Findings from our Desk-Research
At the commencement of the Generation AI project, The Rural Hub undertook some desk research to better understand the status on the ground for how STEAM, STEM and AI is taught in primary education in Ireland. From our research, we can share the following findings. In recent years, Ireland has slowly started integrating artificial intelligence learning in the classroom. The School Excellence Fund, a new funding stream for schools in Ireland, offers grants for primary schools to invest in robotic tools such as robots and drones to facilitate new pedagogic approaches to learning academic subjects. Using modern technology such as AI-STEM, primary students across the country will look to work on projects that range from using robots to build computational and critical thinking to building weather stations in their local area (O’Brien, 2018). Another tool being used in Ireland is using LEGO’s educational robotic materials to involve and engage primary school students in developing both their digital and technological competences. Through the integration of such artificial intelligence tools in the primary school curriculum, students are introduced to problem-solving and inquiry-based learning. Robotics are slowly changing the standard format of the classroom but implementing these technological advancements as a part of the curriculum is the next step forward. A project that is running in Dublin placed robots in various primary school classrooms to record and analyse how teachers behave and teach during their lessons. The robots would capture footage which teachers could replay to constructively criticise how they could improve their teaching practice (O’Brien, 2018).
Through these examples, we can see that by supporting teachers to integrate modern technologies through the world of AI-STEM, young students will improve their digital competencies and understand the fundamentals of their own digital citizenship. In the 21st century, digital literacy is a fundamental skill. Now more than ever, an intrinsic change is needed across national curricula to ensure that students are exposed to learning environments that will benefit them both in the present, and the future. With technology permeating every aspect in society, it is essential that young students are equipped with appropriate knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Without supporting teachers with modernised pedagogic frameworks, students are at risk of being vulnerable and ill-prepared for changing societies. By incorporating best practices and following the six key competencies of the DigCompEdu Framework, teachers can ensure that their skills are of standard to pass on to young students. By facilitating teachers with the necessary components of digital education, the current digital skills shortage will decrease across the European Union. Digital knowledge has the power to encourage critical thinking, problem-solving and strengthens social engagement. Fostering learning environments of AI-STEM in primary and post-primary education will allow young people to manoeuvre the world of technology around them safely, ethically, responsibly, and intelligently.