Lancaster pupils use the power of AI to reimagine school

A colour-changing willow tree, a library equipped with beds and blue pizza - Lancaster pupils use the power of AI to re-imagine their  school
A colour-changing willow tree, a library equipped with beds and blue pizza - Lancaster pupils use the power of AI to re-imagine their school

Blue pizza for lunch, a library equipped with beds and galaxy-themed classrooms are just some of the clever and creative ideas a Lancaster primary school has designed with a little help from Lancaster University researchers.

Senior Research Fellow Dr Joseph Lindley, from Lancaster University’s design-led research laboratory ImaginationLancaster, and Research Associate Dr Jesse Benjamin have been working with year 4 pupils at Ryelands Primary and Nursery School, on a special project which encouraged them to imagine what school could look and be like.

The research project is trying to understand how best to teach children about the power of artificial intelligence, focusing on the new breed of image generators that can create photo-realistic images from text descriptions.

The researchers went to the school once a week for six weeks to work with two Year 4 classes to show them how to use AI to generate images.

Children in a classroom

[Children of Year 4 class interact with an AI image generator during one of their sessions with the Lancaster University researchers]

A unique aspect of this work was to explore whether giving the pupils a hands-on experience of experimenting with AI would increase their understanding of the technology, enhancing language skills necessary to use it, and raising awareness of key questions such technologies raise like the nature of creativity or ownership.

After giving the pupils a crash course in how the technology worked, the project asked the classes to use the AI to imagine how their school could be different.

Next week (May 16) the school will host an event to celebrate the project and will launch their newly imagined 'prospectus'.

This will comprise an exhibition of images created by the children which capture their vision of their school.

Ideas also included a corridor with swimming lanes, a colour-changing Willow tree, food-dances in class and growing murals.

Parents and carers will be invited to attend the showcase of achievements, as well as have the opportunity to get hands-on with the AI technology and learn from their own children.

The project is part-funded by Dr Lindley’s UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, which aims to understand, gather evidence about and promote leadership for Design Research.

Said Dr Lindley: “Everyone involved, the research team, the teachers, and the pupils, all found that this type of approach to learning about AI is a good one. Getting hands-on and actually using the technology makes the complexities and ethical dilemmas so much easier to understand. The students took to it incredibly quickly.”

Junior, one of the Year 4 pupils, said: “We got to learn new things – to understand prompts, seeds, negative prompts and guidance – it was all brand new to us. We got to find out about how learning could be in the future – and we loved it!”

Headteacher Mrs Linda Pye added: “This has been an incredible learning opportunity for the Year 4 pupils of Ryelands. This is a rapidly advancing area that as teachers we know very little about, so the project has been unique and impactful for all involved. The children were engaged and excited by their new learning and we can’t wait to share it with parents and our school community.”

Back to News