The University of Florida has taken some of the first steps in its artificial intelligence (AI) initiative by creating an AI curriculum that is geared toward K-12 students and that offers AI classes to UF students, among other various measures.
AI is a technology that helps people with their decision-making, said UF Associate Provost for Strategic Initiatives David Reed.
“You use AI when you use facial recognition to unlock your phone,” Reed said. “You use it when Amazon predicts products that you might want to buy. Self-driving cars use it when it determines that the traffic light is turning from green to yellow, to red and starts the slow down the car for you.”
UF has placed a lot of importance on its AI initiative not just in the computer science realm, but universitywide. AI is starting to become the forefront of many industries, Reed said.
“The reason for that is it is being applied in all of these different disciplines,” he said. “It just made sense to start training people in artificial intelligence all across the university.”
One part of the initiative was the creation of AI classes that students of any major can take. Hannah Quintal, a UF student taking these classes, said that she is glad UF is focusing heavily on AI.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s just so forward-thinking. They’re trying to be a part of this new interdisciplinary field that’s going to be so important, so relevant to any of our careers.”
These AI classes are in place not as a requirement for a degree or to “grind for a grade” but simply so that UF students can have long-term knowledge of AI.
“They’re making it accessible to people of any major, any minor, and just people with an interest or (those who) didn’t know they have an interest in AI,” she said.
Along with classes on campus, UF colleagues and students within the educational technology and computer science departments have developed a curriculum for young students to get the basics of AI.
Maya Israel, the associate professor of educational technology and K-12 computer science education, said the goal in developing this education was for young students to learn about AI through technology that they are already familiar with, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home products.
“Artificial intelligence is influencing a lot of what we’re doing,” she said. “For children to be able to navigate a world that is informed by AI so much, it’s important for them to be able to understand it.”
Israel said that her lab at the College of Education focused on the curriculum side of the project, while Kristy Boyer, a professor in the computer science department, worked on the interface in her lab.
Both Israel and Boyer have led AI learning sessions over the past two years at local summer camps, where UF students taught middle schoolers the basics of AI through their program, called AMBY (AI Made By You).
“They were able to create chatbots in whatever they wanted,” Israel said. “Some created [chatbots] that would give fashion advice, or give historical facts, or talk about sports. They were able to program the Google Home to say things like, ‘Hey Google, tell me where I can buy shoes,’ or ‘Hey Google, tell me facts about this basketball player.’”
Quintal said she wishes she had had the opportunity to take the classes that Israel and Boyer created when she was younger.
“AI, I truly believe, is something that everyone is going to need to know about, especially for the people in middle school, even elementary school,” Quintal said. “AI is going to be even more relevant to them.”