Irish schools that are crossing the digital divide

17 Jun 2010

Clever use of ICT in Irish classrooms could help beat the effects of looming cutbacks for schools.

As the kids from St Fintina’s VEC secondary school in Longwood, Co Meath amble into their classrooms on a sunny Wednesday morning it’s hard not to imagine the thoughts flowing through their minds – anticipation of the summer ahead, trepidation at the exams they face. We are visiting Ireland’s first virtual learning environment where three students who wanted to study chemistry but couldn’t because of cutbacks were faced with the prospect of having to switch to a new school.

Thanks to the initiative of school principal Tom Stack and the support of the local VEC, Microsoft and Dell, the fifth-year students – Ciara McDonald, Ben Nock and Rachel Ennis – have been able to stay in their school and, in doing so, are in the vanguard of a new movement in Irish education.

The technology issue in Irish schools is only now being addressed. The €150m Smart Schools = Smart Economy project is well under way and by the start of the new school year in September many schools’ classrooms should be kitted out with a projector, a laptop for the teacher and the appropriate education software. In the meantime, austerity measures still loom and cutbacks will be inevitable.

Read more of ‘Irish schools that are crossing the digital divide’ at Digital 21. – Digital 21 is a campaign to highlight the imperative of creating an action programme to secure the digital infrastructure and services upon which the success of our economy depends.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years