As students across the country return to classrooms this fall, Florida is among the first states to adopt a K-12 educational program, or AI, an education program designed to prepare its youth for the growing global demand for the workforce that Supports artificial intelligence.
Leveraging the expertise of the University of Florida and its Artificial Intelligence Initiative, the Florida Department of Education recently added a three-year degree program called AI Foundations to its Career and Technical Education Program, or CTE, with three Florida school districts launching this program. Falls after specialized training in artificial intelligence became available for teachers during the summer.
Almost everyone is accessing AI or being affected by technology every day, and it is only going to increase, said UF Vice President David Reed, who leads the university’s Center for Academic Initiatives for Artificial Intelligence.
“More and more people of all levels of education and technical skills are being exposed to AI, including on their phones, watches, and in their homes,” Reed said. “Through several initiatives, including the Artificial Intelligence Curriculum Program developed for Florida public schools, the University of Florida aims to increase students’ understanding of how their data is used, improve their computer science skills and also impact the AI workforce shortage.”
The Public Schools Coursework Framework was designed with help from UF faculty, including Christina Gardner-McKune, who modeled it on the K-12 Initiative’s Artificial Intelligence, or AI4K12. The initiative, a program funded by the National Science Foundation, is developing national guidelines for teaching artificial intelligence in elementary and secondary schools and is co-led by Gardner-McKune, associate professor in the Herbert Wertheim School of Engineering’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering.
Gardner-McKown said the state’s new high school program offers courses that provide an overview of aspects of artificial intelligence, programming and machine learning to better prepare students for personal and professional success in an AI-based society.
“Students will gain hands-on and applied experience such as creating chatbots, assessing the societal impacts of AI, and mastering basic skills to become AI-familiar users,” she said. “Once the program is completed, they will be armed with a range of projects that demonstrate their ability in AI system design.”
UF faculty at the Werthem School of Engineering gathered input from private industry through focus groups and a comprehensive survey of AI workforce needs to aid program design.
“We have relied heavily on the industry to find out what knowledge and skills companies are looking for in their employees,” said Kami Abernathy, dean of the Werthem School of Engineering. “We have been able to strengthen our relationships with national companies, thus getting a big picture of the common skills required.”
Teachers from 11 school districts across the state, as well as from Florida Virtual School, participated in specially designed workshops this summer to prepare them for AI teaching, making Florida among the first in the country to offer professional development AI courses to its teachers free of charge. Developed and taught by UF faculty and students, the training provides teachers with foundational knowledge of AI concepts as well as practical experience in AI design.
“The power of this professional development helps educators understand the system thinking and engineering that goes into designing AI, so they can help their students become ethical designers for the next generation of smart computers,” said Nancy Rosicky, Professor of Education. Associate Professor in UF’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering who helped build the course framework and is lead designer of the Professional Development Program for Florida Educators.
Ruzycki explained that the AI course is design-oriented rather than data science-driven, meaning that students learn how to apply technology rather than how to create it. She said this approach enhances digital literacy across a diverse group of students and helps promote the democratization of AI, ensuring that more people have access to AI knowledge and tools.
Read said that UF is establishing a broad and long path of AI learning opportunities for students from kindergarten to higher education and even continuing education for professionals in the university’s pursuit of end-to-end AI.
This summer, UF’s schools of engineering and education set up a variety of camps for middle school students to help make artificial intelligence and computer science more accessible, especially for students in lower-income areas. In Orlando, a three-week summer camp funded by the Career Source of Central Florida is piloting some new high school artificial intelligence courses. Camp DIALOGS, an NSF-funded project, has introduced students from underrepresented backgrounds to AMBY, which stands for AI Made By You, helping attendees learn more about artificial intelligence and computer science through its lessons now available to middle school teachers across Florida .
For UF students, the innovative curriculum effort integrates artificial intelligence into all degree programs at each college, so students have the opportunity to learn how to apply technology in their chosen major, using the language and context of the field they know.
“This long-term strategy aims to help build the workforce of the future and to ensure that the next generation is prepared to be better digital citizens of the world,” Reed said.
September 22 2022