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  1. Abstract

    Text provides a compelling example of unstructured data that can be used to motivate and explore classification problems. Challenges arise regarding the representation of features of text and student linkage between text representations as character strings and identification of features that embed connections with underlying phenomena. In order to observe how students reason with text data in scenarios designed to elicit certain aspects of the domain, we employed a task‐based interview method using a structured protocol with six pairs of undergraduate students. Our goal was to shed light on students' understanding of text as data using a motivating task to classify headlines as “clickbait” or “news.” Three types of features (function, content, and form) surfaced, the majority from the first scenario. Our analysis of the interviews indicates that this sequence of activities engaged the participants in thinking at both the human‐perception level and the computer‐extraction level and conceptualizing connections between them.

     
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  2. Abstract Practitioner notes

    What is already known about this topic

    Scholarly attention has turned to examining Artificial Intelligence (AI) literacy in K‐12 to help students understand the working mechanism of AI technologies and critically evaluate automated decisions made by computer models.

    While efforts have been made to engage students in understanding AI through building machine learning models with data, few of them go in‐depth into teaching and learning of feature engineering, a critical concept in modelling data.

    There is a need for research to examine students' data modelling processes, particularly in the little‐researched realm of unstructured data.

    What this paper adds

    Results show that students developed nuanced understandings of models learning patterns in data for automated decision making.

    Results demonstrate that students drew on prior experience and knowledge in creating features from unstructured data in the learning task of building text classification models.

    Students needed support in performing feature engineering practices, reasoning about noisy features and exploring features in rich social contexts that the data set is situated in.

    Implications for practice and/or policy

    It is important for schools to provide hands‐on model building experiences for students to understand and evaluate automated decisions from AI technologies.

    Students should be empowered to draw on their cultural and social backgrounds as they create models and evaluate data sources.

    To extend this work, educators should consider opportunities to integrate AI learning in other disciplinary subjects (ie, outside of computer science classes).

     
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