When asked about whether it is too early to begin talking to students about AI’s ethical and logistical challenges that they might encounter as users, workers, and citizens, Hadi warned, “you could almost argue it is too late.”
The Forum’s plenary session closed with a two-way fireside chat moderated by Emily Tate of EdSurge with Tarika Barrett, Chief Operating Officer at Girls Who Code, and Ora D. Tanner, AIEDU’s Chief Learning Officer.
Tarika emphasized one of the challenge facing the field of Computer Science: women make up only 26% of all computing jobs. For women of color, they make up only 5% of those jobs. We also know that these jobs are among the highest paying and fastest-growing in the country. The solution? Increase accessibility, cater to young women and girls, and showcase other women role models in the field.
“We need our girls—all of our girls—to be equipped for these jobs, and ensure they are welcomed into the technology industry,” said Tarika.
Ora built on this, citing a World Economic Forum report that predicts AI will eliminate 75 million jobs by 2022.
“But if you drill down in those numbers, women and people of color are overrepresented in the jobs that are most at risk of being replaced. Hispanic, Black, Indigenous workers face on average an automation potential that is well above their White and Asian counterparts. If you look at the intersectionality of that, they are right at the center of the negative impacts that the technology is predicted to have on our economy. We feel an urgency.”
Ora also spoke about the fact that AI systems are already having disproportionate effects on women, people of color, and people in low-income communities due to algorithmic bias and other failures of the still nascent but fast-growing technology.
“In 2019, for the first time ever, the majority of K12 students in public schools were non-white. This has implications for increasing the relevance of the curricula we develop to address their diverse needs,” said Ora. “We centered the students in our design process—beyond race and gender, we considered the beliefs and values of Gen-Z. Also, because we launched in the midst of COVID-19, we had to consider situational factors including parental supervision and access challenges. Culturally relevant pedagogy is an important part of what I like to call our ‘pedagogy stack.’
Ora pointed to a passion for social justice issues as one of things that Gen-Z gravitate toward, and a key feature of AIEDU’s curriculum.
Emily also asked about the challenges that the coronavirus pandemic has created for education nonprofits.
“Students from minority and low-income communities are routinely left behind, and the pandemic has only made that more clear,” said Tarika. “When schools closed their doors this past March, they did so leaving as many as 12 million without access to WiFi. We didn’t give much thought or weren’t prepared to support the 1.4 million students who are actually caregivers—they have these responsibilities, and most of them are girls. Days turned into weeks, which turned into months, and over time fewer and fewer public school students attended their online classes as compared with their private school peers.”
Girls Who Code responded quickly, shifting from in-person instruction to online learning within a matter of weeks, employing a blend of virtual courses and asynchronous instruction that allowed them to reach 5,000 girls. They also raised funds to get girls the necessary hardware and hotspots to address the technology gap.
The latter half of the Forum broke the group of 130+ experts into groups of roughly twelve to discuss a central question for the event those in attendance—how can we scale AI education to the underserved communities which sit on the front lines of the economic transformation being ushered in by artificial intelligence?
Such a project requires a multi-sector, multi-disciplinary approach; and this was reflected in the diverse makeup of these brainstorm groups. Participants included Fortune 500 CEOs, congressional legislative directors, university deans, high school administrators, AI experts, and industry experts. The conversations were varied, but all of them landed on two central themes:
- We must find ways to incentivize educators to bring AI-related content into classrooms. Ensuring AI education reaches all students (and not just those naturally curious about technology) is an equity challenge that will require buy-in from stakeholders at all levels of education in the U.S. Motivated teachers shouldn’t be expected to be advocate to building and district administrators in order to bring AI literacy to their students.To address this, participants suggested creating new K-12 learning standards which address AI and digital literacy, providing more resources and funding for professional development and teacher credentialing, and creating cross-curricular AI content that fits into established standards in other subjects like Math, History, English, and especially Career & Technical Education (CTE).
- AI curriculum must engage students across career interests, and be relevant to their lived experiences. Given the potential for artificial intelligence to impact nearly every sector of the economy, AI education should cultivate a diverse set of entry points for students. Participants suggested that offering non-technical curricula about AI, focusing on its economic, societal, and ethical impacts, could spark interest in students beyond those already compelled to pursue careers in STEM. This would help to address some of the core equity and accessibility for students from underrepresented communities. Discussions also highlighted the importance of project-based learning and career exploration with a focus on case studies that illustrate human-computer interaction across a variety of fields.
AIEDU will be organizing our next Forum in Spring 2021 — if you’d like to join that meeting, send us a note at [email protected] Our goal is to create an ongoing platform to convene leaders across key stakeholder communities that are