Plug­ging in

Irish Examiner - County - - Front page - Áilín Quin­lan

Stu­dents learn­ing skills to build ro­bots.

Chil­dren as young as four will learn sim­ple cod­ing in three small West Cork pri­mary schools un­der a new gov­ern­ment-funded ro­bot­ics pro­gramme which aims to up­skill them so they can build their own ro­bots by fifth and sixth class!

It’s all part of an ex­cit­ing new IT skills pack­age set to run from next Septem­ber in three small ru­ral pri­mary schools.

The schools se­cured up to €20,000 in fund­ing after be­ing se­lected to par­tic­i­pate in the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and Skills three-year School Ex­cel­lence Fund — Dig­i­tal pro­gramme.

The fund, sup­ported un­der a scheme an­nounced by Min­is­ter Richard Bru­ton, will en­able more than 30 such clus­ters of schools all over the coun­try to work on spe­cific projects to teach and demon­strate the in­no­va­tive use of dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies.

The IT ini­tia­tive in West Cork will be spear­headed by Togher Na­tional School, Dun­man­way, work­ing along­side Cap­pabue Na­tional School a few miles from Kealkil, and Dri­nagh Na­tional School in Dri­nagh vil­lage.

“Sim­ple cod­ing will be taught from as early as junior in­fants, and pupils will de­velop their skills to the point where they will be build­ing ro­bots by fifth and sixth class,” ex­plained the prin­ci­pal of Togher Na­tional School, Helen O’Con­nell, who said that teach­ing a ba­sic work­ing knowl­edge of IT would help to en­hance learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for all the pupils.

“We are al­ways seek­ing new learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and we are ex­cited to be in­volved in this pro­ject. We look for­ward to work­ing with Cap­pabue and Dri­nagh Na­tional Schools,” Ms O’Con­nell said.

Togher NS teacher Richard Swann, who played a piv­otal role in ap­ply­ing for the pro­gramme, will co-or­di­nate and lead the pro­gramme in all three schools, Ms O’Con­nell ex­plained, adding that, as Togher NS had in­tro­duced cod­ing a few years ago, the in­tro­duc­tion of ro­bot­ics to the school was the log­i­cal next step.

“Ro­bot­ics and cod­ing in the class­room is an ef­fec­tive way to fos­ter higher sci­en­tific rea­son­ing, crit­i­cal think­ing and other im­por­tant skills. This pro­ject will al­low us to re­ally ex­pand the use of tech­nol­ogy in the schools in­volved.”

To­gether, she said, the three schools would in­te­grate ro­bot­ics and cod­ing for the ex­plo­ration and learn­ing of science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing, and maths (STEM) con­cepts.

Projects will run right through from junior to se­nior classes — junior classes will be taught sim­ple cod­ing which will en­hance the learn­ing of maths, while se­nior classes will build their own ro­bots and then cre­ate vis­ual block pro­gram­ming for these ro­bots.

Although this was a three­year pro­ject, she said, the tech­no­log­i­cal equip­ment in­clud­ing ro­bot­ics would ben­e­fit all three schools for many years to come and would form the ba­sis for the on­go­ing teach­ing of these skills.

Togher Na­tional School has a proven a track record of proac­tively us­ing IT — the school has won sev­eral na­tional awards for the use of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy, along with many STEM awards.

It also holds a Dig­i­tal School of Dis­tinc­tion award which recog­nises schools for de­liv­er­ing the best ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence for their pupils through in­for­ma­tion and com­puter tech­nol­ogy.

One el­e­ment of the ap­pli­ca­tion was link­ing the school with post-pri­mary or third level ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, said Ms O’Con­nell.

A lec­turer at the School of Com­puter Science & In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy, UCC, has come on­board as an ad­vi­sor for this pro­ject. Ms O’Con­nell also thanked UCC for its re­cent do­na­tion of com­put­ers and ro­bot­ics kits.

Pic­ture: De­nis Boyle

At Togher NS, Dun­man­way was Kimi Bosma, Oisín O’Brien and Thomas Kingston with their ro­bots with teacher Richard Swan and prin­ci­pal Helen O’Con­nell.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.