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MIC teams up with Science Foundation Ireland to develop resources to support AI ethics and learning in classrooms

Three female and one male student looking excited and surprised at laptop screen

Mary Immaculate College (MIC) has teamed up with Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)’s ADAPT Centre to develop free course materials to help schools embrace and manage Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the ethics surrounding its use.

The Technology in my Life (TimL) project has been developed to cater specifically to primary schools and aims to provide educators with the necessary tools and insights to guide pupils in understanding the ethical dimensions of AI in our increasingly digital world.

Modules specifically tailored for 5th and 6th Class teachers have been successfully trialled in primary schools across the country and are now freely available to all schools. Key aspects covered in the TimL materials include selecting appropriate technologies for primary school education, ethical considerations in using tech aids like voice assistants for homework, responsible internet and social media usage for communication and research, and identifying and addressing unethical behaviour enabled by technology. The comprehensive programme is designed for eight hours of class time but offers flexibility to accommodate varying school needs and different pedagogical approaches.

Female teacher holding iPad with male student
WATCH: MIC & SFI team up on AI ethics resource

Dr Eleanor Walsh, STEM Outreach Officer at MIC said: “We’re delighted to support teachers and schools in this important topic, and to collaborate with the ADAPT centre. In the CRAFT (Creative Arts & Future Technologies) Maker Space on the Limerick campus of MIC, we deliver STEAM workshops where often technology has a prominent role. The materials we have developed in the TimL project, provide a framework to examine how children interact with technologies and involve them in the discussion on how to use them in an ethical manner.

“It has been a privilege to work alongside the teachers who co-created the materials with us and who are courageous in examining where the boundaries and ethics lie for the children. We welcome other teachers’ involvement in phase two of the project where we plan to involve the broader school community.”

During the first stage of the ground-breaking workshop series, the researchers behind the TimL project worked with 720 students from 31 primary schools nationwide over the 2022/23 school year. The project team worked with students and teachers to identify technology that is currently used by students and discussed the potential to use that technology ethically and unethically, in addition to telling the difference between the two. Students explored key issues such as using social media and exploring their online persona; the appropriate and ethical use of technology to help with schoolwork and homework; and debating the ethical, unethical and undesirable behaviour facilitated by technology.

Sixth class student at Scoil Fhionáin in Kilfinane, Freya Ryan, says: “I really liked interacting with my classmates about subjects that we normally wouldn’t do. I also found it really interesting to learn more about how technology gets used in the world like how they can remove blemishes in ads and that isn’t the real world and so is it the right thing to do? I think my classmates and I are looking at technology different now to be more ethical about using it. Instead, before, where some people might have just Googled an answer to their question, they’ll use the tools to try to work it out instead, because we now know that just Googling the answer isn’t an ethical thing to do.”

Dr Eleanor Walsh pictured with Prof Niamh Hourigan, MIC Vice-President, and Dr PJ Wall, ADAPT Centre

Schools are invited to participate in TimL as it moves into its second phase by registering here. Participation in this initiative lays the groundwork for empowering students to make informed, ethical decisions in the digital age. Participation also provides an important foundation for the next iteration of the TimL project, which will further explore these important issues and include parents, guardians and siblings in a wider discussion of the importance of the ethical use of technology in their lives.

CRAFT (Creative Arts Future Technologies) Maker is an initiative by Mary Immaculate College providing STEM outreach engagement to children, schools and the public. The initiative aims to demystify STEM and STEAM and to catalyse the public’s engagement with STEAM through a variety of accessible and inclusive outreach activities that focus on building creativity, innovation and STEAM skills for life. You can find out more about the CRAFT Maker Space and download the free resource pack by clicking here.