News  |  ,   |  July 2, 2018

Teaching Artificial Intelligence in Kindergarten

News article by Ann Gadzikowski.
Published in Medium – Early Insights.


Children as young as three or four years old are using programmable devices, such as robotic toys and iPads, on a daily basis. It’s never too soon to begin having conversations with children about the role of technology in their lives.

The topic of ethics is particularly relevant when we consider the growing role of artificial intelligence in devices used by children, families, and schools. The broad question we must all consider is: What decisions will we let computers make for us?

This may seem like a very new question, but Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, has been researching our relationships with technology for more than 20 years. Back in the 1990s her team of researchers from MIT studied the ways children interacted with robotic toys such as Tamagotchis and Furbies. In summary, she found that children often became emotionally attached to these devices. Many of the children she interviewed said their robotic toys were “alive enough” to care about them and care for them.

Today there are even more types of sophisticated and lifelike robotic toys available for children. Additionally, children can engage in conversations with artificially intelligent assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. In her New York Times piece titled “Co-Parenting with Alexa,” Rachel Botsman eloquently describes the anxiety parents may feel when they see their children interact with AI devices. Botsman asks, “How do we teach our children to question not only the security and privacy implications but also the ethical and commercial intentions of a device designed by marketers?” She concludes, “Our kids are going to need to know where and when it is appropriate to put their trust in computer code alone.”

The prevalence of AI in the daily lives of families means we must begin talking with children about computer science and artificial intelligence topics at an early age. We can’t wait until they have learned to program computers and engineer robots. But how do we begin?

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This article is based on the author’s SXSWedu session from March 2018 titled “Teach Artificial Intelligence in Kindergarten.”