It is crucial for children to gain knowledge of AI: Mehreen Shamim, Intel’s AI Impact Shapers Awardee

In an exclusive interview with AIM, Mehreen Shamim, Intel's AI Impact Shapers awardee, shared the importance of building an ecosystem of AI learning

Mehreen Mushtaq Shamim, a teacher from Bengaluru’s Delhi Public School, was one of the ‘Grand Winners’ who won the First Intel AI Global Impact Festival under the AI Impact Shapers Category: Teachers with Innovative AI Teaching Learning Practices Ideas. She received an Intel certificate and a prize worth USD 5,000.

Mehreen is very positive about AI and the way it is being introduced to children at a young age. In an exclusive interview with Analytics India Magazine, she expressed how it is essential for children to learn AI. “In the future, there will be a lot of jobs that require the skill, and I believe that every child should learn AI, and no one should be left behind. AI will be the facilitator in some or another way, and children will be dealing with the technology. It is crucial for them at this point in time to gain knowledge of AI,” said Mehreen, telling how she believes that learning AI should not be limited to children in STEM education. “Children are interested in learning AI, and future jobs might depend on it. AI is not related to one field like IT. It’s multidimensional and takes all streams into account. Students of humanities and commerce will also find AI interesting,” she added.

Mehreen has trained 250 teachers on how AI can be integrated with the English subject. She believes that AI can be present with subject pedagogies like English, Hindi, Maths, and even Social Sciences.

Like many computer teachers in the country, she was also introduced to teaching AI to school students after CBSE introduced it as a subject for students of standard 9-12 in 2019 in its curriculum. Her passion for computers and her background in technical subjects played a key factor in her school being among the first ones chosen for the pilot programme by CBSE before introducing the course nationwide.

She agrees that the course by CBSE (designed by Intel) is currently great and helps the young ones experientially learn AI and not the typical rote learning style. “Children learn to think out of the box and are surprisingly coming up with solutions to real issues. While teaching at NIIT, I realised that the older students surely learn more technical knowledge like application of Java and Python which is from a perspective to get a job, but the younger ones are very excited and fascinated about the technology,” she said. But she is also in favour of the course needing an upgrade on a timely basis as the technology is continuously growing. 

Mehreen herself comes from a strong educational background in technical courses as well as teaching. She is a Bachelor of Information Technology (BIT) from Manipal Academy of Higher Education. She also completed her Master of Computer Applications from ICFAI and completed OCP and SCJP from NIIT. To support her teaching career, she also completed her Bachelor of Education (B. Ed).

She is in favour of AI access to all the children. She is very optimistic about the EdTech companies that introduce AI courses for children as they help in building an ecosystem. She said, “The support of Edtech companies is also required especially for quick learners who want to go beyond what is taught in school syllabus as they can take up advanced modules. Also, other than CBSE, no other board has AI for school students; EdTech platforms help such children get introduced to AI. The Edtech platforms have level-based courses and also provide competitions and hackathons. I would say they are also enablers in building an ecosystem where children know what AI is and how ML works.”

Mehreen is in complete favour of ethical AI and loves the way CBSE has planned its syllabus. She especially finds children fascinated by the gamified versions of learning. For instance, children love how in a simple game of rock-paper-scissors, the system tries to learn the moves made by the students, analyses them and tries to win over them. “This helps in making children understand how the data you feed will affect the outcome. They can understand why systems by big companies can be biased. They understand that when you show only females as nurses to the system, it learns the bias and search results in something like Google will show female nurses.”

With children learning AI, she believes that now will be the age where children’s school projects will go beyond chart papers and thermocol, and they will build working prototypes or solutions with AI. Mehreen is also associated with CBSE’s AISC (artificial intelligence students committee), which has over 25,000 members.

She encourages schools and teachers to take the free training by CBSE and start teaching AI in schools. “Classrooms with projectors and a computer lab are the only infrastructure required to run an AI course. An installation of software like Jupyter notebook and/or Anaconda in the existing systems is all that schools need to start teaching AI,” concluded Mehreen.

Intel AI Global Impact Festival 2021

Mehreen Mushtaq Shamim was the Grand Winner of ‘AI Impact Shapers Category: Teachers with Innovative AI Teaching Learning Practices Ideas,’ along with three others. They are Byoungchol Chang from South Korea, Marek Grzywna from Poland, and Kiruthika Ramanathan from Singapore.Intel initiated the AI Global Impact Festival 2021 with the theme ‘Enriching Lives with AI Innovations.’ At the inaugural festival, over 110,000 students, technologists, and future developers joined from 135 countries. They received over 230 AI Innovations entries from more than 20 countries. The festival was held in conjunction with Intel® Innovation digital event, a new educational tech event for developers and industry insiders to connect with Intel leaders and industry experts.

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Meeta Ramnani
Meeta’s interest lies in finding out real practical applications of technology. At AIM, she writes stories that question the new inventions and the need to develop them. She believes that technology has and will continue to change the world very fast and that it is no more ‘cool’ to be ‘old-school’. If people don’t update themselves with the technology, they will surely be left behind.
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