Teaching students about artificial intelligence and machine learning

Online resources demonstrate these ubiquitous technologies

Each day, we read more news about artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and their uses for not only work but, more importantly, education.

About a year ago, I started to research these areas. While I understood the concepts of both and could offer a decent definition, I was not able to easily identify what it might look like in today’s classrooms.

My first interaction with machine learning came some years ago when I worked on my Spanish translation coursework. Our focus was on the level of accuracy that ML-translation provided for students and for businesses looking to use these services. My coursework goes back well over 20 years, so these concepts are not something new, but they have been coming more into light recently.

Show not tell

It may be difficult to identify what artificial intelligence looks like in a tangible form. Instead, it’s better to show how AI is used in our daily lives. You may not notice it, but AI is the driver behind many things we take for granted. For example:

Music and Media: Listening to music on Spotify or watching programs on Netflix or YouTube involves artificial intelligence. Over time, the AI continues to learn your preferences based on your selections and recommends new songs or shows to add to your playlist.

Smartphones: When you take a photo with your phone, AI assists you by suggesting different modes and automatically selecting the appropriate settings for you.

Online services: We all use online services for a variety of activities, including banking, shopping, travel and entertainment. Each of these relies heavily on artificial intelligence through the use of chatbots or algorithms that are designed to prevent fraud, track spending and suggest additional purchases.

With so much artificial intelligence being used in our everyday lives, we must help our students to better understand its impact on the future of work and learning.

Educator resources

The best way that we can teach our students is by making sure we keep challenging ourselves. Last fall, I enrolled in the course offered by ISTE U, Artificial Intelligence Explorations and Their Practical Use in the School Environment.

The course was made available through a collaboration with ISTE and General Motors Corporate Giving and focused on K-12 STEM education. During the course, participants worked through 10 AI-driven modules that helped users engage in class discussions, and even create chatbots and virtual facilitators.

In Pittsburgh, where AI research began in the 1950s, the Montour School District is offering the nation’s first AI course. A friend of mine, Justin Aglio has presented on the topic of AI and led an event where the Montour schools showcased the AI work being done by students.


While schools may not be able to offer a full course to students, there are enough resources available online that teachers can implement in the classroom. Here are a few to get started with:

Google AI Experiments: There are hundreds of different experiments available to explore based on AI, Augmented and Virtual Reality. Two favorites of my students were Quick, Draw! and Semantris.

Botsify: Teachers can provide an innovative learning experience for students, where they can interact with the chatbot, ask and answer questions and even submit quizzes through the chatbot.

Akinator: A version of 20 Questions, Akinator tries to guess the real or fictional characters you are thinking of. It asks yes or no questions until it guesses the character chosen. It is available on Google Play and iOS.

The potential for learning through artificial intelligence means that students have access to virtual tutors and resources at the exact moment we need them. The best way to learn more about this topic is to dive right in with students and learn with and from them.

Rachelle Dene Poth is a Foreign Language and STEAM Teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, PA. She is also an Attorney and serves as the President of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. She will be a featured speaker at DA’s FETC 2020.

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