Website review by James Denby, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2019

Technovation Families

Family-focused site for learning AI well-suited to classrooms, too

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Grades
4–12 This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Subjects & Skills
Science, Creativity, Critical Thinking
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Pros: Comprehensive lessons with everything needed in one place; good variety of authentic activities.

Cons: Some lessons will need a fair bit of guidance for students to grasp concepts; teachers may miss some classroom capabilities.

Bottom Line: Makes artificial intelligence and machine learning accessible to students of many ages and abilities.

Even though Technovation Families is directed toward families, its resources are ideal for a teacher who wants to teach about computer science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. All the lessons build on the idea that artificial intelligence can be used to solve problems within communities, which is an easy tie-in to any issue-oriented or problem-based curriculum. Because the site offers very thorough lesson plans with all materials and even extensions included, Technovation Families makes it possible for any teacher to offer substantive learning about a field of innovation that will have major societal impacts. Whether or not students go on to study or work with AI further, they should all have a conceptual understanding of how it works; Technovation Families makes that possible without you having to go back to school to study computer science. 

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Technovation Families is a website offering a curriculum and lesson plans exploring artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, as well as a whole series of design challenges in areas ranging from satellite systems to biomechanics. The site is geared toward home use with parents and kids working together on different projects, but the materials are well suited to the classroom as well. The AI Family Challenge explores artificial intelligence and machine learning in 10 lessons that mix reflection and analysis activities, different websites, data sets, and actual projects in which students train an AI to accomplish different tasks. For the reflection and analysis, Technovation Families includes the AI Inventors Notebook, in which learners consider how AI can be used to solve complex problems. The websites include live examples of AI in action and other AI sites such as Machine Learning for Kids. All activities are accompanied by videos, slideshows, and clear lesson plans to support parents, teachers, and learners. The site does not assume any previous expertise on the part of the teacher. 

The Design Challenges are ported over from a previous site, Curiosity Machine, and include activities involving civil engineering, electrical engineering, materials science, food science, and more. Challenges include an inspiration video, suggested materials, a difficulty level, and downloadable resources.

Technovation Families' lessons and projects make a highly complex topic accessible and fun for students of almost any age. The workbook might be too "young" for older learners, but the activities and concepts are presented in such a way that any student new to AI and machine learning will enjoy learning about one of the most powerful innovations of our time. The progression and structure of the activities are clearly well designed for both learners and teachers. 

The design challenges are similarly well designed and are a good fit for any STEM curriculum -- whether completed individually, in teams, or as a class. With these challenges, though, teachers may want more suggestions for integration in the classroom, along with more background information and student oversight.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Between the games, analytical tasks, and creative work, almost all students will find something to like in Technovation Families.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

The curriculum was designed to support novices in developing a thorough understanding of artificial intelligence through fun, creative activities.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

Technovation Families provides a comprehensive range of support materials to teach and learn about a complex topic.


Common Sense reviewer
James Denby Educator/Curriculum Developer

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