Recently over a 200 teachers and learners, from across primary and post-primary gathered in Athlone to showcase the work they have been engaged in as part of the Department of Education and Skills School Excellence Fund- Digital project. This programme was launched by former Minister of Education, Richard Bruton and it involves 42 clusters of schools who are exploring innovative uses of digital technology and STEM in schools. The clusters consist of primary and post-primary schools and the projects are wide ranging, exploring how schools can share digital lesson plans to using VR to enhance pupil learning.
The recent showcase event offered an opportunity for a small number of schools to showcase the work they have been engaged in since last September and it was wonderful to hear and see the work of the schools. One was struck by the over-arching pride of the pupils and their teachers in the work they are engaged in and their willingness to share their experiences with other schools and with the visitors in attendance. The Athlone event was the first such event for this project and I am already looking forward to next year to see and hear from all the schools.
This project is providing schools with a range of additional supports, which includes funding, teacher release time and a range of professional learning opportunities. The DES and the PDST-TiE are providing these supports and working with the clusters to help them realise their goals in terms of enhancing teaching, learning and assessment practices. One of the clusters, a group of six Gaelscoileanna, also presented in DCU last week at the first An Róbó Seó (The Robot Show) in Dublin City University. For more on this event click here.
We know from recent research on supporting innovation in schools that there is a need for the following circumstances to be in place to ensure schools can innovate. Many of the clusters involved in the SEF are already exhibiting these characteristics. Year 2 will commence in September and many of the schools are already planning and considering how they further enhance their projects during the coming school year. We look forward to seeing their projects grow and seeing their exhibits at a bigger and expanded showcase event in 2020.