Microsoft enlists grads to create Ireland’s digital schools curriculum

22 Dec 2009

Twenty graduates of technology or teacher training college courses are to get work placement positions in Microsoft Ireland to help develop digital material for the school curriculum as part of a deal signed by the Minister for Education and Science, Batt O’Keeffe TD.

The 20 graduates, who will be based in Microsoft Ireland headquarters in Dublin, will develop digital content to support the curriculum in primary and post-primary schools.

They will work with the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE) on tasks aimed at supporting the integration of information communications technology (ICT) into teaching and learning.

They will be employed under the Government’s graduate back-to-work programme which allows them to retain their social welfare entitlements.

The graduate training places are among a number of key elements in the ‘education alliance’ agreed between Microsoft Ireland and the Department of Education & Science.

Announcing the signing of the deal, Minister O’Keeffe said: “I am delighted that Microsoft Ireland is taking this initiative and supporting my drive to increase the use of ICT in our schools.

“It is encouraging that 20 graduates will get valuable work experience on a project that will have a lasting impact on our education system. I would encourage eligible graduates to apply for these placements,” O’Keefe said.

Fás will advertise the positions as part of its work placement programme early in the New Year. Under the programme, unemployed workers get nine months’ work experience and retain their social welfare entitlements.

The graduates for the Microsoft Ireland plan must have an information technology qualification and/or a teacher qualification.

“The Government has demonstrated its commitment to integrating ICT into teaching and learning with the announcement of the €150 million ‘Smart Schools=Smart Economy’ plan to be implemented over the next three years,” said Paul Rellis, managing director of Microsoft Ireland.

“It was both a vision statement and a plan of action and Microsoft Ireland is delighted to play our part in implementing it.

“I am particularly pleased that we can facilitate the deployment of 20 graduates who will work with the NCTE as part of the education alliance agreement signed today with Minister O’Keeffe.

“I want to acknowledge that the Government’s graduate back-to-work scheme is helping to make this innovative approach possible. We look forward to working with Minister O’Keeffe and his Department officials to roll out these initiatives over the coming weeks and months and to playing our part in helping to ensure that our children have the right skills set to build Ireland’s ‘smart” economy’.”

The education alliance agreement will bring extra benefits to schools using Microsoft products under a yearly licensing agreement.

The agreement allows schools to acquire a perpetual licence by paying a once-off amount for Microsoft products on their existing computers and for any new Microsoft products bought for new computers.

As a result of Microsoft’s investment in the programme, the once-off perpetual licence fee will be offered at a discounted rate to the schools.

Microsoft will provide access to a range of online and digital resources including The Learning Suite (including Office 2007) which has several titles of educational value to primary and post-primary schools. These resources will be made available free to teachers for home use.

Working with the NCTE, the agreement will lead to Microsoft providing resources and materials for teacher professional development in ICT.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Taoiseach Brian Cowen (right), Minister for Education and Science Batt O’Keeffe TD (left), and Paul Rellis, MD, Microsoft Ireland and chair of the Joint ICT Advisory Group, join students from St Joseph’s National School, Oscar Mulderrig, James Foy, Mathew Flood and Tom Ryland.

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