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Teaching High School Students To Teach Machines

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

ERM Potpourri

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1183.1 - 9.1183.13



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Paper Authors

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Glenn Ellis

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Baaba Andam

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

Session # 3630

Teaching High School Students to Teach Machines

Glenn W. Ellis and Baaba Andam Smith College, Northampton, MA

ABSTRACT In this paper we present elements of a learner-centered AI curriculum for high school students that was field-tested in two private high schools. One of these elements is a unit in which students explore the possibilities of machine intelligence and consciousness through readings and hands-on activities. Also presented in the paper is a unit for teaching students about artificial neural networks (ANN) and their application. In this unit students learn to develop and train ANNs through small projects and activities that lead up to an independent research project. Examples of student projects are presented including the application of ANNs for modeling the ozone disinfection of water, the price of real estate as determined by housing features in a local market, and admission into an independent boarding school based upon admissions application data.

INTRODUCTION The field of robotics has becoming increasingly accessible to students of all ages. For example, Lego robotics kits are now commonly used to teach robotics in K-12 classrooms. However, other branches of artificial intelligence (AI) still remain inaccessible to pre-college students in spite of their educational potential.

In this paper we will present our curriculum for two topics covered in a learner-centered AI course that we have developed. The first topic is philosophy of the mind with a focus on the possibility of machine consciousness and the Turing test. Our experience has shown that high school students are particularly interested in the questions investigated in this part of the course. AI may be the means for self-exploration at a time when students are trying to understand the essence of their own existence and identity. This topic also provides part of a conceptual framework into which the technical subjects of the course can be understood and examined. The second topic presented is artificial neural networks (ANNs) and their application for student research. Because of their ability to learn and importance in the AI field, we have found the study of ANNs to be engaging to students and to offer numerous possibilities for development of metacognitive and critical thinking skills.

The curriculum described in this paper has been taught at St. Paul’s School, a private, independent boarding school in Concord, NH and Brunswick School, a private, independent day school in Greenwich, CT. At St. Paul’s School the class was taught for four years with a class size after the first year of 12 students. Because of the demand for the course and the course registration procedure, almost all of the students were seniors. At Brunswick School the class was taught for three years to a class size of about 6 students. At Brunswick School students from grades 9-12 were equally represented.

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Ellis, G., & Andam, B. (2004, June), Teaching High School Students To Teach Machines Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13328

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