Community, Research

Stories help students understand AI’s impact

April 28, 2021
BY GERRY RUCCHIN

Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere. Whether it’s social media, apps, search engines or smart phones, this technology is used without a second thought. But, there’s a price for using it.

Professor George Gadanidis from the Faculty of Education, and Dr. Janette Hughes from Ontario Tech University, have created graphic stories about AI to help students, teachers and parents reflect on how it influences their lives.

“Artificial intelligence is becoming much more pervasive in our society, especially by non-state actors like Facebook and Google,” said Gadanidis.

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“Engaging young children in understanding machine intelligence allows them to recognize what’s happening around them,” added Gadanidis. In particular, students and adults need to think about protecting themselves on social media as well as recognizing what personal data is collected and how it is used.

“We're creating resources to get students to question and examine machine intelligence and we do it through a story where they immerse themselves cognitively and emotionally,” said Gadanidis.

Their most recent story, Meehaneeto, about a young girl who discovers the long-lost technology of her civilization, looks at how her society transforms with the re-introduction of technology and AI.  

“There are a lot of parallels to our world,” said Gadanidis. “We want to engage students in critical conversations about the ways that technology directly impacts their lives. How might they control technology and make it work for them, rather than the other way around?”

The stories and support resources (like coding apps) are funded through an Ontario Research Fund: Research Excellence grant and they can be accessed at LearnX.ca/ai.

While most people are online and technology is rapidly advancing, we can’t take it for granted that AI will have only positive effect, said Gadanidis.

 

Reader's comment: “The learning resources at the end of the story prompt readers to consider how their data is currently being collected and for what purposes and how data collection relates to issues of privacy, ethics and democracy.”


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