What are AI and Machine Learning, and why are they important to you?

By the end of this lesson on AI and Machine learning, students in the 9th grade technology seminar will be able to:

  • Explain the idea of intelligence especially as it relates to computers.
  • Explain what it means for a machine to “learn”.
  • Discuss whether computers are intelligent or whether they only behave intelligently.
  • Why is it important right now?
  • What pitfalls created by AI potentially lie in our future?

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is a concept involving computers and how they can be taught or can teach themselves to solve tasks that a human brain could solve. Let’s watch the following video to learn more about the three main types of AI.

Part 1: Learn about AI

Let’s watch a few clips from the movie Baymax to learn more about AI.


Part 2: Time to play with some AI experiments

Spend the next 5-10 minutes playing with these AI experiments.

Quick, Draw! Google’s AI game to recognize human doodling:

AI Piano Duet:

Teachable Snake (you’ll need some plain white paper and a pen to draw an arrow on it):

Part 3: Why is AI important to our future?


Part 4: Why should you be concerned about AI?

Again, let’s watch one more video, a clip from Stanley Kubrick’s famous film 2001: A Space Odyssey

If you have 5 minutes, this essay is worth a read: http://www.technologyreview.com/review/534871/our-fear-of-artificial-intelligence/

Questions for your blog post:

  1. What types of AI are demonstrated by the quick draw, piano duet and teachable snake games? Base your answers on the first video we watched.
  2. Describe how the computer “learned” in the piano duet experiment.
  3. What types of tasks could a smartphone replace in our daily lives? In order for the phone to remind someone to purchase flowers for their spouse in celebration of their anniversary, what things would the phone need to know in order to correctly predict and inform a person that they need to pull their car off the road to stop at a flower shop?
  4. What type of AI is demonstrated by HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey? Why is AI so concerning for some people? How do you feel about AI and its possible risks in the future?
  5. What type of AI is demonstrated by Baymax in the Big Hero 6 clips? Is his behavior pre-programmed, learned, reverse-engineered or some combination of all three?

Does privacy matter to you?

Today’s discussion is designed to get you to think about how you share information about yourself online.

We will begin with watching segments of a TED talk by Glenn Greenwald, a journalist. Greenwald was one of the first reporters to see — and write about — the Edward Snowden files, with their revelations about the United States’ extensive surveillance of private citizens. In this searing talk, Greenwald makes the case for why you need to care about privacy, even if you’re “not doing anything you need to hide.”

Video here: https://www.ted.com/talks/glenn_greenwald_why_privacy_matters?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare

Next, a “Privacy Matters” quiz for you:

Before answering your questions for reflection, please take this quick privacy quiz to rate your privacy scale: https://docs.google.com/a/students.da.org/forms/d/1wX2lb8NBPI-Tj0_gRNfWJiP0Fh5yl1TeqNYjQXUM7oU/viewform

(Note: login with your G-Docs login using your DA credentials username@da.org)

Questions for you to discuss:

With a partner, discuss the following questions. Please provide real examples of how these things manifest in your life; simple yes/no answers aren’t good enough to show that you are honestly thinking about these issues. Your individual blog post should reflect your responses to these questions. Leave your responses in the comment field, as we have done in the past. Answers to some of these questions can be found here: https://portals.veracross.com/da/all-school/pages/ustech

  1. What is Durham Academy’s official policy on posting photos of other students, faculty or the school’s facilities online? Is it against school policy for you to post photos taken at DA through your Instagram or Twitter account?
  2. How would you feel if you knew you were going to interview for a job and the person with whom you were scheduled to talk could access information about you online and view it through a contact lens while they were conducting your interview? Would you look over your online profiles before going to that interview? Would you delete or revise content?
  3. Your laptop is damaged for whatever reason and is not functioning properly. If you bring your laptop to the support office and it is sent away to get fixed, who has the right to view the data (files, photos, music, etc.) on your laptop?
  4. Do you think your government or the law enforcement agencies from a local up to the federal level should be allowed to find out information about you without your permission via web sites you use, your computer or your smart phone? What about DA?
  5. Have you ever reviewed the privacy policy for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or SnapChat or TikTok? Who owns the photos you post to social media? Where are the companies that created those companies geographically based?
  6. Do you run your iCloud account through your DA laptop and use the Messages app on your laptop? Do you think DA has the right to look through the content of your text messages?

What can Big Data teach us about us?


We will first watch the following talk by David McCandless about visualizing data:

https://informationisbeautiful.net (David McCandless’s website)


Next take a look at the following web sites:


  • Big data can show us patterns and trends we might not think about or know that they exist.

Discuss and Respond:

Answer the following five questions in your blog post. You may discuss these ideas with a classmate, but everyone is responsible for their own post.

  1. Click on the following link, a NASA image of the earth at night:
    What does this image show or tell us about population centers throughout the world? Where do the majority of the world’s citizens live?
  2. This tech seminar post is being discussed near or right before fall semester exams at DA. If DA had its own Twitter network, what do you think the top three hashtags would have been on the DA Twitterverse during the last few weeks? What extra hashtag might the seniors at DA have been using, unlike any other grade at the Upper School?
  3. What big data project could be created to analyze something about every 9th grade student in the entire United States? How about the world?
  4. How would you collect that data for the project you mentioned in question 3?
  5. After looking at McCandless’s website, if you had the opportunity to create a data visualization project on any topic that interests you, what would it be?

Privacy in a Digital World: AI and Facial Recognition Technologies

What is facial recognition, and why is it important? 

(from https://www.eff.org/wp/law-enforcement-use-face-recognition)

Facial recognition is a biometric software application capable of uniquely identifying or verifying a person by comparing and analyzing patterns based on the person’s facial contours. Facial recognition is mostly used for security purposes, though there is increasing interest in other areas of use. In fact, facial recognition technology has received significant attention as it has potential for a wide range of application related to law enforcement as well as other enterprises.

(From https://www.techopedia.com/definition/32071/facial-recognition)

Today’s Essential Questions:

  • What is facial recognition software and how does it affect my life?
  • How does society balance the need to identify and track people, especially wrong-doers, with the right to privacy?

First, let’s watch this video:

Next, you’ll need to spend 5 minutes with a partner doing an important task. You should leave the classroom and go see if you can find 4 locations where we have security cameras on campus. You’ll be asked to list a few of those locations below.

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO ANSWER (each student must submit individual responses)

  1. What other technology has law enforcement, the government and companies used to keep track of you? List as many tools you can think of.
  2. What do you think people might have worried about when the “new” technologies of fingerprinting or mug shots were invented?
  3. Is facial recognition and other forms of identification technology an invasion of privacy? Why or why not?
  4. Who should have access to our face prints and other data? Who should not be given access?
  5. Where would you draw the line when it comes to facial recognition? Private companies (like Snapchat or Walmart)? Everyone? No one? Explain your answer.
  6. Do you use Snapchat? Have you used FaceApp? Do you know where those images of your face are being stored?
  7. Do you worry about the lack of privacy your generation faces every day because of apps that track you or facial recognition cameras that are always watching you?
  8. List 3-4 places on the DA Upper School campus where you found surveillance cameras.

Data Security Begins with Encryption and Cryptography

Topic for the day: Computers use encryption to keep our data secure, but what does that mean? 

We’re going to start today’s lesson by watching the following Khan Academy video about encryption. We will be referring to the entire cryptography lesson on Khan Academy for the next two tech seminar lessons.


It is essential for you to become an educated user of the Internet to help you protect your data and to keep from becoming a victim of identity theft.  Today we’re going to learn about some old techniques for creating and decoding encrypted messages called ciphers.

Use the Internet as your research resource to answer the first four questions.  To answer the next six questions, you will first need to decode the questions using what you know about Caesar and Alphabet Reversal Ciphers.  All but one of the questions from 5-10 are either a Caesar Cipher or an Alphabet Reversal Cipher.  It is up to you to determine what encryption scheme is used with each phrase. The “super challenging” question uses an incredibly random ciphering pattern.

To answer the questions, use the available decoding tools here: http://rumkin.com/tools/cipher/

NOTE: You will not only need to decode these questions, but you will need to answer them in your blog post. The answers to the encrypted questions can be found at the following web site: https://sites.google.com/a/students.da.org/us-student-tech-resources/laptop-1-1
You will need to login to your DA Google account to view the answers to these questions.

FOR QUESTIONS 5-10, make sure you answer them. Don’t just translate the question!

  1. Define the term encryption.
  2. Provide at least three modern applications of encryption that affect your life on a daily or weekly basis.
  3. List four major US corporations that have had publicized data breaches of user information (credit cards, etc.) that have occurred in the last four years.
  4. What is the difference between a Caesar cipher and an Atbash cipher?
  5. Sld wl blf xszmtv gsv wvhpglk krxgfiv lm blfi WZ ozkglk?
  6. Lmxv R tzrm zwnrm kirerovtvh lm nb ozkglk, nzb R rmhgzoo urov hszirmt kiltiznh orpv YrgGliivmg?
  7. Cryevn iye sxcdkvv cypdgkbo eznkdoc grox zbywzdon pbyw Kzzvo?
  8. Dszg zkkorxzgrlm hslfow blf fhv gl rmhgzoo li fkwzgv zmb zkkilevw hlugdziv lm blfi ozkglk?
  9. Oy oz giikvzghrk lux yzajktzy zu vaz yzoiqkxy ut znkox JG rgvzuvy?
  10. SUPER CHALLENGING QUESTION: Hhpm oehlzgbxbhr stjkf ce tkw nocmscls fj zsnk lrkk deqke zzpn nhig wxkisrte hibce va roqfpcixr ig yfys ptixfi?

What is an innovation?

in·no·va·tion noun \ˌi-nə-ˈvā-shən\

Definition #1: a new idea, device or method
Definition #2: the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods

What makes something innovative? Why is innovation so important for our world, the human race and our lives as we know them? Who decides or defines what is innovative and what is not? How do innovations work their way into our lives?  Rapidly?  Slowly? Can you name 3 innovations that have significantly impacted your life?

Examine the following three innovations that have played a significant role in changing things in my lifetime.  They are:

#1: Air Conditioning

Yes, I must admit it was invented before I was born. But there is a case to be made that air conditioning was nowhere near as common in 1970, when I was born, than it is now. When I was a child, my family’s house in SC was not air conditioned. Yes, it was hot in the summer! But think of all the things air conditioning has changed for better and worse. Server farms could not exist without air conditioning, and thus the modern version of the Internet would not be a reality. Increased electrical use over the past 50 years in the United States alone has contributed to the greenhouse effect and global warming. For more insight on how air conditioning has changed the world, read this article from Salon.com: http://www.salon.com/2014/08/16/how_air_conditioning_remade_modern_america/

#2: Personal computer

Although the first personal computer was created in 1956 (the LGP-30, which weighed 730 pounds and cost $47,000, equivalent to about $414,000 today), household personal computers were not a reality until after 1970, when I was born. In the early 1970’s, personal computers were becoming a reality for American households. The 1973 Xerox Alto computer had the first GUI, or graphical user interface, that allowed users to interact with the computer visually instead of having to type code to load files and run programs (Unix). In the early 1980’s computers like the Commodore, Tandy and Apple II E made personal computers a reality for many households. Users played games, wrote papers, managed budgets and did hundreds of other activities that we now take for granted on our laptops or our phones. In 1982, the personal computer was named the “Machine of the Year” by Time Magazine, replacing their traditional “Person of the Year” issue. With the effect personal computers have had on nearly every facet of our lives, both work and play, it is one of the top innovations of my lifetime. Just think about how pervasive laptops are today…!

#3: Smart phone

It is hard to believe that the first iPhone was released in 2007 and how quickly it made Blackberry and/or cell phone devices become obsolete. Think of how often you use a smart phone. How much of your life would be changed had the smartphone not been invented? Particularly with the iPhone, think of the millions of spinoff products that are created specifically for the device. From apps to accessibility, the smart phone has had perhaps the most personal impact of these three innovations.

Your task is the following: On your own, decide on a list of three innovative devices that have had the most significant impact on your life. Your assignment is to post a comment on this blog post; we will discuss how to do that in class. In your post, give three examples and explain why each item is important to you.