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Organizing A K 12 Ai Curriculum Using Philosophy Of The Mind

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Philosophical Foundations, Frameworks, and Testing in K-12 Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.977.1 - 10.977.13



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Paper Authors

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Nalini Bhushan

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Glenn Ellis

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Eleanor Ory

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Or ganizing a K-12 AI Cur r iculum using Philosophy of the Mind

Glenn W. Ellis, Eleanor C. Or y, Nalini Bhushan Smith College, Nor thampton, MA


High school teams competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition and students of all ages building Lego robots have become increasingly common in K-12 education. Although robotics can be an excellent means to introduce technology and engineering design into the classroom, the scope of artificial intelligence (AI) is much greater. To help students learn about these topics in a meaningful way and to see how they fit together, this paper presents a concept map that uses principles from philosophy of the mind to organize AI topics. This approach supports a deeper understanding of AI, while making philosophical issues that interest teenagers accessible through interactive explorations of machine intelligence. In addition to the concept map, we also present examples from a K-12 AI curriculum that is being designed around the concept map.


Lego Mindstorms robotics kits have become a well-established tool for teaching artificial intelligence (AI) in the K-12 classroom1, 2, 3. There is also increasing interest in using robotics and AI to change how children learn. For example, in Creative Projects with LEGO Mindstorms, Erwin writes “Dr. Papert [LEGO Professor of Learning Research at the M.I.T. Media Laboratory] and his colleagues aren’t just developing hardware and software; they’re developing ideas, philosophies, and theories about the nature of learning and learning environments.”1 Ellis and Andam9 present strategies for an integrative approach to teaching AI in the K-12 environment. A key finding of their research is that integrating AI and philosophy of the mind can appeal to a broader audience and result in high student interest and achievement. In this paper we build upon Ellis and Andam’s work by presenting a conceptual framework that uses philosophy of the mind to organize how students learn about AI. Our approach acknowledges that intelligence is a complex issue involving philosophical concerns that must be addressed in order to develop intelligent machines.

Using philosophy to organize AI content significantly changes how students view the field of AI. For example, the use of a philosophical framework results in a more holistic approach to learning and problem solving. Without a philosophical framework, it is easier for students to think that the solution to all problems is merely better code or more resources. Philosophy shifts the question from “What sensor do I need to add make this robot distinguish between the red apple and the green apple?” to “What is seeing? How might a sensor simulate seeing? To what extent is seeing necessary to distinguish a red apple from a green apple? Would distinguishing a red apple from a green apple be a satisfactory test?” This shift requires students to think about the “big picture” and can result in a better approach to problem solving.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Bhushan, N., & Ellis, G., & Ory, E. (2005, June), Organizing A K 12 Ai Curriculum Using Philosophy Of The Mind Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15315

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