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Machine learning (ML) models are fundamentally shaped by data, and building inclusive ML systems requires significant considerations around how to design representative datasets. Yet, few novice-oriented ML modeling tools are designed to foster hands-on learning of dataset design practices, including how to design for data diversity and inspect for data quality.

To this end, we outline a set of four data design practices (DDPs) for designing inclusive ML models and share how we designed a tablet-based application called Co-ML to foster the learning of DDPs through a collbaborative ML model. With Co-ML, beginners can build image classifiers through a distributed experience where data is synchronized across multiple devices, enabling multiple users to iteratively refine ML datasets in discussion and coordination with their peers.

We deployed Co-ML in a 2-week-long educational AIML Summer Camp, where youth ages 13-18 worked in groups to build custom ML-powered mobile applications. Our analysis reveals how multi-user model-building with Co-ML, in the context of student-driven projects created during the summer camp, supported development of DDPs, including incorporating data diversity, evaluating model performance, and inspecting for data quality. Additionally, we found that students’ attempts to improve model performance often prioritized learnability over class balance. Through this work, we highlight how the combination of collaboration, model testing interfaces, and student-driven projects can empower learners to actively engage in exploring the role of data in ML systems.

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