Today's children will live in a world saturated with artificial intelligence. Understanding the key idea behind the functioning of intelligent systems will help them to have more agency and choice in that world. This is why we, together with a network of STEM preschools Astar Explorer, are interested in developing materials that introduce AI concepts to kids starting at the age of five.
We think that robots (real or virtual ones) are excellent for introducing AI concepts, because children relate to them as characters. This allows to introduce all sorts of analogies between AI and the child's own natural intelligence. It also brings a socio-emotional component to our designs.
We are inspired by constructionist approach to learning, embodied in such designs as Scratch and Scratch Jr, where children learn in process of working on their own ideas, following their own passions. But we are also aware of the necessity of scaffolding (guidance), particularly with young learners. In this project, we experiment with delivering scaffolding via a story. Similar to the Microworlds project, we use the idea of "close-started, open-ended": the initial interaction is driven by a story, but in the end we hope to guide children towards open-ended interaction with our medium, so that they can use it to create stories of their own.
Below is a prototype story that we developed introducing children to block-based programming. We intend to use the same format to explain such concepts as internal representations, reasoning, learning and artificial creativity.