Irish Examiner - County
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.