Best K-12 Resources to Teach AI Ethics

Curricula, projects, and even fiction books to empower students to learn about AI ethics

Catherine Yeo
May 27, 2020 · 7 min read

Artificial intelligence is a flourishing field, and its presence in the K-12 classroom is growing too. This article compiles resources for introducing AI and, in particular, AI ethics in the K-12 setting:

  • Big Ideas
  • Curriculum Materials
  • Hands-On Projects and Demos
  • Books (for educators)
  • Books (fiction)

Big Ideas

Curriculum Materials

Here are some curricula and lesson plans, of different lengths and target ages:

Ethics of AI Curriculum for Middle School Students by Blakeley Payne (MIT)

An in-depth curriculum with activities and worksheets (grades 6–8)

Through a series of lessons and activities, students learn technical concepts — such as how to train a simple classifier — and the ethical implications those technical concepts entail, such as algorithmic bias. Also available in German, Portuguese, and Korean.

How to Train Your Robot Companion by MIT Media Lab

A 1-week course introducing students to AI, robots, and ethics (grades 6–8)

In this course, students participate in a range of hot-topic discussions and hands-on, creative activities to learn about how artificial intelligence is impacting society today. Students will design robot companions to solve real-world problems and use machine learning to make them intelligent.

AI for Oceans by Code.org

A lesson plan with activities to teach students about AI, training data, and bias (grades 3–12)

Learn about AI, machine learning, training data, and bias, while exploring ethical issues and how AI can be used to address world problems. Enjoy Code.org’s first step in a new journey to teach more about AI. When you use the AI for Oceans activity you are training real machine learning models.

How Do You Create Moral Robots? By Mark Riedl

A guide to teach robot morality with media resources, worksheets, & writing prompts (grades 6–12)

In this excerpt from Science Friday, Mark Riedl discusses how his research group uses a program called Quixote to teach robots morality and etiquette. As humans get closer and closer to developing self-aware artificial intelligence, we need to make sure that artificially-intelligent computers and robots follow rules that keep them from endangering us and that align with our social conventions.

Minecraft Hour of Code: AI for Good by Minecraft Education

An intro lesson to teach kids how to use code and AI to prevent forest fires (grades 1–12)

A village needs your help to prevent the spread of a nearby forest fire. Train the Agent to identify what causes fires, remove materials that help fires spread, and then bring life back to a forest destroyed by fire — all with code!

Exploring Computer Science: Alternate Curriculum Unit on Artificial Intelligence by Beverly Clarke

A year-long curriculum to introduce students to AI terminology & skills while considering its social and ethical impacts (grades 9–12)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a term that we hear on a daily basis. Yet the topic is not taught explicitly to our learners, while we operate in a world that uses AI with promises of further AI usage to come. The aim of this unit is to demystify the topic of AI, with students gaining an understanding of terminology such as machine learning and deep learning.

AI & Data Privacy Workshop by MIT Media Lab

A workshop to introduce data privacy to youth with slides, worksheets, and activities (grades K-9)

This workshop teaches data privacy concepts and engages youth in prototyping and designing data privacy features.

AI4ALL Open Learning by AI4ALL Team

Different modules and curricula to introduce students to AI and its applications (grades 9–12)

AI4ALL Open Learning is designed to equip educators and community members to empower high school students with relevant and approachable AI education. The program can be incorporated into the classroom, a club, or a workshop and provides 30+ hours of free curriculum with facilitator guides. They also currently provide online courses on AI & The Environment, AI & Drawing, and AI & COVID-19.

Hands-On Projects and Demos

The following are excellent projects and demos to show students about AI at work and foster discussion about ethical technology:

  • AI Experiments by Google: AI Experiments is a showcase for simple experiments that make it easier for anyone to start exploring machine learning, through pictures, drawings, language, music, and more.
  • Teachable Machine by Google: Teachable Machine is a simple, browser-based machine learning demo that allows you to train a classifier for images, sounds, or poses in just a few minutes.
  • GANPaint for Kids (Demo) by MIT Media Lab: Children can create artwork using GANPaint in Scratch and learn about GANs (Generative Adversarial Networks).
  • Personal Image Classifier (Demo) by MIT App Inventor: Students can use an intuitive web interface to train and test their own personalized image classification models using images taken by their web-cams. There are also 3 accompanying short lesson plans.

Books (for Educators)

Teaching AI: Exploring New Frontiers for Learning by Michelle Zimmerman

A general read for teaching AI and its ethics

“This book features perspectives from educators and industry experts on how they are using AI; approaches to teaching about AI including design thinking, project based learning and STEM connections; tools for exploring AI and sharing it with your students; and activities to introduce AI concepts, reflection questions and lesson ideas.”

Tinker Toddlers series by Handeep Dhoot

A 4-book series for preschoolers to learn about AI and STEM

“Tinker Toddlers is a series designed to introduce first nonfiction emerging STEM concepts to babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. What is artificial, and what is intelligence?”

What to Think About Machines That Think by John Brockman

A background read for students (high school and beyond), educators, and experts through a series of short essays

“John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org, asked the world’s most influential scientists, philosophers, and artists one of today’s most consequential questions: What do you think about machines that think?”

Architects of Intelligence: The Truth about AI from the People Building It by Martin Ford

A background read for learning about AI and its impact on society through a series of interviews with AI’s brightest minds

“Architects of Intelligence contains a series of in-depth, one-to-one interviews where New York Times bestselling author, Martin Ford, uncovers the truth behind these questions from some of the brightest minds in the Artificial Intelligence community.”

Books (Fiction)

The Circle by Dave Eggers

A timely read (high school & beyond) that raises questions about privacy, transparency, and ethics of technology

“When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency… What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.”

The Code Detectives: The Code Con Crisis by Ria Doshi

A fun children’s mystery book where the characters use technology and AI to solve the mystery

“Ramona Diaz and her best friend Lily are your typical middle school girls: they love having sleepovers, reading cool books, and coding. But when the code for their climate change app Ocean goes missing two days before the Riverside Code Con, Ramona and Lily must put their coding abilities to the test using artificial intelligence and track down the thief. Is their project done for? Or will they be able to crack the code?”

Frankenstein: Annotated for Scientists, Engineers, and Creators of All Kinds by Mary Shelley and edited by David H. Guston, Ed Finn and Jason Scott Robert

A fiction classic revisited with annotations discussing the social & ethical aspects of the story

“This edition of Frankenstein pairs the original 1818 version of the manuscript―meticulously line-edited and amended by Charles E. Robinson, one of the world’s preeminent authorities on the text―with annotations and essays by leading scholars exploring the social and ethical aspects of scientific creativity raised by this remarkable story. The result is a unique and accessible edition of one of the most thought-provoking and influential novels ever written.”

For more resources, I would recommend checking out AI4K12’s wiki and MIT’s AI Education site. If you have any suggestions for a K-12 educational AI ethics resource I missed, comment below or let me know on Twitter.

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Catherine Yeo is a CS undergraduate at Harvard interested in AI/ML/NLP, fairness and interpretability, and everything related. Feel free to suggest ideas or say hi to her on Twitter.

Fair Bytes

Sharing byte-sized stories about fairness & ethics of AI

Catherine Yeo

Written by

CS @Harvard | I write about fairness & ethics in AI/ML for @fairbytes | Storyteller, hacker, innovator | Visit me at www.catherinehyeo.com

Fair Bytes

A Medium publication sharing byte-sized stories about research, resources, and issues related to fairness & ethics of AI

Catherine Yeo

Written by

CS @Harvard | I write about fairness & ethics in AI/ML for @fairbytes | Storyteller, hacker, innovator | Visit me at www.catherinehyeo.com

Fair Bytes

A Medium publication sharing byte-sized stories about research, resources, and issues related to fairness & ethics of AI

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