Teaching NLP with Bracelets and Restaurant Menus: An Interactive Workshop for Italian Students


Although Natural Language Processing is at the core of many tools young people use in their everyday life, high school curricula (in Italy) do not include any computational linguistics education. This lack of exposure makes the use of such tools less responsible than it could be, and makes choosing computational linguistics as a university degree unlikely. To raise awareness, curiosity, and longer-term interest in young people, we have developed an interactive workshop designed to illustrate the basic principles of NLP and computational linguistics to high school Italian students aged between 13 and 18 years. The workshop takes the form of a game in which participants play the role of machines needing to solve some of the most common problems a computer faces in understanding language: from voice recognition to Markov chains to syntactic parsing. Participants are guided through the workshop with the help of instructors, who present the activities and explain core concepts from computational linguistics. The workshop was presented at numerous outlets in Italy between 2019 and 2020, both face-to-face and online.

Fifth Workshop on Teaching NLP