Started in 2013, “Hour of Code” is an annual tradition started by the education non-profit Code.org (which provides free coding lessons to schools). Its FAQ describes the December event for K-12 students as “a worldwide effort to celebrate computer science, starting with 1-hour coding activities,” and over 100 million schoolkids have participated over the years.This year’s theme will be “Creativity With AI,” and the “computer vision” lesson includes a short video (less than 7 minutes) featuring a Tesla Autopilot product manager from its computer vision team. “I build self-driving cars,” they say in the video. “Any place where there can be resources used more efficiently I think is a place where technology can play a role. But of course one of the best, impactful ways of AI, I hope, is through self-driving cars.” (The video then goes on to explain how lots of training data ultimately generates a statistical model, “which is just a fancy way of saying, a guessing machine.”)
The 7-minute video is part of a larger lesson plan (with a total estimated time of 45 minutes) in which students tackle a fun story problem. If a sports arena’s scoreboard is showing digital numbers, what series of patterns would a machine-vision system have to recognize to identify each digit. (Students are asked to collaborate in groups.) And it’s just one of seven 45-minute lessons, each one accompanied by a short video. (The longest video is 7 minutes and 28 seconds, and all seven videos, if watched back-to-back, would run for about 31 minutes.)
Not all the lessons involve actual coding, but the goal seems to be familiarizing students (starting at the 6th grade level) with artificial intelligence of today, and the issues it raises. The second-to-last lesson is titled “Algorithmic Bias” — with a video including interviews with an ethicist at Open AI and professor focused on AI from both MIT and Stanford. And the last lesson — “Our AI Code of Ethics” — challenges students to assemble documents and videos on AI-related “ethical pitfalls,” and then pool their discoveries into an educational resource “for AI creators and legislators everywhere.”
This year’s installment is being billed as “the largest learning event in history.” And it’s scheduled for the week of December 4 so it coincides with “Computer Science Education Week” (a CS-education event launched in 2009 by the Association for Computing Machinery, with help from partners including Intel, Microsoft, Google, and the National Science Foundation).