primary and secondary schools provide Mathematics, Information Technology, and Science / Integrated Science / General Education closely related to STEM education. To make the learning more interactive and relevant to daily life, a project-based learning approach to building products is definitely one of the considerations.

Depending on the hardware capabilities and complexity of the course design, STEM education can tap into various technology domains, including Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data, Robotics, 3D Modeling, and more. Take AI as an example; the world-renowned pocket-sized computer micro:bit is a trendy one in STEM education initially created by the BBC collaborating with 29 business and academic leaders. What is more, it is compatible with many different extensions to allow more possible solutions. By attaching AI detectors like AI cameras, the micro:bit can detect objects, human faces, colors etc. And its detection accuracy increases over time as it learns. Students exposed to building their own solutions can gain valuable experience that  reinforces the knowledge gained in traditional classes.

In spite of the promising potential learning outcomes, schools may have concerns about the learning difference between classes. STEM learning tools like micro:bit actually have great flexibility to cater learning needs of students. For example, the gadget supports from block coding to text-based programming. For students who have not yet learned about concepts like functions, conditions, loop in Mathematics and Information Technology lessons, the course can focus on building solutions with block coding, so that what students need to know is merely if-then concepts. They can build solutions quickly with simple drag and drop. But for students in advanced level, they can opt for text-based programming to develop the solution. So the learning goal can be adjusted from class to class, and every student can reinforce their knowledge gained from classes and even apply them to solve problems.

Motivating learning by encouraging creativity and enhancing problem-solving skills

以互動遊戲幫助學生學習人工智能Help students to learn AI with interactive mini games

On top of the relevance of adopting AI and ML in terms of curriculum, let’s talk about something more fundamental – motivation. 

A sense of control and clear learning outcomes are key sources of learning motivation. While in the context of STEM education around AI and ML, there are lots of resources for teachers to demonstrate innovative examples that inspire students’ creativity.  Students can think of their solutions and make something unique. Teachers should also keep an open mind to encourage them to build something new and never seen. Building a product on their own can make the learning experience more rewarding as they are not bound by a model answer stated in the textbook.

STEM education also fosters problem-solving skills with critical thinking. Students can brainstorm and identify problems in their surroundings. And focus on what problems they are interested in solving. This learning process encourages experimentation throughout the development instead of correctness at the beginning. It is not a short journey that you can build a meaningful solution in one go, instead it involves knowledge, experience and personal judgment before experimentation.

The trial-and-error approach lets them take initiatives to find the way to resolve problems. After repeated experimentation, their knowledge can be further strengthened by exploring possibilities to decide the best.

Designing solutions for solving real-world problem to accumulate career-related experience (CRE) in Other Learning Experience (OLE)

Although the traditional curriculum is the foundation knowledge for the students to face real-world challenges, the learning journey is mostly individual and sometimes difficult for students to imagine how to apply their subject knowledge. Students often ask “How to apply the knowledge we learn in the subject in the future?” STEM education can indeed be a good bridge between curriculum knowledge and knowledge-based career.

Firstly, students will understand the importance of teamwork as building a comprehensive solution requires every teammate to contribute their knowledge and strengths. They can discuss the role of teammates such as who are good at idea generation or implementation.This is a very good opportunity to simulate the workplace settings.

The above learning activities can be a good fit to fulfill Other Learning Experience under the NSS Curriculum for the secondary schools. The Education Bureau suggests OLE to provide students a broad and balanced curriculum to foster whole-person development. Career-related Experiences is one of the five areas of OLE.

For AI or ML driven STEM education to be counted towards career-related experiences, the learning activities can involve the following: career assessment to know about the interest and strength of students,STEM workshops to equip students with basic understanding on problem solving, group projects according to their career assessment results.

By planning the above activities, the learning will be beneficial to students’ understanding in careers while maintaining relevance to the secondary school curriculum.

CoralBot:用於拍攝珊瑚並用人工智能分類珊瑚 CoralBot: Take pictures of corals and use AI to identity corals

Conclusion

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are booming domains capable of changing every aspect of our society. In education, AI has begun producing new teaching and learning solutions that are now being adopted by schools all around the world gradually. The above discussed how learning AI and ML are relevant to the syllabus, how it can motivate students to learn, and taking AI and ML learning as Other Learning Experience, in order to fulfill common needs of Hong Kong schools. For the benefits to be realized or even maximized, it is important to customize learning materials according to students’ grade, strength, interests. MakerBay Foundation understands this and therefore offers various courses and workshops for students of different levels. Explore more to find the most suitable one for you starting from today!

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Ms. Angie Zhou

Education Specialist

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Angie Zhou is an Education Specialist at MIT App Inventor. She was the founder and CEO of Dreams Come True in Shenzhen, where she developed online coding courses for kids. She also has previous curriculum development, teaching and staff training experience at First Code Academy in Hong Kong.