AI4GA - Developing Artificial Intelligence Competencies, Career Awareness, and Interest in Georgia Middle School Teachers and Students
As Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies begin to reshape modern society, educating younger students about AI has become a national priority for both the United States and its competitors. In these early days of K-12 AI education, little is known about how diverse student populations relate to AI and which instructional strategies are most likely to engage them. Since most K-12 teachers are not yet familiar with AI, research is also needed on how to develop their AI fluency and confidence. This project, a collaboration between researchers in AI and education and the Georgia Department of Education, will investigate these questions by developing and testing a nine-week elective course for Georgia middle school students called Living and Working with Artificial Intelligence, and an accompanying online teacher professional development course. The student course will offer a mixture of activities including hands-on demonstrations, guided experimentation, online research, project-based learning, and exploration of AI-enabled careers. Teachers will also have the option of including computer programming activities. To ensure that the curriculum is adaptable to the needs of different populations and cultures, researchers will partner with school districts serving three ethnically and geographically diverse populations in Georgia: rural, suburban, and urban areas, and with large populations of white, Latinx, or Black students respectively. Both courses will be developed in collaboration with a team of middle school teachers from these districts who will first receive training from the investigators in the basics of AI and in culturally responsive teaching. Working with these teachers as they pilot the course will provide an understanding of the challenges in teaching/learning the content and the types of support needed for diverse teachers and learners to succeed. The project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers. Over the three year project duration, 18 teachers drawn from 6 school districts will receive training in AI and culturally responsive instruction, and 1800 students will take the Living and Working with Artificial Intelligence course. The project will investigate four research questions: (1) What are middle school students' and teachers' knowledge of, interest in, comfort with, and attitudes towards AI technology and AI careers? (2) What types of technology-driven and innovative learning experiences are effective in increasing rural, Black, and Latinx/Hispanic middle school students' AI interest, knowledge, skills, self-efficacy, and interest in AI careers? (3) What AI knowledge and skills are developmentally appropriate for middle school students? and (4) What institutional or cultural barriers/accelerators prevent/promote course implementation? The research will use a mixed-methods design combining attitudinal surveys, in-class observations, subject interviews, student reflections, and examination of student artifacts. At the conclusion of the project, the professional development course will be made publicly available through the Georgia Department of Education web portal. Additional project deliverables include the middle school course materials, AI demonstration software developed to support the middle school course, the research findings, and measurements of the effectiveness of the curriculum for diverse learner populations when implemented by middle school teachers in their classrooms. The results will also be disseminated through conference presentations, scholarly publications, and social media. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.