Jenna Conan Simpson

All Saints’ Episcopal School, Fort Worth, TX

School Role:

Technology Integration Specialist (I handle teacher professional learning, student devices, digital programs & much more) + teach Artificial Intelligence, Virtual & Augmented Reality and Computer Science

School Social Media:

Jenna Conan Simpson is the Technology Integration Specialist at All Saints’ Episcopal School in Fort Worth, Texas. In addition to leading her school’s move to remote learning last year, providing professional development and managing all digital learning programs and student devices, she has taught the technology class in Lower School and is now teaching computer science, artificial intelligence, and VR/AR elective courses in the Middle and Upper Schools. Before moving into this role, she was a 3rd through 5th grade classroom teacher. She has her master’s degree in Educational Technology from Texas A&M University and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Learning Technologies at the University of North Texas. She is passionate about technology’s potential to transform classrooms to be more engaging and student-centered and to make teachers’ jobs easier.

How did you get interested in including Artificial Intelligence in your classroom?

I first heard about artificial intelligence years ago from my brother, who is very interested in AI and has written about it for a few publications. I am currently working on my Ph.D. in Learning Technologies, and I decided to take a course on Artificial Intelligence because my brother had sparked my interest in it. The course was so interesting, and I became passionate about exposing K-12 students to AI. I have also been working toward offering more innovative programming at the school where I work, and knew that an introductory course about artificial intelligence would be perfect.

In what ways do you incorporate AI into your lessons?

One of my courses is entirely about AI, and I also teach concepts related to AI in my computer science and VR/AR courses as well. My AI-specific course covers the history of AI, how AI is used, AI in business and industries, the future of AI, benefits and risks of AI, specific topics such as chatbots, autonomous vehicles, robots, deepfakes, universal basic income, and more. Students also have the opportunity to experiment with and create AI using introductory tools, engage with guest speakers who work in the field, and take a deep dive into an aspect of AI that they are interested in their final project.

Why do you think AI education is important?

AI education is important because it is the future! Students need to be prepared for a future where AI is all around them. They also will likely work with AI in some way in their future career, so the more we can prepare them now the better. Our current students will be the ones tackling challenges that AI will bring in the future, such as bias and ethical issues, so it is crucial that we begin preparing them now.

Where have you received professional development for AI or CS?

Code.org, Teaching AI by Michelle Zimmerman, IBM AI in Education, Elements of AI course, Microsoft AI course

What books or online resources do you recommend?

What challenges do you face in implementing AI?

I would like to introduce AI to our younger students, and ideally have my high school students help teach them about AI, but I have not figured out how to implement something like this yet. This is particularly a challenge this year with COVID. I am hoping that when I teach the course again next year that I will be able to build partnerships where my students help teach our school’s younger students about AI.

How do you tackle ethical issues of AI in your classroom?

We study technology ethics as part of the curriculum in all of my technology courses, especially my AI course. The students learn about the ethical challenges that AI brings and brainstorm possible solutions and ways to address these challenges.

Please share a great lesson plan that other teachers may use for their students.

My AI course is a semester-long elective that introduces students to AI. The beginning of my AI course is a series of Hyperdocs that allow students to dive into different aspects of AI. The Hyperdocs include videos, articles, simulations, discussions, and mini-projects (such as creating an infographic, timeline, etc.) that give students a lot of voice and choice as they learn about each topic. The students post each of their mini-projects on their own website about AI. Later in the course, students participate in a variety of activities that allow them to experiment with and create AI. In the third unit, guest speakers virtually visit our class so students can learn from people who actually work with AI. We also watch some movies in this unit, such as In the Age of AI by PBS. Finally, the students have a culminating project where they choose the aspect of AI that interests them most, research it, and create a final product (such as a video or podcast) teaching others about the topic.

What’s the best part about teaching AI?

The best part about teaching AI is watching students get excited about the concepts. I have a student who is a senior who has decided to change his major to study engineering related to AI. Seeing students’ interest and excitement is amazing.