Innovative approaches to Informal Education in Artificial Intelligence

Monday, July 1, 2019 to Thursday, June 30, 2022
Resource Type:
Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: 
Media and Technology, Broadcast Media, Websites, Mobile Apps, and Online Media, Public Programs, Afterschool Programs
Youth/Teen (up to 17)
Computing and information science
Access and Inclusion: 
Low Socioeconomic Status
Youth Radio, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Despite the ubiquity of Artificial Intelligence (AI), public understanding of how it works and is used is limited This project will research, design, and develop innovative approaches focusing on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for under-represented youth ages 14-24. Program components include live social media chats with AI leaders, app development, journalistic investigations of ethical issues in machine learning, and review of AI-based consumer products. Youth Radio is a non-profit media and tech organizations that provides youth with skills in STEM, journalism, arts, and communications. They engage 250 youth annually through free after-school classes and work shifts. Participants are 90% youth of color and 80% low income. Project partners include the MIT Media Lab which developed App Inventor which allows novice users to build fully functional apps. Staff from Google will serve as a project advisor on the curriculum. The project has exceptional national reach through the dissemination of its media and apps through national outlets such as NPR and Teen Vogue as well as various platforms including online, on-air, as well as presentations, publications, and training tools. The project broadens participation by engaging these low income youth of color in developing skills critical to the workforce of the future. It will help prepare an upcoming generation of Artificial Intelligence creators, users, and consumers who understand the technology and embrace and encourage its potential.It will give them the necessary knowledge and opportunities for careers in an AI-driven future. 

This project is grounded in sociocultural learning theory and practice and is interdisciplinary by design. The theoretical framework holds that Computational Thinking plus Critical Pedagogy leads to Critical Computational Literacy. Also, Digital Age Civics plus Participatory Culture leads to Civic Imagination helping youth build a better world through technology. The driving research questions include: What do underrepresented youth understand about AI and its role in society? What are the ethical dilemmas posed by AI from their vantage point? What are the features of an engaging ethics-centered pedagogy with AI? What impact do the AI products developed by the youth have on the target audience? The research design will use ethnographic techniques and design research to study and analyze youth learning. Data sources will include baseline surveys, audio recordings and transcriptions from learning sessions with the participants, research analytic memos, focus group interviews, student-generating artifacts of learning and finished products, etc. The design-based approach will enable systematic, evidence-based iteration on the initiative's activities, pedagogical approach and products. An independent summative evaluation will provide complementary data and perspective to triangulate with the research findings.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which supports innovative research, approaches, and resources for use in a variety of learning settings.

Project Website:
Funding Program: 
ITEST-Inov Tech Exp Stu & Teac, Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 
Funding Amount: 
Funding Program: 
ITEST-Inov Tech Exp Stu & Teac, Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 
Funding Amount: 

Team Members

Elisabeth SoepElisabeth SoepPrincipal Investigator
Ellin O'LearyEllin O'LearyCo-Principal Investigator
Harold AbelsonHarold AbelsonPrincipal Investigator

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