Kids need skills and tools. That’s what Ciara Judge, founding member of the Digital Youth Council and former co-winner of the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, told today’s Digital Ireland Forum in Dublin.
Judge, a 5th year student, won the 2013 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition along with her fellow students Emer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow from Kinsale Community School.
This morning, Judge impressed the Digital Ireland Forum audience with her poise and confidence as she revealed how it really is for kids in schools in Ireland today.
She drew on her recent experience at the Excited conference in Dublin, where students became very vocal about the shortage of sufficient digital tools and skills in the Irish classroom.
“The energy and passion amongst the students was obvious. That’s how the idea came about for the Digital Youth Council to harness this energy and give young people a voice for change.”
One thing that is clear, she said, is students themselves want to see a change in how digital content is presented in school. “The most popular answer among the students was they wanted to see information presented via PowerPoint and digital apps, such as Google Earth, Skype and Google Maps, among others, as well as online games and e-readers.”
Judge said that during EU Coding Week, Ireland held more coding meet-ups than anywhere else in Europe.
Smart use of resources
Expressing her own opinions on how Irish education policy-makers can drive change, she said, “The first step is to draw a very definite line between coding and use of digital technology – coding isn’t for everyone, but the use of digital technology is essential in education and business.
“While some people say you don’t have to teach coding in school, one thing you can’t argue with is that the use of digital technology is universal and has to be implemented in education to equip kids with skills to find jobs.
“It is also about the appropriate use of resources. I don’t think the solution is to kit out every kid with an iPad, but equipping classrooms better with diverse technology – whiteboards and laptops – and to use them in classes is key.
“The teaching of coding is something I think a lot about – Irish teachers don’t necessary want to take on teaching code and the resources are not there.
“One idea is to create a satellite specialist project – someone with coding and computer science skills who can spend a day in every school. The cost will be shared, resources will be shared and the education is still there for the students,” Judge said.
“We need to increase the use of ICT in the learning experience – integrating digital technology into education – not just teaching it, but using it to teach.”