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Access: A Necessity on the Road to AI as a Fundamental Literacy

The Constellations Center for Equity in Computing at Georgia Tech is expanding its focus to include new and developing kinds of computing.

This year's area of interest is artificial intelligence and how it should be regarded as a fundamental literacy in K-12 education.

Bryan Cox, the Kapor senior research fellow at Constellations, was recently a keynote speaker discussing AI at a professional development workshop for Cobb County teachers in the school system’s STEAM academy.

In his keynote, Cox highlighted the idea that AI is not an optional skill but a necessary literacy for everyone, especially for students. He says it is crucial for AI literacy to become intertwined with K-12 education to stop the digital divide from widening.

“The digital divide is a lack of access to computing resources and technology,” said Cox, who has nearly two decades of computer science education experience in the classroom and state government.

He added, “When we examine the impact this has on communities, it means minority students and students from underserved communities are less prepared for and, in some cases, unable to participate in the society that we currently live in.”

As AI becomes increasingly common in education and industry, ensuring students are AI literate is top of mind for Constellations.

A recent executive order on AI from the White House in part prompted Constellations to look at opportunities for offering AI education resources.

Part of the executive order discusses the role of the education sector and calls for the development of resources that “address safe, responsible, and nondiscriminatory uses of AI in education, including the impact AI systems have on vulnerable and underserved communities, and shall be developed in consultation with stakeholders as appropriate.”

The order also outlines the need for an “AI toolkit” for education leaders to help advance policy areas in trust, safety, and privacy in educational contexts.

Constellations has spent the last few years supporting Georgia Senate Bill 108, which brings computer science eduction to all Georgia secondary schools beginning next school year, through programs like the Computing Equity Project. CEP supports teachers and school districts in providing equitable computer science-based education for K-12 students regardless of socioeconomic background, race, gender, or sex.

At the recent Cobb school workshop, Cox shared tips on “prompt engineering” for tools like ChatGPT. He says that access and understanding how to use these AI-based tools provide an equity-based push in the right direction for students.

“Literacy has always been the demarcating factor between whether or not you’re able to participate in society. There are distinct advantages to using AI in all the competitive spaces in society, and because of that, AI Literacy needs to be socialized as a part of broad and general literacy so that all children can interact with AI agents like ChatGPT,” Cox said.


Photos by Kevin Beasley/College of Computing