Teaching artificial intelligence using Scratch

May 18th, 2018

This is a recording of a talk I did at DevoxxUK last week. Devoxx is a community developer event, run in London. I had 50 minutes to talk about what I’m doing with Machine Learning for Kids.

Groups like Code Club, CoderDojo, Code.org and many others are doing amazing work in helping to introduce kids to coding. Initiatives like Hour of Code have highlighted how those of us in tech can help to support and inspire the next generation of developers.

How can we extend this to include artificial intelligence and machine learning?

How can we use the cloud-based machine learning APIs that are increasingly available to us as developers to extend the tools used to teach kids about coding?

In this session, I’ll share the work I’ve been doing to introduce machine learning to kids, and demo the resources that are available to give kids hands-on experiences at training and using machine learning models for themselves.

If you’re familiar with AI and ML technologies, this session will hopefully enable you to share your expertise with local schools, colleges and coding groups.

If you’re not as familiar with ML, this session will show you how quick and simple cloud-based machine learning APIs are today, and perhaps inspire you to use them in your next project.

Scratch Day at IBM Hursley

May 18th, 2018

Scratch is a visual programming language and drag-and-drop coding platform for children.

scratch

Scratch Day is an annual world-wide network of events where kids come together to make things in Scratch.

Their logo sums it up beautifully:

logo

Kids of different ages come together and meet each other. They share their experiences of coding – finding out the differences between what they each learn about coding in their different schools.

They try and make something. It’s basically a hack day for kids – where the kids are encouraged to use Scratch to make their hacks.

Most importantly, they share their experiences. They talk about the things they tried, the challenges they faced, and the things they learned along the way. And they demo the things that worked.

On May 12th that happened around the world, in close to a thousand venues, big and small.

scratchdaymap

One of them was IBM Hursley. We invited local families to the lab to take part in a small local Scratch Day.

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Explaining artificial intelligence to high school students at #IBMAoTTHINK2018

April 25th, 2018

Today was the annual IBM Academy of Technology STEM event.

The annual IBM AoT SkillsBuild: STEM event inspires high school students to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Math with live presentations, lightning videos, and hands-on activity kits from IBM Volunteers. It explores how innovation matters in a wide array of industries with fun, cool demonstrations. Train a computer to play its own video game. Play a table top space exploration game with Quantum computing. Build an emotionally empathetic Chatbot with IBM Watson. Protect yourself from cyberbullying. Learn about an Escape room on cybersecurity, and more!

There was a fascinating line-up of talks to educate and inspire the kids. Kids attend in person, and also by watching the talks from their schools via a livestream – allowing thousands of kids to get involved.

I was invited to do a fifteen-minute talk to explain artificial intelligence to the students. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it in person, so I had to resort to contributing a presentation by video for the livestream.

Here was my talk… an attempt to try and help AI make sense to kids, by talking them through machine learning projects that I’ve helped children to make.

Explaining crowd-sourcing in machine learning

January 31st, 2018

I pushed a new feature to Machine Learning for Kids last night: “class projects”. Now a whole class of students can work on a project together – all helping to train a shared, group machine learning model.

I’ll write some proper documentation for it, but in the meantime I thought I’d share a few quick thoughts on how this works and what it’s for.

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How I ended up making MachineLearningForKids

October 29th, 2017

I write a lot about what I’m doing with machine learning for kids, but in this post, I want to share a little about how I ended up doing it and why.

I tend to write about *what* I’ve done. I rarely write how things happened though, or what made me do them. I just assume that people would be less interested in that.

But, if I think about what I find interesting, it tends to be the backstory to projects. To use Nick as an example, I’ve seen him give loads of talks about Node-RED. And I’ve enjoyed the ones where he talks about how Node-RED happened more than where he gives demos of what Node-RED is.

Inspired by that, I thought I should at least try to capture a few breadcrumbs for how I ended up where I am now with machinelearningforkids.co.uk.

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Can computers be creative?

October 25th, 2017

from: https://tv.theiet.org/?videoid=10995

Kids at barcamp

October 19th, 2017

I’ve been a fan of barcamps for a while, and have been going to any that I can for at least ten years.

In recent years, I’ve encouraged my kids to come along with me, and in the spirit of barcamp, to think of something they could bring to share or talk about.

Grace did a talk about her experiences being taught ICT at primary school at Barcamp Berkshire in 2013.

Grace did a demo of how kids are taught to do sums in school today at Barcamp Bournemouth in 2014.

Faith did a talk about owls (and chatbots) at Barcamp Southampton in 2016.

Last Saturday, it was Barcamp Southampton again, and Faith decided to run a session.

2017-10-14 10.15.48

This time, she chose to do a ukulele lesson.

2017-10-14+07.58.00.heic

We borrowed a car boot-full of ukuleles from Hampshire Music Service. (We owe them a big thanks!)

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She set up the room with a ukulele on every seat for everyone who came to her session.

2017-10-14+10.15.49.heic

And she’d made a few PowerPoint slides with finger patterns on to help get people started.

Before too long, she had a bunch of adults (who’d never played ukulele before!) strumming along, leading us all as we echoed her strumming patterns. We sounded okay by the end!

I was super proud of her. There is no way I’d have been brave enough to try it when I was her age.

And, like her sister, it was a more creative and fun idea for a talk than the usual stand-in-front-of-slides-and-talk sessions that I always do.


Machine Learning for Kids event at Hursley

August 30th, 2017

On Tuesday, a couple of dozen children (aged 8-14) spent the afternoon at Hursley so I could give them an intro to machine learning using some of the activities I’ve written for machinelearningforkids.co.uk.

I think it went pretty well, so I thought it’d be good to share what we did.


This was what the room looked like before the kids arrived… with just my two kids helping me set up. It all got a lot busier after this!

The general approach was letting them all work at computers, guided by a worksheet to build something that illustrated an aspect of machine learning. And then following this with a group discussion to draw out what they observed and what it meant.

We did this all together for the first couple of activities. Because of the large age range in the group, after this I let them split up and tackle different activities at different speeds, and followed this up by discussing their projects with them in smaller groups.

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