Speaker Spotlight: James Curran, Australian Computing Academy

Topic: Artificial Intelligence: Its place in the Australian Curriculum

Schools across Australia are implementing the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies, and teachers are looking for ideas to show students how current technologies are shaping the world we live in. Artificial Intelligence influences our interactions with computers every day – from the results we are presented with when we perform a Google search, to the updates we receive from friends on social media, and the technology that drives voice assistants like Siri and Google Now. Key to these interactions is how data is represented in systems, and how that representation allows for detailed processing and analysis in a variety of contexts.

Natural Language Processing (NLP) requires computers to understand languages such as English and Chinese by analyzing their structure to determine meaning. This is an extremely complex task – unlike humans, computers are unable to infer meaning from ambiguous statements, so the structure of the language must provide all of the information necessary to understand the intent of the statement.

In this presentation, I’ll explain to teachers how AI techniques allow us to use existing language sources to build effective NLP parsers, and draw connections to the concepts present in the curriculum that can be used to engage and excite students.

James Curran is an Associate Professor in the School of Information Technologies, University of Sydney. He is Academic Director of the Australian Computing Academy and Director of the National Computer Science School, the largest computer science school outreach program in Australia. Last year, over 10,000 students and teachers participated in the 5-week NCSS Challenge.

James is a co-founder of Grok Learning, an Edtech startup that aims to children everywhere to learn to code. He was a writer on the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies, the new national computing curriculum. In 2014, James was named ICT Leader of the Year by the ICT Educators of NSW and the Australian Council for Computers in Education.

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