UF helps state launch AI program in Florida public schools

UF helps state launch AI program in Florida public schools

As students across the country return to class this fall, Florida is among the first states to adopt a K-12 artificial intelligence, or AI, education curriculum designed to prepare its young to the growing global demand for an AI-enabled workforce.

Leveraging the expertise of the University of Florida and its AI initiative, the Florida Department of Education recently added a three-year degree program called AI Foundations to its Career and Technical Education curriculum, or CTE, with three Florida school districts launching it this fall after specialized AI training was offered to teachers over the summer.

Almost everyone is accessing AI or being influenced by technology every day, and that’s only going to increase, said UF Associate Provost David Reed, who leads the University Initiative Center on AI. university artificial intelligence.

“More and more people with all levels of education and technical skills are being exposed to AI, including on their phones, watches and in their homes,” Reed said. “Through several initiatives, including an AI curriculum developed for Florida public schools, the University of Florida aims to increase students’ understanding of how their data is used, improve their skills in IT and also have an impact on the AI ​​labor shortage.

The public school course framework was designed with input from UF faculty, including Christina Gardner-McCune, who modeled it after the K-12 Artificial Intelligence Initiative. Grade 12, or AI4K12. The initiative, a program funded by the National Science Foundation, is developing national guidelines for teaching AI in elementary and secondary schools and is co-led by Gardner-McCune, associate professor at the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering Department of Computer and Information Science and Engineering.

The state’s new high school curriculum offers courses that provide insight into aspects of AI, programming, and machine learning to better prepare students for success both personally and professionally in a society based on AI, Gardner-McCune said.

“Students will gain hands-on, hands-on experience such as building chatbots, assessing the societal impacts of AI, and mastering foundational skills to become savvy AI users,” she said. “Once they complete the program, they will be armed with a portfolio of projects that will demonstrate their ability to design AI systems.”

UF faculty at Wertheim College of Engineering gathered private industry feedback through focus groups and a comprehensive AI workforce needs survey to help inform the program design.

“We relied heavily on industry to learn what knowledge and skills companies are looking for in their employees,” said Cammy Abernathy, dean of Wertheim College of Engineering. “We have been able to leverage our relationships with national companies and as a result have an overview of common skills that are in demand.”

Teachers from 11 school districts across the state, as well as the Florida Virtual School, participated in workshops this summer specifically designed to prepare them to teach AI, making Florida one of the first in the nation to offer free professional development courses on AI to its educators. costs. Developed and taught by UF faculty and engineering students, the training provides educators with a foundational knowledge of AI concepts as well as hands-on experience in AI design.

“The power of this professional development helps teachers understand the systems thinking and engineering that goes into designing artificial intelligence, so they can help their students become ethical designers of the next generation of computers. smart,” said Nancy Ruzycki, a teacher. associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at UF who helped build the course framework and is the lead designer of the Florida Teacher Professional Development Program.

Ruzycki explained that the AI ​​course focuses on design rather than data science, which means students learn to apply technology rather than create it. She said this approach promotes digital literacy in a variety of student populations and helps strengthen the democratization of AI, which ensures that more people have access to AI knowledge and tools.

Reed said UF is laying a long, wide path of AI learning opportunities for students from kindergarten through graduate school and continuing education for professionals in the university’s pursuit to inclusive AI.

This summer, UF’s Colleges of Engineering and Education held a variety of camps for middle schoolers to make AI and computing more accessible, especially for students in low-income areas. In Orlando, a three-week summer camp funded by Career Source of Central Florida piloted some of the new high school AI courses. Camp DIALOGS, an NSF-funded project, introduced students from underrepresented backgrounds to AMBY, which stands for AI Made By You, helping attendees learn more about AI and computing with its lessons now available for high school teachers throughout Florida.

For UF students, an innovative curriculum integrates AI into the curricula of each college, so that students have the chance to learn how technology is applied in the discipline of their choice, using the language and context of the domain they know.

“This long-term strategy is intended to help build a workforce for the future and ensure the next generation is ready to be better digital citizens of the world,” Reed said.

Karen Doley September 22, 2022

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