I wrote a book

It’s called “Machine Learning for Kids: A Project-Based Introduction to Artificial Intelligence”.

It’s a hands-on, application-based introduction to machine learning and artificial intelligence that guides young readers through creating compelling AI-powered games and applications using the Scratch programming language.

Since starting the Machine Learning for Kids site, I’ve written project worksheets to inspire students and teachers what can be built using the tool. By making them freely available as Creative Commons-licensed MS Word docs, they’ve been a jumping off point to help teachers and code-club leaders to create their own lessons and activities.

As I’ve written the worksheets with schools and code clubs in mind, that introduced constraints.

Each worksheet is self-contained – many schools will only have time in their timetable/curriculum for one, or maybe two, AI projects, so a lot of the projects retread some of the same basics. None of them build on, or even refer to, any of the other worksheets. They also need to be short activities, so that they can be completed within a school lesson.

Writing a book version of Machine Learning for Kids was a chance to do something for a different audience: this time aimed at a child at home with their parents.

This means I didn’t have the same constraints as the worksheets on the site. It’s still based on explaining machine learning in a hands-on way through making projects in Scratch. But there’s a flow between the projects in the book. They’re in an intentional order, and there is a continuation between them. Each project builds upon the projects that came before it.

Some of the projects take a bit longer as they don’t need to be done in one sitting. I have more time and space to explain the ideas and to give the real-world context for each project. As each project doesn’t need to work as an introduction, it means the later chapters can get into more advanced topics that none of the project worksheets on the site go near, like accuracy, recall, and confidence matrices.

It’s been a lot of work. A lot more than I expected. Over two years of work. And not just by me: I had no idea how many people would be involved in making the book into a real thing. I’ve not really worked with editors before, and it has been a fascinating experience. They made my rambling gibbering so so much better that I’m almost embarrassed that only my name is on the cover. There’s no way the finished thing would be nearly as good without their work.

There were a few points where I wondered if it’d ever actually see the light of day – but it’s finally available. (Well, the e-book is available now, but the printed version is still a couple of weeks away).

I hope people find it useful! I am proud of it. I’m particularly proud of the Foreword, which I didn’t even write. It was very generously written by Grady Booch, and it’s the perfect inspirational start to what I wanted the book to be.

It’s very strange to see something I’ve written in online bookshops. It’s in Amazon, Waterstones, and WHSmith. That feels a bit weird. I hope that at some point I’ll get to see a printed copy in a real bookshop, but I suspect that won’t be any time soon!

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One Response to “I wrote a book”

  1. Anne Forbes says:

    Thank you Dale! This will be a
    welcome and well-used resource by teachers and students.

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