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A New MIT Initiative to Innovate
Learning and Education in the Era of AI

Responsible AI for Social Empowerment and Education

Artificial Intelligence is transforming our personal and professional lives. Around the world, governments, companies, and institutions are proclaiming that we are entering the “era of AI” with the rapid development of intelligent devices that can recognize faces and interact via speech, robots that can work alongside people to help automate warehouse logistics and manufacture goods, algorithms that can generate novel photo realistic images and music, computers that can provide decision support to clinicians to help detect cancer more reliably, and so much more. In every feat that AI can do, however, there lurks potential for misuse and the spreading of inequity. AI education can help change that.

As computers continue to automate more routine tasks, AI education is a key enabler to future opportunities where success depends increasingly on intellect, creativity, empathy, and having the right skills and knowledge. Being digitally literate is no longer sufficient in the era of AI. People now need to be AI literate to fully understand the responsible use of AI. Also, the future AI workforce needs to become far more diverse and inclusive, and trained to develop responsible solutions using AI.

RAISE (Responsible AI for Social Empowerment and Education) is a new MIT-wide initiative headquartered in the MIT Media Lab and in collaboration with the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing and MIT Open Learning.

In the face of this accelerating change, our research and impact mission is to advance equity in learning, education and computational action to rethink and innovate how to holistically and equitably prepare diverse K-12 students, an inclusive workforce, and lifelong learners to be successful, responsible, and engaged in an increasingly AI-powered society.

AI literacy in K-12

Computational thinking is recognized as a new literacy for the 21st century. AI literacy is also becoming recognized as important for STEAM education on a global scale. We are collaborating with schools, education nonprofits, and industry to develop and disseminate K-12 AI education programs to serve students, teachers, and families worldwide.

As part of our K-12 research and outreach programs, we are extending student-friendly coding platforms including Scratch, App Inventor, and Jupyter Notebooks along with AI services, content, and project-based learning curricula to empower students to learn via playful experimentation, creative expression, teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving. We want to enable students to engage in collaborative computational action with their AI-powered creations to benefit others. We are also developing teacher professional development materials, project guides, and assessments aligned with the AAAI-CTSA’s 5 Big Ideas of AI: machine perception, knowledge representation and decision making, machine learning, human-AI interaction and societal impact of AI. Our materials integrate ethical design concepts and practices so that students appreciate issues of bias, fairness, transparency, and privacy in what they create.

AI for workforce upskilling

Vocational-technical (vo-tech) students and adult learners need to understand and apply AI concepts and practices so they can engage in rewarding professional opportunities in the growing AI-economy. Our goal is to create new AI Career Pathways for vo-tech schools as well as to drive innovation towards continuous agile adult education programs in AI.

As part of our research, we pair collaborative online learning experiences with Action Learning Labs to enable vo-tech and post-secondary schools to offer new approaches to learning and training in AI. We collaborate with industry, vo-tech schools, community colleges, and teacher training programs to create curriculums, teacher professional development materials, and assessments that keep pace with this rapidly evolving area. We also see an opportunity to develop AI tutors to amplify and scale teacher training programs cost-effectively. Our ultimate goal is to drive transformative impact that provides employment opportunities to close the prosperity and opportunity divide — starting in the Boston area and then expanding across the United States and around the globe.

AI supported learning

There is an opportunity to incorporate AI into the classroom in a personalized and emotionally compelling way that is effective, scalable and affordable. Such technologies should empower teachers and engage students while respecting privacy and being mindful of broader social implications.

In particular, intelligent agents that serve as learning companions, mentors, or practice partners have the potential to supplement and assist teachers – especially for children who need additional support given the impact of the recent COVID pandemic on their education or have other special learning needs. We aspire to develop AI-enabled solutions to address problems that challenge our nation’s ability to provide high quality education to all children. For instance, this includes supporting children who lack access to affordable quality preschool programs, are English language learners, have learning disabilities, or have developmental disorders such as ASD. In addition, we believe that developing new tools to support a continuity of intervention for parents at home, the education team at school, and clinical teams as needed will yield significant positive results.

Diversity and inclusivity in the era of AI

Developing high-tech solutions to complex problems requires creativity, social intelligence, critical thinking, ethical judgement, and working as part of a team with diverse perspectives and expertise. Creative activities and designing with compassion brings meaning, purpose and joy to people’s lives.

Cultivating these qualities in the current and future workforce is not just an economic imperative, it is also critical for human fulfillment and opportunity as people work closely and collaboratively with intelligent machines and each other. By bringing opportunities for diverse young people to learn about AI through new education, training, and outreach activities, we aim to inspire and empower a far more inclusive group of students to apply AI technologies to improve their lives and solve problems facing their communities. We are actively collaborating with a growing network of schools and STEAM educational organizations who serve under-resourced and under-represented communities. RAISE is creating outreach programs and hosting create-a-thons and competitions for K-12 students as a way to showcase their computational action projects and to grow a vibrant community of diverse young AI-makers and innovators who will be future leaders.

Support and Outreach

Sanjay Sarma
Vice President, MIT Open Learning Initiative

We’re not just interested in AI and education because it’s the “next new thing”… we want to make sure teachers and students are prepared to maximize AI’s potential and are also ready to help create lasting tech improvements for learners.

Ethan Berman
Founder and President, i2 Learning

We at i2 Learning are excited to work with MIT to engage and inspire middle school students with innovative new curriculum on AI & Ethics as part of our Mass STEM Week offering. Helping students at an early age understand the limitless possibilities of AI as well as the ethical challenges those possibilities create, is crucial to helping them succeed as members of a diverse future workforce and as global citizens.

Cynthia Breazeal
Director, RAISE and Associate Director, MIT Media Lab

MIT is the birthplace of Constructionism under Seymour Papert and is a cradle of AI. We have revolutionized how children learn computational thinking with hugely successful platforms such as Scratch and App Inventor. Now, we are bringing this rich tradition and deep expertise to create and empower an AI literate society.


Responsible AI for Social Empowerment and Education

600 Technology Sq, Bldg NE49-2nd Floor