In light of the recent news that Amazon’s Alexa smart home speaker systems are in fact listening to you, AI ethics have once again become a hot button topic.
Kids Code Jeunesse (KCJ), a Canadian not-for-profit organization, is trying to solve this problem in the future by training our youth about AI and the ethical questions that surround it. In an announcement earlier this month, KCJ launched its newest initiative, #Kids2030, which is aiming to educate one million children about how to use AI and the ethics behind it by the year 2030 through educational workshops that KCJ puts on for children, as well as for teachers so that they can bring those teachings into their own classrooms.
The pilot project has launched with some classroom workshops and teacher training underway already, but KCJ is ramping up for the new school year in September 2019.
Kate Arthur, the founder and chief executive officer for KCJ, says she believes teaching these skills is essential to ensuring we are raising children who can thrive in the technology-centric society we live in today.
“Children are surrounded by artificial intelligence and are the first generation to be born in a world where they don’t know anything other than a world without it,” said Arthur. “So coaching is our mission to make sure that children have the tools and the education to be able to create and communicate in a world where they are surrounded by technology, artificial intelligence, and equipment that is run by code. So to educate children in these areas is extremely important. So we’ve got literate children who are able to be successful in whatever they choose to do in their future.”
KCJ already has similar programs focused on teaching kids coding and other digital literacy skills, but Arthur says that as technology continues to advance, it is imperative that the educational system catches up.
“One of the reasons why we feel what we do is so important is that the education system cannot move as quickly as technology,” said Arthur. “If you asked me three years ago if we would be addressing artificial intelligence today, I wouldn’t have said yes. I wouldn’t have actually known. And that’s why we need organizations like ours to be able to help the education system keep up with it, because it’s just moving so quickly.”
The workshops, which occur outside of school hours and are registered for by teachers, not by school boards, consist of unplugged activities centred around probabilities and statistics, before moving on to learning how to integrate artificial intelligence with their coding, as well as discuss some of the ethical dilemmas surrounding AI.
Despite all the efforts put in by KCJ, Arthur says none of this would be possible without the teachers who have taken the initiative to become involved.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have really great teachers in Canada because it does come from them this leadership of bringing coding into the classrooms and really putting themselves forward,” she said. “There was a bit of hesitation on our end and a lot of people telling us that there was no way teachers would come out on their weekends without being paid, especially to spend the whole day learning to code with us. And our workshops are always full, if not within minutes of registration, and always have a waiting list. So we’re really, really fortunate to have a very strong education system of educators.”