AI Made By Youth: A Conversational AI Curriculum for Middle School Summer Camps

Authors: Yukyeong Song, Gloria Ashiya Katuka, Joanne Barrett, Xiaoyi Tian, Amit Kumar, Tom Mcklin, Mehmet Celepkolu, Kristy Elizabeth Boyer, Maya Israel


As artificial intelligence permeates our lives through various tools and services, there is an increasing need to consider how to teach young learners about AI in a relevant and engaging way. One way to do so is to leverage familiar and pervasive technologies such as conversational AIs. By learning about conversational AIs, learners are introduced to AI concepts such as computers’ perception of natural language, the need for training datasets, and the design of AI-human interactions. In this experience report, we describe a summer camp curriculum designed for middle school learners composed of general AI lessons, unplugged activities, conversational AI lessons, and project activities in which the campers develop their own conversational agents. The results show that this summer camp experience fostered significant increases in learners’ ability beliefs, willingness to share their learning experience, and intent to persist in AI learning. We conclude with a discussion of how conversational AI can be used as an entry point to K-12 AI education. Introduction Artificial Intelligence (AI) has permeated our lives through technologies such as smart speakers, self-driving cars, and recommendation systems. This technology is not only affecting our daily lives but also changing the future of occupations and job markets (Bughin et al. 2018). Thus, it is imperative to create opportunities for the next generation to learn about the fundamentals of AI and develop positive attitudes towards AI and potential careers in the field. There is an increasing effort to bring AI-related learning experiences to learners at their early ages, with recent studies highlighting the positive effects of these efforts on improving stu-dents’ knowledge, confidence, and attitudes toward future AI or STEM careers (Wan et al. 2020; Alvarez et al. 2022; Vachovsky et al. 2016). To engage novice learners in AI learning, we need to consider how to teach AI in relevant and engaging ways. One of the ways to achieve this is to leverage familiar and pervasive technologies such as conversational AIs. Conversational AIs are computer programs with the ability to interact with humans through spoken or textual natural language (Van Brummelen, Heng, and Tabunshchyk 2021). Young

Song, Yukyeong & Katuka, Gloria & Barrett, Joanne & Tian, Xiaoyi & Kumar, Amit & Mcklin, Tom & Celepkolu, Mehmet & Boyer, Kristy & Israel, Maya. (2022). AI Made By Youth: A Conversational AI Curriculum for Middle School Summer Camps.

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