CACTC students get a lesson in artificial intelligence

Posted 5/17/23

Artificial Intelligence has been more than a buzzword for the entirety of 2023. ChatGPT, a program that generates everything from essays to songs to instructions, has been at the forefront of this …

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CACTC students get a lesson in artificial intelligence


Artificial Intelligence has been more than a buzzword for the entirety of 2023. ChatGPT, a program that generates everything from essays to songs to instructions, has been at the forefront of this coverage. As such, the world has been moving fast to get and stay up to speed with developments, programs, and exponentially-evolving digital capabilities.

The Cranston Area Career and Technical Center has been moving quickly as well to help adapt its programs to meet ever-evolving needs for fields to reconcile with, and sometimes wrangle, advancements in AI.

CACTC interactive digital media teacher Aimee Duarte has recently signed onto a pilot program created by MIT and funded by the National Science Foundation that teaches Data Science and Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare.

The program, according to its materials, is geared towards creating future leaders who are technologically and data literate, and to prepare students for high-paying jobs in computer science, AI, and data science.

As part of the program, Duarte explained, students in her ninth-grade classes are learning to analyze data from healthcare settings.

“It is having the students learn about biases in machine learning. Up until this point, they’ve been learning things like recognizing data and identifying biases in healthcare,” she said.

“I think it’s definitely opened their eyes to what’s out there and not to believe everything they see.”

Duarte explained she is easing both herself and her students into the program as the material is new to all and very dense. She says she is hoping to expand going into next year to include other grade levels.

CACTC pre-engineering and robotics teacher Edd Spidell has been working with artificial intelligence on several levels for many years as a way to create and develop competitive students. In his robotics lab, he displays and manipulates machines that provide fixed, programmable, and flexible automation.

He explained the practical uses of each, as well as his hopes and fears about artificial intelligence.

Spidell explained that he feels artificial intelligence can be successfully applied in settings to help the differently-abled, the elderly, and people with dementia. What he expressed concerns about, however, was the automation of war machines such as armed drones, and AI’s ability to create newsworthy stories, pictures, and videos about scenarios that never occurred, also known as “deepfakes.”

CACTC principal Kenneth Hopkins explained he has taken note of the changes in the fields the school teaches and has been quietly preparing in the background.

“I’m very interested to see in the next few years,” he said, “how this starts to pan out, how we start to incorporate it into the various curricular strands for all different CTE programs.”

Ken Jennings, the 74-time winner of Jeopardy, gave a talk at Bryant University in Smithfield on Wednesday, May 10, centered on living peacefully in AI’s midst.

Jennings discussed his groundbreaking Jeopardy games with IBM’s Watson computer in 2011, long before artificial intelligence had pervaded the collective unconscious.

“Just in the last year,” Jennings said during his speech, “I think if you’ve been following what’s been going on with generated AI, now machines can do very convincing things. They can put all kinds of writers and commercial artists out of work.”

“ChatGPT can produce alternative facts that look just as good as the real ones, or can produce deepfakes, of say, a public figure saying something they would not, or violating a public figure’s privacy by producing videos of them that they would not like you to be looking at,” he continued.

“There’s all kinds of weird ethical and social problems that arise from this new generation of artificial intelligence.”

Jennings explained that his job as ‘Jeopardy Champion’ was one of the first that was made obsolete by artificial intelligence, but it will certainly not be the last.

“I’ve spoken at a bunch of tech events and school events like this where I talk about how worried I was at this moment that I was the first job made obsolete by a machine Jeopardy contestant, but I wasn’t going to be the last, that soon pharmacists and paralegals, and lots of other professions are going to be threatened by AI doing what AI does,” he said.

Despite the semi-somber tone of much of his talk, he concluded with words of wisdom from his own experience.

“I want to just finish today,” he said, “by making the argument that it does still matter, even in the post-Watson world, what we know and what we have learned.”

Jennings punctuated this argument by explaining that the human hippocampus grows when a person learns new skills, noting a study of cab drivers preparing to work in London.

He also explained that our reliance on cell phones to remember phone numbers, or GPS to tell drivers where to go may be simpler, but does not allow for the mental exercise and growth that remembering these facts does.

The balance over the next few years will be how to coexist safely with artificial intelligence safely, ethically, and in a manner that continues to respect human beings’ mental capacities.

At schools like the Cranston Area Career and Technical Center, the challenge will be finding the right mix of experiential and machine-based learning to help students harness and optimize technology while remaining marketable.

lesson, artificial, intelligence


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