As part of the EU Eramus+ AI Pioneers project, a cross-sectoral project aiming at promoting the use and teaching of artificial intelligence (AI) in adult education and vocational training (VET) we are undertaking a series of meetings and interviews with vocational teachers and trainers and teachers in Adult Education.
We organised a meeting with the innovation department of a VET school in the Basque Country that also offers adult education and courses for reskilling/upskilling (Politeknika Txorierri). The school uses innovative teaching methods like challenge-based learning and provides students with personalised career orientation and training opportunities. It has been participating in many Erasmus+ funded projects in the past 15 years and is part of an extensive network of partners. Indeed, many of the VET schools in the Basque Country collaborate and share their knowledge and experience through a network coordinated by TKNIKA as well as VET school networks in each region of the Basque Country (HETEL). Many of the VET school’s projects are linked to sustainability and in the past years they have also begun to participate in projects promoting technological innovation in VET.
Among their projects there are some related to the use of virtual reality (leading to the development of a virtual classroom), others teaching how to program drones (DRONES@STEAM), create games using Unity (SMARTINNOVATORS), or program autonomous mobile robots (ROMOTICS). They also participate in projects that use digital technologies and data for environmental monitoring and improvement of agricultural practices (FarmBox) or to promote active engagement in green initiatives (Green Opportunity Plan: Be an agent of digital scientific change – PARADIGM). The PARADIGM project involves the installation and use of ESP32 boards in specific locations in the school. These have sensors allowing teachers and students to monitor temperature and humidity or CO2 levels.
Innovation and the introduction of digital technologies is fostered by the innovation department and the personal interest of teachers and trainers in technology and AI. The VET school systematically upgrades its courses and curriculum based on intelligence provided by its regional network and the demands of companies. Currently, AI is not used within the school though there is interest in its potential and concern about regulation and ethical matters. In fact, it is more the social and ethical aspect that is of concern than the technical one.
The importance of networks in innovation in VET and adult education is clear when considering the participation of this and other VET schools in projects focused on the use of digital technologies and AI. This is something that the AI@Pioneers project recognises putting the creation of a reference network at the centre of its development.