MACHINE LEARNING FOR CHILDREN & TEENS

PART 1

I am passionate about technologies but much more about tomorrow and those that will shape it — the children and teens. Thus, this article is a gentle introduction to Machine Learning (ML), which is one of the most important technologies of today that will shape tomorrow. From now on, I will use ML acronym to refer to Machine Learning.

ML is a branch of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that allows computers to learn how to perform a task by looking at collections of examples. Have you been on Youtube before and wondered how it knows which other cartoons you will like to watch in addition to the one you are watching? How does Google Assistant on your Mummy’s phone speak back to you in response to your questions? What of Facebook suggesting other friends to you when you are on your friend’s page? All these “techno wonders” are ML at work!

ML is an extension of the computational power of computers, which before the advent of ML, could only do things that they are instructed to do a step at a time through coding. With ML, computers are thought to learn (like humans) by showing them dataset of objects and the corresponding meanings. You may wonder — Oh, so the computer can learn the way I learn from my Teachers at School? In a sense, yes! You can show different “pictures of balls” to the computer with the corresponding categories such as “baseball, football, basketball, etc.” After the computer has learnt from the pictures, you can show it any ball, and it will tell you the correct category. Really exciting!

Note that computers and humans have their respective roles in ML. The computer learns by predicting the best possible answer that is closest to the correct answer. This is achieved by comparing its prediction repeatedly with the correct answer in the dataset until the difference between the predicted and correct answer is close to or equal to zero. What then are the roles of humans? Humans provide the dataset from which the computer learns. They also instruct the computer how to know when they make mistakes and take steps to make the best prediction using mathematics and coding. In addition to the examples of applications earlier mentioned, the power of ML is applied in other practical areas like video games, self-driving cars, robotics, music recommendation, web search, medical diagnosis, weather prediction, chatbots and host of others.

As a child or teen, there are several reasons why you should be interested in ML. It helps to: i) enjoy studying and have fun ii) increase your creativity iii) better understand the world iv) get lucrative jobs after school with iconic companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon etc. v) improve your ability to solve problems vi) improve your performance in other science subjects vii) start your own IT company in the future and become a tech icon like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gate, Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, etc.

So, how can you start learning about ML? There are several online platforms/apps that you can explore to begin your journey in ML in a gentle, interesting and interactive way. They include: i) Scratch ii) Lua iii) Roblox iv) YoungWorks v) eCrafts2Learn vi) Machine Learning for Kids vii) Mixlab viii) Teachable Machine ix) Cognimates x) Apps for Good xi) Voice Experiment xii) Commonsense.org. Note that all you need to start using these platforms to explore how ML works are your computer and Internet connection.

I am sure with this brief introduction; you will make up your mind to start the exciting journey of understanding how ML works. To share your stories and experiences in ML, you can contact me at emmanueladetiba@gmail.com.

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