Thursday October 13th 2016 – First meeting with Scoil Mháirtín Primary School Principal Eileen O’Keeffe in Kilworth @ 10.30am.

Today I have my first teacher meeting with Eileen O’ Keeffe, the principal of my old primary school in Kilworth.

I began the meeting by introducing myself and I then presented a short number of slides to explain the project and what my role on the project is. Following this I asked her a few questions about STEM subjects in her primary school.

The questions were as follows:

  1. What are the most important subjects on the primary school STEM Curriculum?
  1. Coding is to be introduced onto the Primary School Curriculum by 2018 (http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/coding-to-be-introduced-in-primary-schools-as-part-of-plan-to-make-irish-education-system-best-in-europe-421316.html), is this a welcome development in your view?
  1. Would the teachers or students in this schools have much interaction with Transition Year students? For example, has there been any occasion where TY students has visited the schools for some reason?
  1. What do you feel at present are the most urgent needs or resources for teaching STEM subjects in schools?
  1. In terms of how STEM subjects are taught in schools at the moment, what resources are used? Are any digital resources or devices used?
  1. Have any students in your schools taken part or will take part in any initiatives to promote STEM subjects such as BT Young Scientist and TECH Exhibition, the Coderdojo Programmes etc.?
  1. Before this meeting, were you aware of the term UmI technologies?
  1. Do you believe the teaching of STEM subjects is more important now than what it was 10 years ago? If so, why?

The answers to the questions were as follows:

  1. Science and Maths subjects are covered on the primary school curriculum, they don’t cover technology or engineering. Out of the two subjects, Maths would be the priority subject and it would be given more time in the classroom as it is a core subject.
  1. She feels Coding would of great benefit to the students and mentioned that a teacher in the school did summer course on coding two years ago and he found it very beneficial. However, she did say that it would be very challenging to introduce it as the primary school curriculum is already overloaded. They are struggling to fit in everything as it is and although she thinks it would be great to have it, it would be very challenging.
  1. The only interaction the teachers or students in the school would have had with TY students would be when they come in for work experience or last year they had a visit from a local TY mini-company who were selling maths games.
  1. She feels that the most important needs going forward for teaching STEM subjects would be to produce projects that relate back to the students own lives and to therefore make the subjects more meaningful to the students.
  1. The only thing other than a book that they use would iPads or the interactive whiteboard but in this the children aren’t manipulating anything themselves. For example, these means aren’t of any use if the internet is down like it was in one classroom today!
  1. Two years ago one group got to the final of the INTEL Science Project in Trinity College in Dublin. The teacher divided the class into groups in September, giving each group and idea and the students then researched that idea and came up with a project. All the projects were presented and one winner was picked to represent them in the Munster Competition which was help in the local school and they won that which meant they went to the finals in Trinity College. She couldn’t remember off hand what the project was. She said the project was very time consuming. The proposal for the project had to be in by mid-October and the teacher only had the class since the start of September. They were limited by time on the project to have it completed on time. Each year there is a Discover Primary Science Week but they found they were very limited in what they could do and they had to stick to what they had set out, the timing didn’t always suit. Instead they do their own science week each year, demonstrating their own science projects in the main hall.
  1. She was never aware of the term UMI technologies before but when I gave examples of each one, she was more aware of what I was talking about.
  1. She believes STEM subjects are a lot more important today that they were 10 years ago as technology is now a part of the students every day life. It is all around them. However she aid it was a pity because now there attention is fixed on one thing, they see everything through a screen whereas they would be open-minded or would experience more things if they were still doing activities such as making jigsaws, reading the newspaper. She made the comment that if you gave a child a jigsaw now, they wouldn’t be impressed as they would find it boring.

At the end of the meeting she just asked  me what happens next? I told her I was visiting a number of schools and other organisations at the moment to gather as much qualitative data as possible. I would also be investigating the term community of practice and begin to establish a community of practice for this project.

She said she would love to hear more about the project as it progresses and she would be interested in getting involved more down the line when we need user testing etc. completed.

After the meeting we agreed it would be more beneficial in the future to meet with the teacher involved on the INTEL Science Project as she would have great interest in this area. That teacher actually has an engineering background but she was out of school on Friday. I may also meet with the teacher who completed the coding course.

The meeting ended at approximately 11.15am.

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