Theses Doctoral

Exploring the use of Artificial Intelligent Systems in STEM Classrooms

Kornyo, Emmanuel Anthony

Human beings by nature have a predisposition towards learning and the exploration of the natural world. We are intrinsically intellectual and social beings knitted with adaptive cognitive architectures. As Foot (2014) succinctly sums it up: “humans act collectively, learn by doing, and communicate in and via their actions” and they “… make, employ, and adapt tools of all kinds to learn and communicate” and “community is central to the process of making and interpreting meaning—and thus to all forms of learning, communicating, and acting” (p.3). Education remains pivotal in the transmission of social values including language, knowledge, science, technology, and an avalanche of others. Indeed, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) have been significant to the advancement of social cultures transcending every epoch to contemporary times. As Jasanoff (2004) poignantly observed, “the ways in which we know and represent the world (both nature and society) are inseparable from the ways in which we choose to live in it. […] Scientific knowledge [..] both embeds and is embedded in social practices, identities, norms, conventions, discourses, instruments, and institutions” (p.2-3). In essence, science remains both a tacit and an explicit cultural activity through which human beings explore their own world, discover nature, create knowledge and technology towards their progress and existence. This has been possible through the interaction and applications of artifacts, tools, and technologies within the purviews of their environments. The applications of technologies are found across almost every luster of organizational learning especially teacher education, STEM, architecture, manufacturing, and a flurry of others. Thus, human evolution and development are inexplicably linked with education either formally or informally. The 21st century has however seen a surge in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and digital technologies in education. The proliferation of artificial intelligence and associated technologies are creating new overtures of digital multiculturalism with distinct worldviews of significance to education. For example, learners are demonstrating digital literacy skills and are knowledgeable about AI technologies across every specter of their lives (Bennett et al., 2008). It is also opening new artesian well-springs of educational opportunities and pedagogical applications. This includes mapping new methodological pathways, content creation and curriculum design, career preparations and indeed a seemingly new paradigm shift in teaching STEM.

There is growing scholarly evidence about the use and diffusion of these technologies in K-12 and higher education (Bonk & Graham, 2012; Hew & Brush, 2007; Langer, 2018; Mishra & Koehler, 2006). Some of these include the Sphero robots, Micro Bit, Jill Watson, BrickPi3 Classroom kit, Engino STEM Mechanic, Lego Education WeDo Core Set and Spike. Both educators and learners are using these in STEM programs as well as other education related activities. Just as human activities and interactions with artifacts and tools shaped and redefined the scientific-technological feat of previous generations, so the contemporary digital technological era seems to be on a similar trajectory. However, there is sparsity of empirical scholarship on the pedagogical prospects and effectiveness of artificial intelligence in STEM classrooms. Also, it should be noted that scholarship on how AI impacts pedagogical content knowledge of STEM educators and how learners perceive these technologies are just emerging. In addition, the recent COVID-19 pandemic (Ghandhi et al., 2020; Rasmussen et al., 2020) has unexpectedly created a renewed synergy towards the applications of digital technologies in teaching STEM. In the context of this force majeure (COVID-19), the traditional brick and mortar educational spaces metamorphosed into digital spaces with the applications of many artificial intelligent technologies and resources in the arena of education. This doctoral dissertation study examined these enigmas including how educators use these technologies in STEM classrooms. The study is informed by activity theory or cultural-historical activity theory (Engeström et al., 2007; Hasan et al., 2014; Krinski & Barker, 2009; Oers, 2010; Vygotsky,1987). The study participants will be selected from educators currently integrating artificial intelligent systems and digital technologies in their respective STEM classrooms. Pre-data survey inquiry has shown that many educators were incorporating some forms of AIS into their STEM classrooms.

In view of these, I have explored Sphero educational robots to interrogate the research topic. The Sphero Edu described as a “…STEAM-based toolset that weaves hardware, software, and community engagement to promote 21st century skills. While these skills are absolutely crucial, our edu program goes beyond code by nurturing students’ creativity and ingenuity like no other education program can” (Sphero, April 2020). The Sphero robots also have features and applications for designing and teaching STEM topics such as nature, space science, geometry, and other activities of pedagogical significance. Users could also design and write advanced engineering programs in JavaScript during STEM educational activities formally and outside of the classrooms. In essence, educators and students can learn designing, programming, engineering, mathematics, computational thinking, and hands-on skills reflective of the 21st century.

In brief, the dissertation study research has explored artificial intelligence and emerging technologies and how these could transform and advance teaching and learning of STEM hence the research topic: Exploring the use of Artificial Intelligent Systems in STEM Classrooms. Methodologically, this is a qualitative study through the theoretical frameworks of activity theory as applicable to STEM education. The main research questions are:
1) Given that artificial intelligent systems and digital technologies have been applied in STEM educational domains (content, pedagogy, student learning, assessment). How does the application of AIS and digital technologies impact pedagogy in STEM educational activities?
2) Given that digital technology is transforming contemporary society in every facet. How/What does AIS tell us about how digital technology impacts STEM pedagogy?

Data was collected from the study participants, archival sources, and others for analyses. It is hoped that the findings will inform and address theories of learning and teaching, policy and praxis in science education, teacher preparatory and professional development programs as it relates to STEM classrooms


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Science Education
Thesis Advisors
Emdin, Christopher
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 22, 2021