philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


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

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. ...

Algorithms as opinion

Payne’s curriculum includes a series of activities that prompt students to think about the subjectivity of algorithms. They begin by learning about algorithms as recipes, with inputs, a set of instructions, and outputs. The kids are then asked to “build,” or write down instructions, for an algorithm that outputs the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Very quickly, the kids in the summer pilot started to grasp the underlying lesson. “A student pulled me aside and asked, ‘Is this supposed to be opinion or fact?’” she says. Through their own discovery process, the students realized how they had unintentionally built their own preferences into their algorithms. ...

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