STEM in Ireland: The Role of Science Foundation Ireland

Our visit to Science Foundation Ireland was only created fifteen years ago to be their national funding agency for scientific research and engaging the public around science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Yet it has quickly become a key partner in promoting the use of ICT in learning. Similar to the U.S.’s National Science Foundation, SFI plays a key role in supporting key pilot initiatives to encourage youth to be interested in STEM and especially STEM related careers.

According to Margie McCarthy, Head of Education and Public Engagement, Strategy and Communications, the Department for Education & Skills (the ministry of education) is the lead on STEM in school, but SFI works on ancillary strategies related to youth and the public, such as supporting student coding efforts, maker movement, Science Week and highlights career options in STEM initiatives.

The Smart Futures or is a government-industry program that highlights STEM careers by bringing in role models. For example, the focus on science brings gamers, food science experts and medical device developers to speak at schools on their careers and what skills and knowledge they need to succeed. Similar efforts are done for careers in math, technology and engineering.

Likewise, SFI has invested in the initiative which does both initiatives throughout the year and an annual conference focused on sparking innovation with technology, especially focused on the maker movement and coding. I had the pleasure of speaking at the 2014 ExcitED conference and seeing the bubble up enthusiasm of students and teachers. We will be hearing more about that strategy later this week.

The take-away message, which is well known in the U.S., is that the research and informal science/research agencies, as well as industry are key partners in reaching students about the value of STEM to their readiness for college and career.


Fixing an Irish Ed System, according to Ciaran Cannon

Today the CoSN delegation had the impressive opportunity to meet with Ciaran Cannon, a member of Ireland’s parliment and former Minister for Training & Skills at the Department of Education & Skills.  Here is a terrific Op-Ed he recently published in the Irish Tech Times.  Ciaran is a passionate advocate for reimagining learning with technology.

DisconnectEd. How do we fix an education system that is rapidly losing touch with reality? Ciaran Cannon, Galway TD

1916 & Now

by Ann McMullan

Upon our arrival in Dublin on Friday, September 22, one of my first impressions was the fact that the city and its people are steeped in the history of their country. Evidence of that is seen in the architecture, statuary, commercial business sites, entertainment and more. This year, 2016, is a particularly special moment in time for the residents of Dublin. Throughout this year Dubliners are commemorating the 100-year anniversary of what came to be known as The Easter Rising, an insurrection that was led by Irish republicans who sought to end British rule in Ireland. The timing of this revolt was complicated by the fact the Britain was heavily engaged in the First World War at the same time and many families in Ireland had soldiers fighting for Britain in that war. Initially the rebels did not have a lot of support in Ireland. However, the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising and the British reaction to the rebels helped sway opinion in support of the movement. In 1917 the formation of a broad political movement under the banner of Sinn Féin continued the call for Irish independence. The 26-county Irish Free Sate was established by Treaty in 1922. Six counties in Northern Ireland gained Home Rule but remained part of the United Kingdom.

As we traveled throughout the city, signs bearing the date “1916” could be seen on almost every street. On Sunday morning, 9/25, we were provided a guided tour of Kilmainham Gaol, a jail originally built in Dublin in 1895. Fourteen of the rebels who led the 1916 Easter Rising were executed at Kilmainham Gaol. In recognition of the 1916 uprising there is now a special exhibit titled “1916 Portraits and Lives”, at Kilmainham Gaol that illustrates the events surrounding the Easter Rising. A copy of the weekly Irish Times from April 29 through May 13, 1916, is one of the artifacts on display.

It is fascinating to be among the Irish citizenry who – though steeped in tradition – are major players in today’s technological revolution. In the days ahead the CoSN international delegation will be visiting with political leaders, education ministers, teachers, students and technology industry leaders to learn how this latest “revolution” is impacting teaching and learning in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Ireland, Here We Come!

May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.  Traditional Irish saying

I have only been to Ireland once before, but I was totally charmed.  I am confident that the lucky individuals coming on the CoSN delegation will have an amazing experience.  If the past tells us anything, it is that we will learn much about how ICT in education is being used in innovative ways to improve learning.  And, we will forge strong friends, both those with whom we meet along the way, as those whom we travel with.

I want to thank Irene, as well as our partners in Ireland who have organized an amazing week.

Finally, as I say to every CoSN delegation, this will likely be a powerful learning experience (perhaps even life-changing), yet it is not truly about you.  You are the eyes and ears for all the school leaders and policymakers from our country who cannot travel to Ireland.  This blog, as well as the final report, is a way for them to share in the experience.  Share what you see and learn.trinity-college