AI Literacy: A New Graduation Requirement and Civic Imperative

Key Points

  • There is still time to ensure that all of your students graduate with an understanding of how AI works, why it is important and how to best use it.

AI Literacy Day is April 19. It’s rapidly approaching but you still have two months before the end of the semester and endless opportunities to engage your students (and faculty) in an opportunity to learn from, with and about AI. To paraphrase a common expression, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, but the second best time is today.” 

What would it look like to make a commitment that come graduation every senior will have at least basic AI literacy? This includes an appreciation of AI as a creation engine and learning partner but also an understanding of the risks of deepfakes and biased curation. We’re entering a time where to quote Ethan Mollick “You can’t trust anything you read or see ever again.” Whether formal or informal, it’s time to start building AI literacy.

In a recent article for EdSurge, teacher Mike Kentz provides tips for how he engaged his students in learning about and how to use AI,  

“When I introduced the HoldenAI project to my students, I explained that we were entering uncharted territory together and that they should consider themselves explorers. Then I shared how I would monitor each aspect of the project, including the conversation itself.

I guided them through generating meaningful, open-ended interview questions that would (hopefully) create a relevant conversation with HoldenAI. I fused character analysis with the building blocks of journalistic thinking, asking students to locate the most interesting aspects of his story while also putting themselves in Holden’s shoes to figure out what types of questions might “get him talking.”

Next, we focused on active listening, which I incorporated to test a theory that AI tools might help people develop empathy. I advised them to acknowledge what Holden said in each comment rather than quickly jumping to another question, as any good conversationalist would do. Then I evaluated their chat transcript for evidence that they listened and met Holden where he was.

Lastly, we used text from the book and their chats to evaluate the effectiveness of the bot in mimicking Holden. Students wrote essays arguing whether the bot furthered their understanding of his character or if the bot strayed so far from the book that it was no longer useful.”

This kind of curriculum can be brought into any subject and not only teach the students about AI but also about themselves, the importance of asking the right question and much more. 

Emerging Programs and Resources

Several organizations have released useful AI Literacy courses applicable for high school students including: 

Sector leaders have published useful guides for school adoption:  

The Middle States Association recently announced Responsible AI in Learning (RAILS), a framework for safely and effectively deploying AI in schools. RAILS is a series of self-study modules that result in a series of endorsements that will allow schools to signal their progress. 

We’re excited to be supporting the forthcoming ASU+GSV AIR Show, an exciting opportunity to gather with those on the cutting edge of AI and education, including many of those mentioned above.  

We Have a Civic Duty

We’re at an inflection point — a moment where information and trust are some of the most fragile (and essential) elements of society. Without developing the necessary critical thinking and literacy skills, AI will undoubtedly play a wedge role in the continued fracturing of truth.  

A great new book, Verified: Discerning Truth in the Disinformation Age, authored by Mike Caulfield and Sam Wineburg suggests implementing the SIFTing technique as a fundamental building block of AI literacy:

  • Stop: What do you know about the argument and its source?
  • Investigate: Is the source trustworthy?
  • Find: What do other credible sources say?
  • Trace: What’s the original context of the claim?

It’s time to build, select or pilot an AI literacy strategy and sprint to the end of the year. One option might be to invite a couple of upper-division students to make campus-wide AI Literacy a capstone project. Let’s make sure that every student and faculty member heads into summer AI literate.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Mason Pashia

Mason is the Creative Director at Getting Smart. He is an advocate for arts education, strategy, design thinking and poetry.

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