Edtech educators know the importance of not just using technology in the classroom, but also the importance of teaching students how to use technology to function in today’s word and maybe even be some of the people that develop new technology that will be used in the future.
One such technology that is rising in popularity is artificial intelligence in the classroom. One school in Palo Alto, California even has students working with artificial intelligence in the classroom covering topics like machine learning, neural networks and deep learning. Students are also tasked to think about future applications of artificial intelligence and what problems it could solve. Programs like this sound great: they get students involved with technology that it interesting and relevant to them. The problem is, however, many schools don’t have the curriculum or a teacher that can serve as an expert to incorporate artificial intelligence into the classroom.
That’s where ReadyAI, a company whose mission is to “empower all students to improve our world with AI,” steps in. The company has recently launched a product called Al-in-a-Box that is composed of the hardware, software, and curriculum that is needed to bring artificial intelligence to K-12 classrooms. The product provides “10 hours of STEAM and project-based education” and teaches “visual recognition, facial recognition, object manipulation, landmark-based navigation, speech generation and speech recognition.”
Here’s an example of what the curriculum teaches.
The Al-in-a-Box includes a ton of hardware . The biggest package includes three Anki Cozmo robots, three “Amazon Basics” game controllers, three laptops and three Amazon Fire 7 tablets. It also includes the needed programming software. This package along with all of the software and curriculum is currently priced at $2,999 USD and is said to be used with 6-15 students at the same time; however, the kit can of course be reused with other groups of students. Additionally, there are smaller packages that include fewer robots and a package that doesn’t include a laptop for school programs that may already have some of the needed hardware.
ReadyAI claims that teachers only need around four hours to learn the key AI concepts in order to teach the class; however, I am assuming that can vary wildly depending on how comfortable the teacher is with technology.
The AI-in-a-Box looks like a neat idea. After all, is a whole artificial intelligence curriculum in a box. The product sounds great, but the biggest issue for me is the price.
The Cozmo robot sells for $159.99 and book of projects can be purchased for $19.99. There’s also the free curriculum that the software developers of the robot have created. The controller can be purchased on Amazon for $19.99 and an Amazon 7 Fire tablet can be purchased for $49.99. Not counting a computer, the price is about $250 for a robot, a book of projects, a controller, and a tablet. That’s giving all the hardware to one student. If you already have a computer in your classroom that meets the requirements, you’re set to go. Here are the computer requirements to run Calypso, the program that is used to develop for the Cozmo robot:
“A laptop or desktop computer running: 64 bit Windows 7, 8.1, or 10, or MacOS 10.10 or higher, or 64 bit Ubuntu Linux 16.04 or higher. At least 6GB of RAM is required.”
The RAM specification is also highlighted on the Calypso website. If you have an older computer your classroom computer might actually have only 4 gigs of ram.
Should you get the ReadyAI All-in-a Box to teach artificial intelligence to your class?
It depends. Initially, when reading about this product, I thought it was great. And I’m sure that the All-in-a-Box is great. But does the curriculum and extras that ReadyAI provide warrant an almost $750 premium per student, assuming that you already computers that can run the software?
I reached out to the people at ReadyAI and asked some questions about the extras they provide. Here’s the exchange I had with a company rep:
What does the “curricular updates and 1-year of technical and educational support” include?
This is referring to a year-long support service where users would have all the possible support they need as well as updated curricula throughout the year as we do make quite a lot of changes to them.
The AI-in-a-Box Home edition says “free 30 days trial.” What is that a trial of? What is the cost afterwards?
How is your curriculum different from the information from the Calypso Curriculum?
The Calypso Curriculum is a series of activities and instructions. Our curriculum has a different set of goals and we include detailed lesson plans for teachers as well. As part of our services, we also provide professional development for our partners. We do work closely with Calypso and Dr. Touretzky as he is personally on our advisory board.
Teachers obviously have various levels of technical ability. I haven’t touched robotics before, but because of my programming background and general IT skills, I have no doubt that I could buy all the parts separately, install additional RAM into a computer if needed, and make my own kit for my students. However, I am aware that my technical knowledge about programming is probably much higher than educators that don’t have experience working in software development.
If you aren’t that technically inclined, you have the budget, and are just dying to teach an artificial intelligence course, then perhaps the all-in-one box solution is for you. Buying a kit gets you all the parts you need to set up a small AI course unit for students. However, I have a feeling that the teachers most interested in teaching artificial intelligence either have some technical know-how or are the tinkering type that wouldn’t mind figuring out everything themselves.