Today the Irish Government announced that it now has a five-year digital strategy for schools in Ireland. It is the largest ever investment in digital technologies in schools. It also included details of how some of the €200m in its Capital Development Plan for schools will be spent. It has been five years since schools last received State funding for computers and other IT equipment in schools. This new plan envisages multi-annual investment in the form of grants to individual schools although these schools are unknown at this time. However, the schools chosen will have to wait another year at least for their share of the first €30m tranche, which will start during the 2016/2017 academic year. The funding will drive the Digital Strategy for Schools (2015-2020) in Ireland.
Some of the key points mentioned in the Digital Strategy for Schools are:
- Embed ICT skills as part of initial teacher education and ongoing training for teachers
- Dedicated multi-annual funding to schools to invest in technology
- Build on the successful roll-out of high-speed broadband to every second-level school by investing in high-speed wifi networks in every school. The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) has welcomed the news, but has stressed the importance of establishing high-speed WiFi as the main priority.
- Integration of digital skills in the curriculum and in assessment
- Develop opportunities for students to take an in-depth ICT course at Leaving Cert, as well as embedding digital skills within other subjects
- Promotion of the use of e-portfolios at primary and post-primary level
- Provide enhanced digital content to schools, including working with cultural institutions, sporting bodies and other to expand this range of resources.
- Work with stakeholders to promote safe and responsible use of the internet and social media, including providing new resources to schools to better prevent cyber-bullying
The Strategy has been researched extensively and has been developed around four key themes: Teaching, Learning and Assessment using ICT, Teacher Professional Learning, Leadership, Research and Policy and ICT Infrastructure. I noticed how the Strategy also encompasses the Key Skills of the Junior Cycle and the Junior Cycle 25 Statements of Learning.
Minister O’Sullivan said ”Technology has transformed our lives, and has the potential to dramatically change the way teachers teach and how students learn. It can support a dramatic move away from teacher directed learning, to allow a greater focus on active learning, which a majority of teachers have made clear they would support. The funding we have secured will ensure we can provide the necessary support to schools to enable them to transform teaching, learning and assessment in our classrooms.”
It is amazing to see this investment in technologies in Irish schools at both primary and post primary level. From my own teaching experience, I feel that students are far more engaged when technology is involved in any lesson. As the chosen schools for this funding have not yet been announced, I really hope that schools right across the board benefit greatly from this publication and implement this new framework for digital technology in their own teaching and learning.