The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D. today launched ‘Digital Schools of Distinction’, a flagship award programme whichpromotes, recognises and encourages best practice use of technology in primary schools.
Primary schools in Ireland are urged to sign up to the Programme, which will help schools assess progress and recognise excellence in the use of technology at primary level while providing practical support and encouragement-
Supported by HP Ireland and Microsoft Ireland, the Digital Schools of Distinction Award has been developed to help schools to further integrate technology into the classroom.
HP Ireland and Microsoft Ireland are providing support to the programme for five years, to include a financial commitment of €300,000 in the first year as well as the provision of practical support and resources. If successful, Digital Schools of Distinction will be rolled out in other European countries by HP and Microsoft.
The objective of Digital Schools of Distinction is to recognise best in class practices and build on the progress already made, by providing a pathway and resources for schools who are seeking to do more with technology. The programme also recognises those who achieve excellence and supports the efforts of schools and teachers in making the best use of technology in the learning environment.
Schools are encouraged to register for the programme through thewww.digitalschools.ie website where they can perform a self evaluation of current practices and standards. The programme aims to sign up 500 primary schools to participate in its first full year.
Speaking at the launch in Sacred Heart SNS, Killinarden, Tallaght this morningMinister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D. said: “I have always believed in the importance of all citizens acquiring literacy skills. With the rapid pace of change in technology, familiarity with financial and digital literacy has taken on much greater importance in the lives of individuals. This has been recognised across Europe, where the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) aims to reboot Europe's economy and help Europe's citizens and businesses to get the most out of digital technologies. One of the action areas identified under the DAE is enhancing digital literacy, skills and inclusion through mainstreaming eLearning in national policies for the modernisation of education and training. The Digital Schools of Distinction advances both the literacy and ICT agenda and can make a practical contribution to helping schools make the most of their digital capabilities.”
Schools who meet the criteria will be awarded Digital Schools of Distinction status by the Department of Education. New digital schools will receive a Digital Schools Classroom Kit, to include a HP laptop with Microsoft software including Windows 8, Office 365 and educational apps and access to education ICT specialists.
Martin Murphy, Managing Director of HP Ireland said: “Digital technology plays an increasingly important role in all our lives and its use in schools can greatly enhance the learning experience. Getting education and skills right is core to investment and job creation and while Ireland already performs well in comparison to other European countries in terms of the integration of ICT into the curriculum, there is still room for improvement and an opportunity for Ireland to differentiate itself in this area. We are delighted to be able to support Digital Schools of Distinction, which if successful, will become a benchmark programme for other European countries.”
Cathriona Hallahan, Managing Director, Microsoft Ireland said: “At Microsoft, we are passionate about ensuring that young people have access to technology from as early an age as possible. We’re delighted to be part of the roll out of the Digital Schools of Distinction programme. My goal is that through programmes such as Digital Schools of Distinction, and with a commitment and recognition from the government of the importance of ICT that in years to come our children will have the right skills from an early age and that all pupils and teachers will be digitally equipped to engage in today’s digital age.”
While the use of technology in Irish primary schools has made significant strides in the past decade and is already at an overall higher grade than the EU average, the use of technology varies significantly from school to school. A range of factors including funding, resources and the skill levels of teachers can impact upon the level of integration of technology in the classroom.
Schools who do not initially meet the criteria will have access to tools, support, and examples of best practice on the website. They will also be able to speak to an advisor via a hotline and in some cases, a technology expert will be available to visit schools.
The Digital Schools of Distinction programme is supported by the Department of Education and Skills in partnership with Dublin West Education Centre, the Professional Development Service for Teachers/Technology in Education, the Computer Education Society of Ireland (CESI), the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) and the Irish Primary Principals' Network (IPPN). Digital Schools of Distinction will be delivered through a public private partnership in association with HP and Microsoft in Ireland.
For further information and to register online, visit www.digitalschools.ie