Lessons with and about Artificial Intelligence

Blaž Zupan, a member of the Pumice team, was invited as a plenary speaker to the final conference of the project Raising Digital Competence (digdaktika).

He talked about the turning point in his life when he realized that he could introduce the concepts of machine learning and artificial intelligence, in an intuitive way, to people outside the field of computer science. Since then, he has been running courses on using the Orange program. While initially, the courses were aimed at PhD students, this later expanded to also include business people, as well as master’s and bachelor’s students at the Faculty of Computer and Information Science in Ljubljana. The courses have been held not only in Slovenia, but also in other countries in Europe and the rest of the world, from the USA to India.

Blaž realized he could go further down the educational ladder, and tried his hand at secondary school. From these experiments, our Pumice project was born, where we develop activities for students, that teachers can use in teaching school subjects. In this way, even primary school students can “play” with Orange and explore data using AI and machine learning approaches. At the same time, the students understand the background of algorithms in a purely intuitive way, without delving deep into their theoretical details. The project eventually received financial support, first from Google and the Tides Foundation, and currently from ARRS and the Slovenian Government’s Digital Transformation Service within the framework of the CRP V2-2274 project. At the conference, Blaž also showed the courses we are developing for teachers, and the challenges for students. A handbook on Artificial Intelligence for Teachers is also in the making where teachers can learn about AI and Orange at their own pace.

Blaž concluded by saying that without having teachers working with us, helping us with the implementation of activities, and providing their feedback, the project could never be successful. “Artificial Intelligence, as one of the key technologies of this century, will have a significant impact on the development of society. Students should therefore learn about its uses, benefits, and dangers as early as possible.