An interactive App to learn AI and unleash creativity
R&D: Dipartimento di Computer Science della Royal Holloway University di Londra (RHUL)
Partner: AIACE | CONVITTO Nazionale Umberto I.
The project focuses on the development of SMAILEApp, an innovative app for mobile devices (phones and tablets) aimed at facilitating AI learning and creativity exploration in children and young adults.
The app breaks down complex AI concepts into more straightforward notions making them accessible to a broad spectrum of young users. Via the interaction with SMAILEApp, the learners can understand AI concepts in depth. This deep knowledge allow the students not only to become responsible users of AI technology but also, and crucially, to create AI tools and apply them across different disciplines. SMAILEApp’s objective is to switch the perception of AI from a black-box, obscure technology used by everyone but known only by an elite to a powerful instrument that the young people can leverage to unleash their creativity and build useful activities and artefacts.
SMAILEApp starts from simplified real-world problems that would benefit from an AI solution and assists the students in gradually construct the required building blocks to design and implement such a solution. This approach will not only make learning more exciting but will also convey the fundamental idea that AI is a multi-disciplinary field in which many competencies are needed to succeed.
SMaILEApp will offer two fundamental ways of interactions with the students.
Learning by playing
SMaILEApp introduces a wide range of concepts, from intelligent agents and adversarial search to supervised and unsupervised learning, in a simple and appealing way. In particular, AI concepts are presented within interactive games that the students can both play and develop individually and in teams. The goal is for the students to learn while engaging with the app, instead of following presentation of contents in a traditional, lecture-style way. The activities prompt the users to think and explore different solutions, with more formal explanations being proposed only if the students require them explicitly. Each activity is developed at different levels of difficulty, and the students progress through them while they become more confident in their knowledge of AI concepts. In line with gamification techniques, we use points, credits, rewards, challenges and virtual goods to ensure maximum engagement of the users.
Generating creative contents
The goal of this modality is to show how AI can assist with generative and creative tasks.
In this context, SMAILE App can for example be used as a tool that employs AI to stimulate the user's creativity in the creation of original audio-visual products, from video pills to short and medium duration videos.
SMAILEApp also demonstrates narrative intelligence, which is a subfield of AI that has to do with the ability to represent, reason about and generate stories. In particular, SMAILEApp users can learn how to generate novel story branches based on two different AI techniques:
planning, which is the field of AI that automates the creation of plans; and
machine learning, which can help in generating stories by automatically analyzing textual story corpora.
Leveraging these two modalities, SMAILEApp aims to provide an innovative educational tool with the following goals:
Support a deep understanding of a broad range of AI concepts to empower young learners to be producers of AI technology, not only consumers.
Strengthen the students’ problem-solving skills by facilitating the development of AI algorithms within game-play scenarios.
Promote students' creativity by providing a flexible tool based on AI for artistic creation.
Increase collaboration, group work and shared awareness of the positive and negative potential of AI.
SMAILEApp can be used by the teachers as well as the students. In Blended Education scenarios, the teachers can exploit the app to introduce new concepts in an intuitive and entertaining way, following up the game activities with more formal explanations of the newly acquired notions.
All activities within SMaILEApp include considerations about ethics and transparency of the solutions. For each activity, the students are guided through a thinking process to evaluate the ethical implications of their work and how to avoid misuses of the algorithms. They also have full access to all the logical and reasoning steps that bring about a specific solution. Our goal is to encourage the students to think about AI as a transparent tool whose choices can be explained and made accessible to anyone.
SMAILEApp targets young learners in lower and upper secondary schools by engaging them in entertaining, hands-on learning activities concerning AI that will stimulate their creativity and reinforce their sense of agency. Via the use of the app, the students will gradually become confident in a variety of AI topics and will be able to develop simple but meaningful activities within the app and in the real world. At the same time, since AI is based on mathematics and computational thinking, they will also strengthen their competences in those related fields.
The SMAILE App allows students to learn artificial intelligence by playing. The app is presented as an educational macro game that contains micro-games, each of which focuses on a specific AI topic, e.g. machine learning, planning, optimization, etc. Collectively, the app addresses a broad spectrum of AI topics and allows students to understand the fundamental concepts in depth thanks to the interactive and playful method it adopts.
The main mode of the game is city building. The student is asked to build his city, of which he is the mayor, through a game of positioning tiles. The aim is to make the city as sustainable as possible by building parks, schools, hospitals and other facilities in a rational way, managing traffic and so on. Once the city is built and populated, it needs to be maintained to maintain a high level of sustainability. The mayor does this by instructing the various aldermen, who are the AI engines that assist him.
The SMAILE App also features an in-depth space where students can watch videos that explain various topics in detail, always in the context of the game they were introduced to, and a "cinema" space where students understand how AI can be exploited in the artistic field as a creative tool.
SMAILE App can be downloaded from App Store and Google Play for mobile and tablet. It is currently being tested so credentials are required. At the end of the trial it will be available for all users.