Home Digital Literacy The Basics of Artificial Intelligence

The Basics of Artificial Intelligence

by Lori Gracey
artificial intelligence

The field of artificial intelligence is seeing new discoveries every day, many of which will very soon be impacting schools and universities. Let’s take a look at what AI is and some of the areas where exciting things are happening in it.

What Is Artificial Intelligence?

Amazon is just one of the many companies that is spending a lot of time, effort, and money in the field of AI. The company defines artificial intelligence as “the field of computer science dedicated to solving cognitive problems commonly associated with human intelligence, such as learning, problem solving, and pattern recognition” (source). For most of us, however, it’s simply about how computers and the other technologies we use every day can become more human and learn on their own.

Core Areas of AI Research

Here are a few of the top areas being researched currently, along with what each one means.

  • Natural language processing – Understanding the different meanings of “I saw a man on a hill with a telescope.”
  • Vision/image processing – Facial recognition
  • Speech recognition – Understanding various speech patterns, dialects, and accents
  • Speech generation – Making artificial speech sound more like human speech
  • Information retrieval/search – Understanding what we are really looking for when we search for something
  • Machine learning – Adapting/improving automatically without human intervention

Education’s Role in AI

Our students will grow up and work in a world where artificial intelligence is a fact of life. Many of them are already using it via Siri, Alexa, or other personal/virtual assistants that incorporate elements of AI. China’s government has mandated that all K-12 students be taught about AI, and now the U.S. needs to do the same. It’s our job to help prepare them for the increased use and reliance on artificial intelligence. So what should we be doing?

The first step is for both educators and their students to become more familiar with what is currently happening in the field of AI. Here are a few experiments that you can try just to see what is possible right now.

Quick Draw – Like Pictionary for artificial intelligence, Quick Draw was created by Google using machine learning. The concept is simple. Draw an object, and Quick Draw will attempt to guess what it is. While this seems easy, the true “intelligence” comes in as the game can recognize most drawings regardless of how bad they are. The model only gets better with the more drawings it guesses. Try it yourself and show it to your students. Then discuss how it might work.

AI Duet – This site lets you play piano with artificial intelligence. Enter in some notes by clicking your mouse, using your computer keys, or even plugging into a MIDI keyboard, and the model will respond to your melody. This is just one example of how machine learning can spark creativity in new ways.

Semantris – Another creation by Google, Semantris is a set of online word association games powered by machine-learned, natural language understanding (NLP) technology. Each time you enter a clue, the model looks at the words in play and selects the one it thinks is most related. The model learned the connections between words after being fed billions of conversational text samples on the internet.

ShelleyAI – Working with Twitter users, this model has been co-authoring horror stories for the past year. Every hour, Shelley composes a series of tweets followed by the hashtag #yourturn. The model relies on Twitter users to continue the story by writing a line themselves, and then finishes it off with a twist of her own.

What can you do in the next few weeks to introduce your students, their parents, and your colleagues to our future with artificial intelligence?

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