The University of Florida (UF) is collaborating with 11 school districts across the Sunshine State to pilot a K-12 artificial intelligence (AI) education program this fall, according to a UF news release from Sept. 22.

Florida is one of the first states to offer teachers free, specialized training in AI. For the just-launched AI education program, teachers worked with UF faculty and students over the summer to prepare for the launch of AI Foundations – a three-year Career and Technical Education Program recently added by the state’s Education Department to equip its youth for the growing global demand of an AI-enabled workforce.

“More people with all levels of education and technical skills are exposed to AI, including on their phones, their watches, and in their homes,” UF Associate Provost David Reed, who leads the university’s AI Academic Initiative Center, said.

“Through several initiatives, including an AI curriculum program developed for Florida public schools, the University of Florida aims to increase understanding among students about how their data is being used, improve their skills in computer science, and also impact the AI workforce shortage,” he said.

The state’s new high school program provides an overview of the aspects of AI, programming, and machine learning to better prepare students to be successful both personally and professionally in an AI-based society. Participating schools will offer four courses:

  • Artificial Intelligence in the World;
  • Applications of Artificial Intelligence;
  • Procedural Programming; and
  • Foundations of Machine Learning.

The framework for the public-school coursework was designed with help by Christina Gardner-McCune, a UF professor and co-leader on the National Science Foundation’s Artificial Intelligence for K-12 Initiative. That effort will be creating national guidelines for teaching AI in elementary and secondary schools.

“Students will gain practical, hands-on experience such as constructing chatbots, evaluating the societal impacts of AI and mastering foundational skills to become knowledgeable users of AI,” Gardner-McCune said. “Once they complete the program, they will be armed with a portfolio of projects that demonstrates their ability in AI system design.”

According to Reed, UF is developing a broad and long path for AI learning opportunities in the Sunshine State – ranging from students in kindergarten to continuing education for professionals.

“This long-term strategy is intended to help build a workforce for the future and to ensure the next generation is prepared to be better digital citizens of the world,” he said.

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