Christina Gardner-McCune, AI4K12 Team Will Receive Outstanding Educator Award

Christina Gardner-McCune, Ph.D.

Christina Gardner-McCune, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering, is expected to receive the 2022 AAAI/EAAI Outstanding Educator award for her work with the Artificial Intelligence for K-12 Initiative (

The award is presented annually at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) and the Educational Advances in Artificial Intelligence (EAAI) conference to individuals or teams who have made major contributions to AI education. The award includes a $1,000 honorarium, membership in AAAI, and complimentary registration to upcoming AAAI/EAAI conferences. Winners are invited to deliver a talk at an upcoming conference.

Dr. Gardner-McCune, who is the co-founder and co-chair of AI4K12, shares the honor with the other members of the AI4K12 Steering Committee: David Touretzky, a research professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Computer Science Department; Fred Martin, associate dean for teaching, learning and undergraduate studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Kennedy College of Sciences; and Deborah Seehorn, who co-chaired the Computer Science Teachers Association’s (CSTA) national computing standards effort before retiring.

The winners have been invited to deliver a talk at the 36th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, which will be held in February 2022 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The AI4K12 Initiative is jointly sponsored by AAAI and CSTA and receives funding from the National Science Foundation. It began in 2018, with the goal of developing national guidelines for AI education in grades K-12; an online curated resource directory to facilitate AI instruction; and a community of practitioners, researchers, and resource and tool developers focused on the AI for a K-12 audience.

The team identified the “Five Big Ideas of AI,” which provide a welcoming and generative framing for understanding AI. These big ideas are perception, representation and reasoning, learning, natural interaction and societal impact. The team also developed an infographic poster to visually communicate these ideas. The poster places societal impact in the center, reflecting its importance and its connection to each of the other big Ideas.

An accomplished group of K-12 teachers was recruited to the AI4K12 Initiative project. These teachers led the development of progression charts that unpack and describe the big Ideas for K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 grade bands.

The team’s most influential paper, “Envisioning AI for K-12: What Should Every Child Know About AI?,” has been cited more than 100 times since its publication in 2019, and the Five Big Ideas have guided the development of primary and secondary AI education initiatives around the world. The infographic has been translated into 16 languages and is available for download at

The annual AAAI/EAAI Outstanding Educator award was created in 2016. Dr. Gardner-McCune is the first person from the University of Florida to receive the award.