Introducing AI

Summary What is artificial intelligence (AI)? Where have you used it before? How do you feel about it? How does it work? In this activity students will explore questions like these through an interactive group worksheet activity. This activity is intended to serve as a very high-level introduction to AI and can be used to kick off a class, unit, or workshop with other activities involving AI. No technology is required.
Topics sensor, dataset, data, algorithm, introduction to AI
Audience K-12. This assignment is suitable for young learners but can also serve as an introduction for students of all ages.
Difficulty No technical skills required, accessible for younger kids (6 and up), takes 15-20 minutes to complete.
Strengths This assignment can spur student discussion about perceptions of AI and can aid students in recognizing AI that they have used before or might encounter in the future. It can also provide a high-level understanding of AI that can be built on in subsequent lessons. It is also "unplugged" (i.e. requires no computer), making it useful in a variety of contexts.
Weaknesses This is a super introductory presentation of AI and nuances about AI works (and the difference between AI and algorithms) may need to be unpacked in subsequent lessons.
Dependencies No dependencies or prerequisite knowledge required.
Variants This activity was designed for a K-12 environment, as an introduction to a course or unit on AI. It could also be used to introduce AI to students in non-CS domains in a university setting (e.g. as an intro to AI in a film studies course). The activity can be done as a take-home or in-class worksheet activity using the provided Introducing AI Worksheet or the worksheet can be used as a teacher’s guide to lead a family or class activity. This activity could also be used to assess the level of prior knowledge students have about AI in an intro course for K-12 students.


Print off the provided Introducing AI Worksheet packet and either use it to verbally guide students through the activity or give each student group a worksheet and prompt them to work through the activity together. The second and third pages of the worksheet require the Introducing AI Card Deck, which should be printed off double-sided and cut out along the black lines (so each card has a front with an image and a back with a description). Pages 3-4 of the worksheet should be printed on legal size paper in landscape mode. Students will need a writing utensil, glue, and colored pencils/markers to complete the activity. The worksheet activity starts off by prompting students to discuss where they have seen AI before and how they feel about AI. On the second page, students are asked to look at the examples of AI in the card deck and select cards they have interacted with previously. Finally, students are walked through a high level explanation of how AI works and are asked to create their own imaginary AI using the card deck and worksheet as a guide. Cards can be edited/added to by the instructor (in Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign) prior to the activity to fit the needs of the lesson. Blank card templates are also provided if students want to create their own cards.

Key Vocabulary

Reflection Questions

Learning Objectives

This activity aims to communicate the following learning objectives:

Lessons Learned

We have not yet rigorously tested this assignment with a representative audience from multiple grade bands. However, to help instructors determine the appropriate use and context for the assignment, we can share some anecdotal observations/lessons learned from our experience using this lesson in practice. We have previously used this lesson as an introductory activity for a two-hour workshop conducted with ~6 family groups at a science and technology museum. Family groups varied in size and included parents and grandparents working with kids ranging from age 4 to 17 years old. Children ages 6 and up actively participated in the activity and discussion. Younger children (6-9) needed support from adults or older siblings to read the worksheet instructions/card descriptions but were able to actively engage in identifying AI examples they had previously interacted with, discussing their feelings about AI, and finding sensor/dataset/algorithm cards to create an imaginary AI (mostly using the pictures on the front as a guide). Older children and adults were able to participate in all aspects of the activity. The most lively discussion and engagement occurred surrounding the first two pages of the worksheet. Pages 3 and 4 mostly served to give groups a high-level idea of the different components of AI and expose them to some different types of sensors/datasets/algorithms. The sensor cards in particular were the most engaging. In our observations, most families did not really grasp specific details of the algorithm cards during the activity. Based on these observations, we would advise the following: 1) instructors conducting this assignment with younger kids (6-9) need to provide reading support; 2) the activity is particularly successful at engaging learners in discussion about their prior experiences with and impressions about AI; 3) the activity is moderately successful at communicating at a high-level how AI works and exposing learners to some examples of sensors/datasets/algorithms; 4) if instructors want learners to gain a deeper understanding of how AI works or understand the specifics of different AI algorithms, supplemental material is needed.