“Teaching Inclusive AI in Computer Science” Event

By Joe Tise, PhD, Senior Education Researcher, CSEdResearch.org

Driving into the heart of Washington, D.C. is a unique experience. Mixed with thousands of business people, sight-seers, and the occasional politician shuffling to and fro, is the sense of optimism for what could be. Every significant social, policy, or and/or economic movement that had national—and often international—influence went through our nation’s capital. 

As I arrived at Teaching Inclusive AI in Computer Science event co-hosted by the National Economic Council and U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) (and organized by CSTA) on the White House grounds, I wondered how the CS education landscape would look 10 years from now, and how the presenters and attendees would prove pivotal in shaping its form. It was clear by the end of the event that everyone there shared two core characteristics: a deep passion for CS education and an unwavering optimism for the future.

The event kicked off with speeches from several representatives from members of the Biden-Harris Administration (e.g., Chirag Parikh [Deputy Assistant to the President and Executive Secretary, National Space Council], Ami Fields-Meyer [Senior Policy Advisor, Office of the Vice President], and Seeyew Mo [Assistant National Cyber Director, Office of the National Cyber Director]). Each emphasized the importance of a CS and AI-literate citizenry and further discussed how the Biden-Harris administration plans to support CS and AI education. One of the highlighted efforts was an executive order signed by President Biden targeting safe and trustworthy AI development. 

To make the policy discussion more concrete, we next heard from a panel of four CS teachers from across the country who represented both middle and high school level CS. They discussed how they have seen CS, and particularly AI, influence many subjects in school beyond standalone CS courses. One teacher pointed out that their school district adopted a total ban on generative AI tools in an attempt to prevent academic misconduct. The teachers agreed that while the district’s motivation may be noble, the ban would likely disadvantage the students in the long run because they would not have the opportunity to learn how generative AI works—and more importantly, learn about its limitations. The panel discussion ended by acknowledging the continued struggle to recruit and retain CS teachers at both middle and high school levels.

Finally, the plethora of work remaining requires funding. To this point, Margaret Martonosi (NSF Chief Operating Officer) and Erwin Gianchandani (Assistant Director of the CISE directorate) discussed how NSF as a whole, and particularly the CISE directorate, is prioritizing CS education research, with reference to the recent Dear Colleague: Advancing education for the future AI workforce (EducateAI) letter released. 

Suffice to say I left the White House grounds even more inspired and hopeful for the future of CS education—and our nation as a whole. We have the vision, we have the motivation, and the groundwork is laid. Now we need to act. You can read a summary readout of the event on the White House website here.

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