Talking Innovation & Technology at Tullamore College

Midlands Science was delighted to recently welcome two expert speaker to Tullamore College where they delivered a highly engaging and informative talk to senior students .

Caroline Brazil (originally from the Midlands and a Senior Manager with Accenture) and Déaglán Campbell, Design Lecturer in Dept. of Mechanical, Polymer & Design, at Athlone Institute of Technology focused their talks on Innovation and feedback from teachers and students was extremely positive. We look forward to many more talks in schools across the region before the end of this school year.

 

Something for Everyone!

Harper Quigley from Longford
Photo by Shelley Corcoran

Tuesday of Science Week across the Midlands got off to a flying start with a taste of Space Science, some Google Workshops focusing on computer science and some Dangerous Equations With Marty Jopson. Later in the day we will have The Science Of A Grand Soft Day With Ireland’s Favourite Weatherman Gerald Fleming, What Happens Next With David Featonby, Pollinators, Music & Plants, The Science Of Golf and much more! Another action packed day of science innovation, learning and fun right across the region.

Driving the Digital Revolution in the Midlands with Wriggle

Wriggle Roadcaster bus at Citywest Conference Centre.
Pictured is Simon Close, Primarty Level Lead Wriggle.ie, demostrates the ‘Sphere Robitics’.
Picture by Colm Mahady / Fennells – Copyright© Fennell Photography 2018

We are delighted to be providing some very new and exciting training this year for primary and secondary school teachers during Science Week with Irish educational technology company, Wriggle Learning. Using their Roadcaster, training from Wriggle will include Sphero, micro:bit, coding and VR/AR to demonstrate how technology can be used to support teaching and learning in schools across the country.

 
I caught up Simon Close, Wriggle’s Primary School Lead, to find out more.
 
Simon, we are really excited to be featuring Wriggle for the first time during Midlands Science Festival 2018! Your mission statement says, ‘At Wriggle, we pull all the pieces of the puzzle together.’ Can you tell us what this means and a little about what Wriggle do to support a school’s digital journey?
There have been significant changes to the Irish school curriculum in the last 5 or 6 years, particularly at post primary level with the introduction of the JCSA in 2014 and redesign and modification is still happening, which is fantastic. At the heart of this change is the use of technology. However, working with our partner schools, teachers and the wider school community, we have seen first-hand that we can’t simply throw the latest technology at a school and assume that change will happen overnight. The implementation of technology for teaching and learning needs to be considered, well thought out and ultimately, desired by all of those involved.
We support schools with formulating a longer-term vision for the use of technology in the classroom as well as providing the fundamental elements to make it happen i.e. technology, content, support and training.
 
Wriggle’s continuing professional development (CPD) model works with groups of educators in schools throughout Ireland to develop their skills and maximise the use of technology in their teaching. Have you delivered this to many teachers to date and what has the feedback been like?
To date, we have delivered training to more than 10,000 teachers throughout Ireland and we have seen a big jump in the last 12 months from teachers and schools looking to engage with us to deliver CPD. The importance of technology at Junior Cycle has meant schools are now having to utilise ePortfolio’s to store student work, carry out Class Based Assessment (CBA) and potentially introduce coding as part of the short course requirements.
The training workshops that we provide ensure that teachers are comfortable and proficient using the technology that is aligned to elements such as these.
 
Can you tell us about your own background and what led to your current role at Wriggle?
I started out working with our partner company Typetec in their graphic arts division having completed a business degree in DIT. I have been with Wriggle since its inception in 2013 and my roles to date have been focussed mainly around sales and marketing but when working for a start-up you do find yourself getting involved in all elements of the business which can be a real eye opener!
Supported by an incredible team, we have driven strong growth at post primary level and are now partnered with close to 200 schools and manage and support more than 40,000 devices. In 2017 we launched Wriggle Jr. to provide similar products and services to primary schools. I recently started a new role (School Development Director) responsible for the sales and marketing functions for our primary and post primary teams. It’s an exciting time!
 
Do you think parents play a significant role in supporting the digital education of their children? What can they do to support it better?
I think arguably, parents play the most important role in supporting the digital education of their children. It can be a daunting prospect for parents when it comes to the utilisation of technology in school, especially when it’s a personalised device that they bring home with them every day. However, we work closely with parents to provide the reassurances that their sons and daughters aren’t getting access to social media, games or inappropriate content on their devices because we have locked all of those elements down.
We also provide training for parents to demonstrate how they can manage their children’s devices in their own homes by keeping tabs on their screen time, internet browsing history and other useful tips and tricks. It will always be a challenge to stay ahead of the curve but as parents, we need to involve ourselves in our children’s education, technology or no technology.
 
What exactly is the Wriggle Roadcaster?
The Wriggle Roadcaster is a cutting edge 21st  century technology classroom on wheels! We repurposed it from a former library bus and have transformed it into a 21st century mobile learning classroom. It is designed to showcase to teachers and students what technology can do to support engagement and enhance teaching. Inside, the Roadcaster is kitted out with tablets, robotics, drones, coding equipment and other state of the art technological tools.
It travels around schools in Ireland, demonstrating to teachers and students at primary and secondary level how technology can be easily integrated into teaching and learning. It has been such a huge success so far and we’re trying our best to visit as many schools as possible in the months ahead.

Celebrate International Innovation Day

_DSC0210How will you be innovative for ‘International Innovation Day’ which takes place today across the globe? Simply spot a problem or issue that needs to be addressed or fixed and try to think of a solution…..and before you know it you’re innovating! Innovation Day and the art of innovating is all about imagining new, better ways of doing things. It’s about ideas and delivering more efficient processes, answers and ideas.

In December 2015, the Government launched plan entitled Innovation 2010. Innovation has been central to securing Ireland’s economic recovery to date and has supported growth in the numbers at work with 135,000 more people in employment since 2012. Recent reports have also seen Ireland continue to improve in international innovation rankings, most recently climbing from 10th place in 2013 to 8th place in 2015 in the EU Innovation Union Scoreboard.

To build on this success and achieve the vision to become a Global Innovation Leader driving a strong sustainable economy and a better society, Ireland must continue to invest heavily in Research, development, science and technology which will all contribute to this goal to deliver on our vision focusing on excellence, talent and impact in research and development.

What Is Innovation? Whether it happens among students or young pupils in a classroom setting, or scientists in a laboratory, innovation is a series of steps that begins with imagination and creativity and results in the creation of something new, progressive and of value for society.

One of Ireland’s greatest strengths is its people and future innovation depends on people. Some of the things that must be done immediately at all levels is greater encouragement , from encouraging greater engagement with science, technology, engineering and mathematics at primary level to ensuring the necessary supports for researchers at postdoctoral and Principal Investigator levels.

As well as supporting the full continuum of talent development in order to ensure that the quantity and quality of trained people is sufficient, we also must support the full continuum of research, from frontier research at and beyond the frontiers of current understanding, to the creation and development of research-informed innovative products, processes and services. Support for excellent research across all disciplines (including arts, humanities and the social sciences as well as science, technology, engineering and maths) is essential, as is the provision of adequate research infrastructure to ensure that our researchers have access to the best possible equipment and facilities.

We all have the ability to be innovative – Think about some simple ways that you can do so today!