We at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are very excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with the teachers and students at DHA to develop and trial an exciting, new project-based learning curriculum for middle school students. We will be doing this work with DHA over the next three years. The program will focus on a very important STEM topic that is transforming society—artificial intelligence (AI). You probably have heard about it in the news and media—both the exciting solutions and applications that it enables, but also concerns about how it might affect people in unintended ways. Today’s reality is that if you are using online web services, mobile apps, smartphones, social media, etc., you are already interacting with AI-powered systems and technologies. We want to prepare students to be ethical designers and conscientious users of AI technologies. The job opportunities for those with competence in AI are already growing rapidly worldwide across diverse industries and markets, and the future is very bright for students who have skills in computational thinking and artificial intelligence.

To help prepare students at DHA to be successful in the AI-powered present and future, we take the approach of “learning-through-making”—otherwise known as Constructionism. Students in this program shall be active learners who will work with other students on creative projects that have personal meaning and tie into their community and social good. In this way, students not only learn technical skills and concepts in AI and computational thinking, but they also learn important teamwork and 21st-century skills such as collaboration, communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, and design thinking. They will be building computational projects using student-friendly coding platforms like Scratch and App Inventor, both invented at MIT! 

We will introduce Y7 students to an initial set of learning modules in the 2020–2021 academic year. Over time, we will deepen our offering for Y7 while we also expand to Y8--Y9. We anticipate students will do these activities in two sessions per week during students’ Computer Science class. Sessions will be led by the DHA Computer Science teacher and an MIT mentor per the class schedule. At the end of this three-year period, our goal is to have a full academic year project-based learning AI curriculum for grades Y7–Y9. If all goes well, we will then expand to other grade bands, with the ultimate goal to serve the entire student body of DHA (plan TBD).

As this curriculum is under development, we will be iterating and revising these materials using feedback from students and teachers. We will also welcome student and teacher input to make sure these activities are relevant and engaging for everyone. Perhaps the most exciting part is that all this hard work will result in a curriculum that can be used by other students all over the world! 

We want to make sure it supports a diversity of learners who have a range of interests, learning needs, and styles. Working directly with teachers and students is critical during this innovative development cycle, and everyone will come away with a better understanding of how programs like this are created for global impact. We anticipate that this adventure will impart enduring learnings and experiences that will benefit students well into the future.