You probably use machine-learning systems every day without even knowing it. The technology gives us spam filters, our Facebook News Feeds, digital assistants, search engines, Netflix picks, Amazon recommendations, fraud detection systems, chatbots and more. And it's only going to become more pervasive. For forward-looking parents, it's time to get your kids on it.
Software developer and dad Dale Lane has created Machine Learning for Kids, a collection of free projects that teach students how to build with this technology. Each project is done in Scratch, a widely used educational coding platform, and includes a downloadable, step-by-step guide. Kids can choose from easier projects such as Make Me Happy (create a character that smiles if you say nice things to it and cries if you insult it) or more advanced ones like Headlines (train a computer to recognise headlines from national newspapers). Throughout the lessons, there are explanations for what just happened in each step, and what comes next. The process is accessible and intuitive, and parents who follow along will no doubt learn something, too.
Here's a walkthrough of Machine Learning for Kids and examples of the projects:
Lane shared a neat story about how his 8-year-old daughter used machine learning to train a chatbot to answer questions about owls. He writes, "The objective wasn't to come up with the perfect, most amazingly trained AI system — rather to give her a quick taster of what is involved in doing it, making sure to stop before it turns into a chore!" The best way to teach kids about machine learning (and all that it's capable of) is through hands-on experiences, and by making it fun.