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DWEC & The Use of AI in the Irish Classroom

DWEC & The Use of AI in the Irish Classroom

Artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) have revolutionised the way we interact with technology. One of the most exciting applications of AI at the moment, is in the education sector. Teachers can leverage AI tools like ChatGPT to create personalized learning experiences for their students.

Dublin West Education Centre has always positioned itself within the emerging technology space. We have a history of embracing technological advances and pride ourselves as being early adapters, especially when it comes to emerging technology that can be of benefit to schools and teachers. So naturally, with ChatGPT becoming such a topical subject, we found ourselves exploring it.

It was a natural and exciting prospect then, when we discovered Shannon Ahern through her Instagram account @craic_matamaitic. Shannon had one post in particular which addressed exploring the use of AI in her classroom. Shannon delivered two webinars for DWEC in the Spring term 2023 on ‘Making Learning Fun with Artificial Intelligence & ChatGPT’ which both booked out. The interest out there amongst educators is vast and through Shannon’s webinars, we have been able to support teachers to better understand this emerging technology, both in terms of what its capabilities are and what its potential is as a classroom resource.

We continue to work with Shannon in providing innovative CPD in the area of AI in Education so keep an eye out every term for new CPD opportunities DWEC CPD Courses

Don’t just take our word for it! Join one of her webinars and experience her exciting take on the use of AI tools such as ChatGPT, as a classroom resource. Having attended her webinars ourselves, we can’t recommend them highly enough. We advise registering your place quickly though, as places always book out fast. 

Please keep an eye on our website and all of our social media channels (detailed below) for more information. Feel free also to reach out with any queries and/or suggestions to Zita This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via our social media channels. We love hearing from you!

*This article may or may not have used ChatGPT as a co-author*

A Word on the Practical Use of AI in the Classroom with DWEC Facilitator, Shannon Ahern

The increasing prevalence of artificial intelligence (AI) around the globe has brought both opportunities and challenges within the field of education. Although concerns surrounding the ease of academic dishonesty have been raised, educators should not overlook the immense potential AI offers. 

As teachers, we often dedicate much of our time and energy to our students in the classroom, leaving little in reserve for planning and preparation in the evenings. Of course, thorough planning, particularly in subjects such as maths, can be the difference between completing the curriculum by June or falling short. AI can significantly reduce the administrative load associated with teaching, and can subsequently increase the quality of the planning produced. From the scheme of work to the end of module assessments, AI has helped me to produce a higher calibre of work in a fraction of the time. 

AI has also allowed me to create resources I previously would only have dreamed of. Recently, I used ChatGPT to generate HTML for a science revision game, despite having minimal experience with the language. AI enabled me to create exactly what I wanted for my website in seconds, a feat which otherwise would have required extensive hours of research on my part. 

While there are legitimate concerns that students may exploit AI to produce CBAs and Project Work, there is equal potential for them to employ it as a personal, private tutor. If used appropriately, AI can offer students the individualised instruction they deserve, which is often unattainable in larger class settings. In my opinion we need to be doing more to educate students about AI, and instil in them a sense of responsibility when using this technology. By teaching them to harness AI's potential ethically and effectively, we can unlock a wealth of opportunities for personalised learning and academic growth.


In the Press!

Irish Times - Education Section
‘It’s revolutionising the classroom’: Meet the teachers embracing AI
Peter McGuire
Tue May 7 2024

Insightful article featuring the Director of Dublin West Education Support Centre and podcast host of our Teachers Themselves podcast, Ultan Mac Mathúna.

If you haven't listened already, don't miss the podcast episode referenced by Ultan in this article featuring the wonderfully innovative, Shannon Ahern @craic_matamaitic

Season One, Episode 3: Practical Approaches to AI in the Classroom with Shannon Ahern

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DWEC Podcast: Teachers Themselves

An Original Podcast for Educators

"Teachers Themselves" is an engaging podcast designed specifically for educators in Ireland, and beyond. The first episode went live on September 4th 2023. Season 2 is now available wherever you find your podcasts!

Whether you're a seasoned teacher looking to enhance your teaching practices, or a new educator seeking guidance and inspiration, "Teachers Themselves" provides a platform for professional growth and fosters a community of like-minded educators. Join us as we explore the art and science of teaching, inspire each other, and shape the future of education, one episode at a time.

Hosted by DWESC Director, Ultan Mac Mathúna, and featuring insightful guest speakers, all educators themselves, this podcast offers conversational episodes focused on sharing teaching experiences, exploring the latest trends in education, and fostering a community of passionate educators.

Tune in to "Teachers Themselves" and unlock your full potential as an educator. Together, let's empower ourselves and our students for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow. Your journey towards excellence starts here.

Teachers Themselves is a DWEC original, produced and created by Dublin West Education Centre and produced by Zita Robinson.

“No written word, no spoken plea, can teach our youth what they should be, nor all the books on all the shelves,

it’s what the teachers are themselves.” John Wooden

In the Press!

Irish Times - Education Section
‘It’s revolutionising the classroom’: Meet the teachers embracing AI
Peter McGuire
Tue May 7 2024

Insightful article featuring our podcast host, and Director of Dublin West Education Support Centre, Ultan Mac Mathúna and referencing our podcast episode with the wonderfully innovative, Shannon Ahern @craic_matamaitic
Season One, Episode 3: Practical Approaches to AI in the Classroom with Shannon Ahern

Read Article

Season One Guests

Patrick Kirwan

Patrick Kirwan founded the Irish Schools Sustainability Network in March 2021. The network has run a series of national initiatives including the Climate and Nature Summit, 5 Minutes of Sustainability, and Bitesize Biodiversity. Patrick is now running place-based training for teachers on climate and nature education in Ardscoil na Mara, Tramore, Co. Waterford where he teaches.

Fiona Forman

Fiona Forman is an author, speaker, facilitator and trainer in the area of well-being and Positive Psychology in education and parenting. She holds an M.Sc. in Applied Positive Psychology (the science of well-being) from the University of East London. Having spent many years as a primary teacher, she is passionate about placing well-being at the heart of education, and she has seen first-hand the benefits that this brings to the entire school community.

Fiona is the co-author of Weaving Well-Being, an SPHE programme which is now in use in the majority of primary schools in Ireland. She is the author of the Welcome to Well-Being & Wired for Well-Being programmes, which are also widely used. Fiona is also the parent of 2 young adults, which has deepened her awareness of the need to equip and empower young people with the skills they need in order to build resilience and flourish and thrive in life.

Shannon Ahern

Shannon Ahern is an enthusiastic and dedicated educator specialising in mathematics and science at St. Declan's College in Cabra. With a passion for STEM education, Shannon is committed to transforming the learning experience for learners. Her zeal for mathematics is particularly noteworthy, as she believes in making maths not just educational, but also engaging and enjoyable for both learners and educators alike.

Recognising the power of social media in modern education, Shannon established an Instagram account, Craic Matamaitic (@craic_matamaitic), as a platform to connect with fellow maths teachers. Through this vibrant online community, she shares an array of innovative ideas, practical tips, and valuable resources aimed at making mathematics education more dynamic and fun without the added stress for teachers!

In November 2022, Shannon's creative journey took an exciting turn when she discovered ChatGPT. She quickly realised that ChatGPT was the ultimate tool she needed to enhance her creativity and develop her engaging resources in even less time. ChatGPT, proved to be an invaluable asset in Shannon's toolbox, enabling her to create lessons that not only play to students' interests but pique students' interest and make them curious to learn.

Mary McKenna

Primary teacher since graduation in 1982. Set up Ireland's first Autism Early Intervention class in 1999. Other roles include:

  • Early Years Autism Consultant at the Children’s Clinic, Sandycove, providing post-diagnostic support to young children and their families.
  • Consultant and lecturer with Special Educational Needs (SEN) programmes in Irish universities. These include Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, Dublin City University, Froebel College of Education, Maynooth, and St Angela’s College of Education, Sligo.
  • Regular delivery of online and in-person courses in Dublin West Education Centre (DWEC) and Marino Institute of Education. These include ‘Teaching Autistic Children: Where to Start; What to Prioritise; How to Thrive’, and ‘Understanding Autism: Supporting the Child and the Teacher’
  • Lecturer and part of the national Autism team for National Council for Special Education (NCSE) since 2010. Duties included providing in-school support to teachers of autistic students, and ongoing delivery of a full-day seminar, ‘Teaching Young Autistic Children’.
Magdalena Landziak

Magdalena works as a Special Needs Assistant in a primary school in Co. Limerick for over 7 years supporting children with additional needs. She is an Editor and Publisher of AMYGDALA – the First National Magazine for SNAs. She created this magazine to support and empower SNAs. She has a deep understanding of the unique challenges that special needs assistants face, and through the magazine she makes sure that the SNAs have the tools they need to serve those who depend on them. The monthly publication is dedicated to providing the latest information, resources and strategies in the field in special education.

Magdalena graduated from UCD finishing the National Training Programme for SNAs receiving a Certificate in Inclusive School Support. She has a teaching background from Poland. She is running an Instagram page called @sna_zone where she provides helpful information for fellow SNAs and parents, advocating for autism and other disabilities. She was delivering webinars through Tralee Education Centre and Le Chéile Online Learning, and facilitates for Dublin West Education Centre. Recently she started her Masters in Inclusive Education and SEN.

John Williams

Chairperson Dublin West Education Committee. Former Principal Divine Word NS. Executive member of Nordic Principals Forum(NOFO). Former National Council member of IPPN. Independent Assessor for Dublin Diocese interview panels. Webinar designer for INTO on job applications and applying for In School Management positions.

Season Two Guests

Finbarr Hurley

A B.Ed graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Finbarr has over 30 years experience in primary education, which includes teaching and leadership positions both at home and abroad.

Finbarr is the Primary Leadership Coordinator in Oide, the new support service for teachers and school leaders, funded by the Department of Education. He is seconded to this role from St. Columba’s Boys’ National School, Douglas Co Cork where he has been principal since 2015.

Finbarr began his teaching career in Cork city where he taught classes ranging from infants to sixth. He was seconded to the European schools where he was a class teacher, a middle leader, and a Deputy Principal in one of the European Schools in Brussels.

He was then appointed Primary Principal of the European School of Karlsruhe Germany where he carried out a lot of work on developing the leadership capacity in his team there. He has, through his time in the European School system, seen many national education systems, which has aided him on his journey through leadership in education.

Since returning to Ireland, Finbarr has been a facilitator with Oide Induction facilitating the induction programme to NQT’s. He is a trained Mentor with Oide Leadership and has completed coaching courses through the CESC. Finbarr is on the Board of Directors of IPPN and is co-chair of its Professional Learning Committee. He is the IPPN/Oide local coordinator for the Donegal Cluster in the DE's Small Schools Project. He has worked with the IPPN leadership team to develop and facilitate seminars for the IPPN Principals' Conference and Deputy Principals' Conference as well as facilitating seminars on the INTO Summer Course around the theme of Middle Leadership.

Máirín Ní Chéileachair

Máirín is Assistant General Secretary and Director of Education, Equality, Research and Learning in the INTO. She has spent her career in Education, as a primary teacher and a primary school principal. Tá an cuid is mó dá saol caite aici in earnáil na gaelscolaíchta. She has also worked as the National Co-ordinator of NIPT and Director of Dublin West Education Centre and she has lectured widely.

Áine Lynch

Áine qualified as a nurse and then completed an honours degree in Behavioural Sciences. Áine worked for two years in the area of child psychiatry and then worked with the ISPCC as the Childline Manager and Director of Services. In August 2007 Aine was appointed CEO of the National Parents Council Primary (NPC). Áine was appointed to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) and the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) by the Minister for Education and Skills; and formerly served on the Board of the Children’s Rights Alliance and the Teaching Council. In December 2017 Áine was awarded a Masters in Executive Leadership by the University of Ulster.
Áine believes all decisions in schools should be child centred and that this is best achieved by fostering positive relationships between parents and schools, and by ensuring the voice of the child is included. In 2018, Áine oversaw the expansion of NPC’s remit into providing services and support for parents of children in early years’ education.

Cormac O'Farrell

Teaching Principal in Brittas NS since 2007, previously worked in St Mary’s Rathfarnham for 9 years.

Dermot Looney

Dermot Looney is a primary school teacher from Greenhills, Dublin 12. He has been working in St Dominic's National School, Tallaght for almost 15 years, primarily at the senior end of the school but most recently in the position of Home School Community Liaison Coordinator. He has particular teaching interests in local history, geography and natural heritage, as well as ICT, and a keen interest in combating educational disadvantage relevant to his new role.

Outside the classroom and the HSCL Office, Dermot had a long involvement in local and national politics. He combined his work as a teacher with two terms as a Councillor on South Dublin County Council. He was first elected aged 26 in 2009, and stepped down in 2019. He was Mayor of South Dublin County from 2013-14 and held a variety of roles including chairing several school BOMs, and being a member of the local ETB and Drugs Task Forces. Dermot was nominated for a European Innovation in Politics Institute award for the '300K Have Your Say' participatory budgeting scheme, the first of its kind in Ireland. Most recently, he was the Social Democrats' national Director of Elections in the 2020 general election.

He published the first ever book on the history of his beloved St Patrick's Athletic, 'Saints Rising: The Early History of St Patrick's Athletic FC' in 2022, and runs a project called History St Pat's.

Áine Hyland

Áine Hyland is Emeritus Professor of Education and former Vice-President of University College Cork, Ireland. She has been active in education circles in Ireland and internationally for over 50 years. She was a civil servant in the Department of Education in the 1960s but had to resign on marriage. She subsequently qualified as a secondary school teacher and taught for a number of years before being appointed a senior lecturer in education in UCD and subsequently Professor of Education in UCC.

In the 1970s she was a founder member of the Dalkey School Project and was subsequently Secretary and then Chair of Educate Together. She has been a member of various national education boards and committees and has published books and articles on the history of Irish education, educational policy, educational disadvantage and curriculum and assessment. She is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and in recognition of her contribution to Irish education, she has been awarded a number of Honorary Doctorates.