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What is AI? Lesson plan

What is artificial intelligence and what are its potential benefits and drawbacks? This lesson was created by Common Sense Education.
Common sense education

What is AI? Lesson plan

15 minutes
Artificial intelligence technology is evolving quickly. Use this short lesson to help students get acquainted with how AI works and consider some of its potential benefits and drawbacks.
A boy looking at a computer screen showing a semi-humanoid robot. Question marks float in the air between the screen and the boy.


  • Define what artificial intelligence is.
  • Understand what makes generative AI unique.
  • Reflect on the benefits and drawbacks of generative AI.


  • artificial intelligence (AI) – a computer program or app that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence
  • generative AI – a type of AI that can create content, including text, images, and audio

What you'll need

Step by step

  1. Ask: Have you ever heard about artificial intelligence, or AI? (Slide 4)
    Invite students to share their prior knowledge. If your students are already familiar with artificial intelligence, you can ask the follow-up questions on Slide 5.
  2. Say: We're going to watch a video that explains what AI is. And we'll talk about a specific kind of AI that is quite popular right now, called generative AI (Slide 6).
  3. Show the What Is AI? video (Slide 7) and have students complete the active viewing guide on the AI Explained handout.
Refer to the Teacher Version of the handout to guide the discussion. You can also refer to slides 8–10 and define generative AI as a type of AI that can create content, including text, images, and audio (Slide 10).
  1. Say: In the video, they mentioned some of the cool things generative AI can do, as well as some of the potential concerns, or things we should look out for when using it. Given what you know, do you think generative AI will be mostly helpful or harmful to society? Pick the side that you agree with the most. Be sure to have at least one reason to support your opinion (Slide 11).
Note: This article provides additional context on the benefits and risks of generative AI.
  1. Ask students to position themselves physically to show where they stand, forming a line along one wall. You can also have students share with a thumbs-up/down.
Then review slides 12–15, inviting students to share their perspectives and add to the reasons that are listed. As students listen to their classmates' perspectives, their own stance may shift. If students have physically located themselves on a line or in different corners of the room, invite them to shift their location to represent any changes in their thinking.
  1. Say: Balancing the potential benefits and drawbacks of a new technology can be tricky. When it comes to AI and generative AI, we must think critically about its impacts and remember that we're each in control of how we use it (Slide 16).

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