The Department of Education and Skills (DES) recently announced a new project where clusters of schools willing to collaborate and work together in exciting and innovative ways using digital technologies can come together and receive funding for their project from the Schools Excellence Fund – Digital. Applications are invited from clusters of schools or individual schools who have a suitable project idea and are willing to collaborate with others. This Digital Learning Clusters project is reminiscent of the SIP (School Integration Project) twenty years ago in the early days of Schools IT2000. In those days I think there was a lot more interest and excitement in education circles about using ICT than there is today about the current Digital Strategy for Schools 2015 – 2020 due to the increasing demands on teachers and school leaders not only from the DES but also other state agencies such as NCCA, NCSE, Tusla etc. , pay inequality for newly qualified teachers and the dearth of funding available to schools since the recession.
There is some good news in the sense that funding of up to €30,000 per cluster is available through grants to purchase software, hardware and additional training. Substitution cover for the project coordinator (up to nine school days per year) and teachers involved in the project to attend training events, opening event, network/showcase events etc. will also be provided.
Where a number of schools have identified a project idea, the lead or coordinating school will make the application on behalf of the cluster. Clusters can include partners from primary, post primary, third level or education centres. The application form should include details of the 4 to 6 schools in the cluster, name and contact details for the project co-ordinator, a summary of the project, intended impact of the project on teaching learning and assessment, roles and responsibilities of each member of the cluster, details of how the project will be evaluated, links to a third level institution, local industry or education centre.
Applications are also invited from individual schools willing to collaborate with others. The applications will not be expected to be as detailed as a cluster application but it is expected that a school will outline in some detail the overall aims of their project idea and the level of commitment they are offering.
The Department of Education and Skills has outlined some of the selection criteria that will be applied in selecting and evaluating projects and cluster applications. This criteria includes:
- Primary, Post Primary and cross-sectoral configurations
- Development of innovative practices such as Bring Your Own Device
- Using digital technologies to embed curricular change e.. Primary – primary languages curriculum, primary maths curriculum and innovative delivery of other subjects and Post Primary – Junior Cycle Framework, Politics and Society etc.
- Enabling key policy initiatives such as STEM
- Collaborations between schools and third level or an education centre
- Collaboration between schools and a local business or industry
Closing date for applications to be sent by email to email@example.com before 5.00 p.m. on Friday 26th January 2018.