Almost 1,000 Irish schools register to become ‘Digital Schools of Distinction’

27 May 2014

Almost one in three Irish primary schools – some 970 of them – have registered to be recognised as ‘Digital Schools of Distinction’ as part of a Microsoft and HP-backed initiative.

So far 130 of the schools will have been validated by the end of the current school year.

Launched by the Minster for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn TD in September last year, ‘Digital Schools of Distinction’ is a flagship award programme which promotes, recognises and encourages best practice use of technology in primary schools.

The Digital Schools of Distinction Award aims to help schools to further integrate technology into the classroom.

HP Ireland and Microsoft Ireland are providing support to the programme, including a financial commitment of €300,000 in the first year as well as the provision of practical support and resources.

“In its first full school year, the Digital Schools of Distinction programme has demonstrated how it can make a significant practical contribution to helping schools make the most of their digital capabilities,” Minister Quinn said.

“This important initiative will complement the new Digital Strategy for Schools, which will be completed during 2014, and which will set out how resources, policies and projects can be prioritised and organised throughout the school system for the next five years.”

‘Industry has a responsibility’

In a survey of 300 Irish primary schools that have registered to take part in the programme, access to high speed broadband, IT maintenance, support and funding were identified as the major obstacles to integrating ICT in the classroom.

Primary school teachers were virtually unanimous (98pc) that ICT used in teaching is necessary to help prepare students to live and work in the 21st century.

Some 80pc strongly agreed that ICT used in teaching has a positive impact on student motivation

The response to the Digital Schools of Distinction programme from primary schools has been extremely positive with 75pc of teachers agreeing that the programme has created momentum in innovative and effective use of ICT tools by teachers.

And 84pc said that the programme has helped their school to focus more on ICT usage to support curriculum objectives.

“This programme has tremendous potential to further develop in 2014/15 and beyond,” HP Ireland country manager Martin Murphy said.

“We are also pleased to say that that we have received expressions of interest in replicating the programme in other European countries, which further underscores the success of the model.”

Microsoft Ireland managing director Cathriona Hallahan said the importance of the programme is underscored when you see that 98pc of teachers recognise that the integration of ICT into the classroom is an imperative if our young people are to be prepared to live and work in the 21st century.

“Industry has a responsibility to help make technology as accessible as possible to students and teachers and to help equip them with the skills to enhance their learning experience.”

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