How should we address the ethical considerations of AI in K-12 education?


We live in a world fundamentally transformed by our own creations. Once imagined only in science fiction, artificial intelligence now powers much of the technology we interact with every day, from smart home devices to cognitive assistants to media advisors. Though subtle by design, the impact of AI is far-reaching.

The field of education is no less affected by these technologies. Artificial intelligence manifests itself in educational chatbots, personalized learning systems, and administrative tools. Continuing on this trajectory, it is likely that soon there will be no fields or sectors untouched by AI. And with this change comes a number of new questions: concerns about ethical design and the implementation of these new tools.

In K-12 education, attention to ethical considerations is of paramount importance. Many teachers and education leaders select and use AI-based tools despite little experience in computer science or artificial intelligence. Tools like Turnitin that check for plagiarism, smart tutoring software like Khan Academy or iReady that automates or personalize education, and chatbots like Alexa that answer student questions are all vulnerable to algorithmic bias in development and unfair results in implementation. Additionally, as effective AI solutions require large amounts of information, maintaining student data privacy is an ongoing challenge.

Also, educators aren’t the only ones using AI technologies. Students, as consumers and users of AI tools themselves, need basic training in what AI is and how it works. Educators’ ethical questions about AI education must begin by ensuring equal access to this learning for all Students – in all subject areas, school levels and demographic contexts. Hence, this education must go beyond simple explanations of how technology works to include the corresponding ethical questions and impacts on society.

This need is highlighted in the Digital Citizen standard of ISTE standard for students, which calls for “students to engage in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology.” To the light Research Other new stories Outlining the negative impacts of AI technologies, students need this training to make positive and ethical decisions about using – and someday possibly developing – AI-based technologies such as facial recognition, social media platforms, and cognitive assistants. As creators of our shared future, today’s students must consider real-world examples of ethical dilemmas and envision paths to better outcomes.

AI explorations and their practical use in school settings—A General Motors-funded ISTE initiative — aims to support educators and students in doing just that.

Through professional learning opportunities for educators, the program is designed to address inequalities for traditionally underrepresented populations in STEM fields and prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s AI careers. So far, over a thousand educators and education managers have participated in the program’s online courses, webinars and professional learning network.

In 2020, the AI ​​Explorations program published a four-volume series of guides for primary, secondary, elective and computer science teachers.Practical artificial intelligence projects for the classroom. Available for free in English, Spanish and Arabic, these guides provide basic resources, interactive scaffolding activities and related extensions that can be used by teachers of all classes and content areas to teach the development, application and impact of artificial intelligence technologies.

This year, ISTE added a new volume to the series—Practical AI Projects for the Classroom: A Guide to Ethics and Artificial Intelligence. While the original guides addressed some aspects of bias and social impacts in each of the projects, this addition provides a strategic examination of AI through ethical lenses appropriate to development across primary and secondary school. In the past, teachers have often addressed ethical issues in the classroom through character-based civic education, but the nature of today’s technologies prompts us to consider much more than our decision-making processes. Indeed, because AI-based tools often influence our personal decisions through advice and suggestions in ways we don’t even realize, our behaviors depend on ethical design and development of AI tools.

The guide to ethics and artificial intelligence supports teachers in engaging elementary school students about fairness, autonomy and the nature of good and bad use of technology. Likewise, the guide supports secondary teachers as they dig deeper to explore ethical goals, gray areas, various stakeholders, responsibilities, and even policies on artificial intelligence. The guide does not provide ethical answers, nor does it ask teachers to instill their own ethical structures or values. Instead, the four included projects teach students to reflect on ethical issues and evaluate various outcomes – skills they can carry throughout their lives.

Mark Gerl, a technology teacher at The Galloway School and a participant in the AI ​​Explorations program, has reflected extensively on the ethical implications of using and teaching AI. While working with the authors of the guide to develop two projects, Gerl noted, “The more I think about it, all of the technology has been a series of trade-offs. A sword is better than a pointed stick, but you have to be stronger to lift it and it requires forging, sharpening, cleaning, etc. Too often, we only see the benefits, but we rarely stop to think about what we are giving up or leaving out when we make those choices, especially in the technological field ”. It sees the examination of ethical issues and social impacts as a crucial part of any technology education.

The guide intentionally provides supportive resources for educators and a variety of discussion activities and questions to foster deeper investigation and understanding. For example, the concept of technological trade-offs is intertwined in all ethics and artificial intelligence projects, encouraging students to consider privacy, freedoms or civil rights that could be sacrificed in the name of efficiency, personalization or convenience. Indeed, students examine relevant real-world examples such as the impact of recommendation systems on reinforcing stereotypes or the effects of AI automation on jobs through virtual simulations, video, experimentation, and other engaging activities.

Of course, teachers and students are not expected to become ethical simply by using this guide or by teaching a single project or unit on artificial intelligence and ethical issues. However, the AI ​​Explorations team believes that the more often teachers and students discuss these issues, the better off we all will become. We all have a shared responsibility to ensure that AI is used and taught ethically and fairly, in education and beyond. This guide is one more tool to help us achieve this goal.

Download Artificial Intelligence Hands-on Projects for the Classroom: A Guide to Ethics and Artificial Intelligence in English, Spanish or Arabic today.


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