Future-ready learning: what AI in education means for schools today

Ricky Ye, CEO at DFRobot, on why schools should be integrating learning resources that build STEM skills early on

Technology is rapidly evolving, transforming the jobs market and leading the education sector to rethink the way it prepares students for the future. Undeniably, one of the key catalysts driving change here is artificial intelligence (AI). The development of AI, robotics and machine learning has given rise to new career opportunities, as well as skills requirements, for the next generation.

Integrating AI in education

If we hope to progress as a society and harness technology to resolve key issues, it’s essential that we embrace future-ready learning to give students the best possible grounding in desirable STEM, and specifically, AI skills. This has been rising up the national agenda for education in recent years, notably with the introduction of the BBC micro:bit in 2016, which saw pocket-sized codable devices distributed to schools across the country for free.

One of the common misconceptions around block coding and engineering is that it’s a strictly academic discipline, reserved only for students of certain grade levels.

In reality, AI learning is highly creative and demands a range of skills including critical thinking, problem-solving and independent learning. There are a range of affordable AI-based resource kits aimed at schools which take advantage of user-friendly platforms, giving students the opportunity to engage, whatever their ability and level of interest.

Hands-on experience with AI

To help students get to grips with AI in education and overcome any misconceptions around robotics, first-hand experience in the classroom is the best place to start. While pupils use technology in everyday life, there is often little understanding of how these devices come into being and the processes that underscore their output. Consequently, resources which allow students to learn through play and create their own AI-powered devices can help to deepen their understanding and appreciation of coding technologies – especially if they are projects that resonate with students’ interests.

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For example, in the digital age where most students have smartphones with cutting-edge cameras, why not spark their interest with AI-powered vision sensors in the classroom? Incorporating vision sensors enables students to navigate complex robotics concepts in real-life contexts; students can experiment with facial recognition, object tracking and colour recognition through simply pointing and clicking.

AI-based project learning

As any engineer or scientist will confirm, curiosity is a key ingredient of technological development. Research, invention and testing are the only ways to make advances and develop the solutions to our current global challenges, which is why encouraging AI project-style learning in schools is especially useful.

Older students might also wish to experiment with AI in education through more advanced projects to discover how the technology intersects with other disciplines. Bridging the gap between core technical concepts and their applications in the wider world is often an obstacle to STEM engagement in schools. Through enabling students to experience the versatility of AI and incorporate it into their own projects across the curriculum, they can see for themselves how AI informs processes and solutions in a wider context.

Future-ready skills

With students having to prepare for a tech-centric workforce in flux, it’s imperative that schools equip learners with the core skills that will enable them to succeed in the future. Practical and hands-on learning will play a key role in AI, block coding and engineering engagement, supporting learners to build up knowledge and soft skills in a range of areas. Integrating AI-based resource kits in schools will break down misconceptions and encourage students to develop an enthusiasm for the technologies powering our world.


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