New $20 million CU center to bring AI into classroom

Wednesday August 26, 2020 0 comments Tags: Boulder, CU Boulder, artificial intelligence, Terri Fiez

BOULDER -- Take a seat in the classroom of tomorrow, where intelligent computers work side-by-side with groups of students to support their engagement in meaningful and productive learning experiences designed by their teachers.CU_logoUSE_1 

That’s the vision of a new $20 million research collaboration that will be led by the University of Colorado Boulder.

The project is called the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) AI Institute for Student-AI Teaming. It will explore the role that artificial intelligence may play in the future of education and workforce development -- especially in providing new learning opportunities for students from historically underrepresented populations in Colorado and beyond.

The NSF announced the effort alongside four other AI institutes at a virtual press conference Aug. 25.

Sidney D’Mello, associate professor in the Institute of Cognitive Science and the Department of Computer Science at CU Boulder, will lead the new institute.

“We aim to advance a new science of teaming,” D’Mello said. “We have a lot of knowledge of what makes effective human-human teams.

“The next phase is understanding what underlies effective human-agent teams. In our case, that means students, AI and teachers working together.”

The 5-year project will bring together a team of researchers from nine universities from across the country in a close collaboration with two public school districts, private companies and community leaders.

It will also tap researchers from across the CU Boulder campus, including the Institute of Cognitive Science, the College of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Education.

“This center is a testament to the spirit of collaboration in our university’s DNA,” said Terri Fiez, vice chancellor for Research and Innovation.

“We are pleased that this effort will position researchers from across our campus to lead in unlocking the potential of AI with our partners from other universities, companies and our communities.”

The researchers will strive for an approach called “responsible innovation” to design tools that schools actually need, said Tamara Sumner, who is part of the new institute’s leadership team and the director of ICS and professor of computer science. 

She and her colleagues, for example, will go to classrooms in Denver Public Schools and other school partners -- virtually, during the age of COVID-19 -- to work hand-in-hand with students and teachers to think up new technologies.

The team will also work with its partners to develop new curricula for middle and high school students, preparing them to understand, critique and design new uses of AI. 

“Community members must be included from the very beginning when it comes to designing and developing technology that will be deployed in schools,” Sumner said.

“This includes involving students, teachers, parents and other community leaders,” Sumner said.

Partners include Colorado State University, the University of California, Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley, Brandeis University, Worcester Polytechnic University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and University of Wisconsin-Madison.