News  |    |  September 13, 2019

Kids are surrounded by AI. They should know how it works.

News article by Karen Hao. Published in MIT Technology Review.


A new curriculum that helps children understand how algorithms are designed will keep them safe and motivate them to help shape the technology’s future.

A student recaps how he would describe artificial intelligence to a friend: “It’s kind of like a baby or a human brain because it has to learn,” he says in a video, “and it stores […] and uses that information to figure things out.”

Most adults would struggle to put together such a cogent definition of a complex subject. This student was just 10 years old.

The student was one of 28 middle schoolers, ages 9 to 14, who participated in a pilot program this summer designed to teach them about AI. The curriculum, developed by Blakeley Payne, a graduate research assistant at the MIT Media Lab, is part of a broader initiative to make these concepts an integral part of middle school classrooms. She has since open-sourced the curriculum, which includes several interactive activities that help students discover how algorithms are developed and how those processes go on to affect people’s lives. 

Children today are growing up in a world surrounded by AI: algorithms determine what information they see, help select the videos they watch, and shape how they learn to talk. The hope is that by better understanding how algorithms are created and how they influence society, children could become more critical consumers of such technology. It could even motivate them to help shape its future.  [ . . . ]