Classroom Technology

Why Computer Science Classes Should Double Down on AI and Data Science

By Alyson Klein — July 29, 2022 3 min read
Tight shot of diverse, elementary school children using a tablet in class
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

If you’re not in the know, artificial intelligence and data science may sound like especially nerdy subsets of the already pocket-protector infused field of computer science.

But anyone who is serious about expanding computer science education—a list that includes Fortune 500 company CEOs and policymakers on both sides of the aisle—should be thinking carefully about emphasizing AI, in which machines are trained to perform tasks that simulate some of what the human brain can do, and data science, in which students learn to record, store, and analyze data.

That means making sure kids have access to well-designed resources to learn those subjects, bolstering professional development for those who teach them, exposing career counselors to information about how to help students pursue jobs in those fields, and much more.

That imperative is at the heart of a list of recommendations by CSforALL, an education advocacy group presented last month at the International Society for Technology in Education’s annual conference.

Leigh Ann DeLyser, CSforALL’s co-founder and executive director, spoke with Education Week about some big picture ideas around the push for a greater focus on AI and data science within computer science education. Here are some key takeaways from that conversation.

Teaching computer science—including AI and data science—can help the next generation grapple with big societal problems.

These are the tools that will give the students the best chance of cracking challenges in areas like health care and climate change.

“Our world is complex and messy and full of big problems,” DeLyser said. AI and data science are fast- growing areas when it comes to employment, but “they’re also the fastest-growing tools that are being used by business people, nonprofits, and governments every single day. No matter what you do in life, if you want to tackle the big problems we have in the world, you’re going to need to understand these things and how they can be used, even if you’re not the programmer who is writing the code that makes them go.”

Students from all different backgrounds must get grounding in computer science.

It’s especially important to increase socioeconomic, racial, and gender diversity in the field.

“Research shows that teams that have different backgrounds are better problem solvers, because they think about problems from different ways,” DeLyser said. “When everybody comes with the same perspective, you tend to miss out on some of the ideas or the big challenges that pop up along the way. … We [want to] give equal access, no matter what ZIP code [students] grow up in, to those high-paying careers and opportunities later in their life.”

There are already good models of how to teach AI and data-science.

It’s possible to see school districts already experimenting with how to do this well, if you know where to look, DeLyser said. “Often, we frame [computer science access] as a deficit narrative. There’s nothing happening in education, or education is failing.”

But that’s not the case, she added. For instance, the large Gwinnett County school district outside Atlanta, is getting ready to open a high school that will focus on artificial intelligence. And in Bentonville, Ark., where Walmart is headquartered, local high school students interning with the company get a first-hand look at how the retail giant uses AI to configure store layouts, with an eye towards maximizing profit.

It’s never too early to start teaching artificial intelligence.

Believe it or not, kids as young as kindergarten or even preschool can become familiar with the basics of AI, DeLyser said.

“AI is pattern recognition. One of the most important pre skills for algebra and math development for kids in kindergarten, and even preschool, is pattern recognition. ‘This is a circle, this is a square,’” DeLyser said. Teaching AI is “having them take that learning that they’re doing for the pattern recognition just one step further. It’s like, OK, ‘I’m going to teach you, you’re going to teach a friend. Now I’m going to teach a computer.’ It’s not that far off from the work that they’re already doing.”

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
What is it About Math? Making Math Figure-Out-Able
Join Pam Harris for an engaging session challenging how we approach math, resulting in real world math that is “figure-out-able” for anyone.
Content provided by hand2mind
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Classroom Technology 8 Tips for Schools to Avoid Chaos in the Age of AI
Most district leaders are in the beginning stages of figuring out how to integrate AI into K-12 education.
6 min read
A group of researchers studies elements impacted by artificial intelligence
Kathleen Fu for Education Week
Classroom Technology What Is Age-Appropriate Use of AI? 4 Developmental Stages to Know About
Child development experts and teachers offer advice on when K-12 students should start using AI-powered tech and for what purposes.
11 min read
Elementary, Middle, and High-school age children interact with a giant artificial intelligence brain.
Kathleen Fu for Education Week
Classroom Technology New York City Schools Went Online Instead of Calling a Snow Day. It Didn't Go Well
The nation's largest school system attempted remote learning again since the pandemic, but got it interrupted by technical difficulties.
5 min read
A woman plays with a child who is sledding in New York's Central Park Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Technology glitches kept many New York City teachers and students from virtual classes Tuesday—the first attempt by the country's largest school system to switch to remote learning for a snow storm since the COVID-19 pandemic.
A woman plays with a child who is sledding in New York's Central Park Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Technology glitches kept many New York City teachers and students from virtual classes Tuesday—the first attempt by the country's largest school system to switch to remote learning for a snow storm since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Frank Franklin II/AP
Classroom Technology Q&A Why Teachers Should Be Front and Center in Discussions About AI in the Classroom
A new study explores how teachers make ethical judgments about using AI for instruction.
4 min read
 Artificial intelligence hand touching on screen then question mark symbols appears. Concept questioning, ethical.
iStock/Getty