Digital School of Distinction

Posted on Monday, February 15, 2016

Last Monday 8th of February Neil O'Sullivan of Digital Schools visited our school to validate our Digital Schools of Distinction application.
The Digital Schools award is a Department of Education and Skills accredited award and less than 10% of all primary schools to date have been awarded.
The Digital Schools of Distinction programme aims to"promote, recognise and encourage excellence in the use of technology in primary schools".
Staff and pupils showed Neil O'Sullivan all their work in integrating ICT in their teaching and learning and on Friday evening we received the  wonderful news that we are now a Digital Schools of Distinction. See report below.
The award will be unveiled at a special ceremony in the school. Date to be decided. 

Digital Schools of Distinction Award Evaluation Report
Duais na Scoileanna Dhigiteacha ar Leith

Scoil: Eyercourt National School   
Uimhir Rolla: 15997p
Data na Cuairte Deimhnithe: 8/02/2016

Leadership & Vision – Ceannaireacht agus Fís
This a small rural school with just 3 class teachers and a resource so there is constant and regular discussion about ICT integration during the day as well as at staff meetings. There is a lot of enthusiasm about integrating ICT in the school among the staff and the Principal and the Board are supportive of this. The School ICT plan identifies targets on how best ICT should be used in teaching and learning to support the curriculum. The area of special education is also addressed. The school has recently installed Aladdin software to assist with planning and administration and are embedding it into the system. Teachers use ICT tools in teaching and for planning in the resource room. They plan to get more SEN specific software going forward. The classrooms are utilising visualizers, digital cameras and audio recorders and are planning to invest more resources in this area. The school has reached the base line of teaching computer and data projector with interactivity in each class room. They are also planning on getting more laptops as funds become available. The school also utilises Google Drive and Dropbox for sharing resources and planning.

ICT in the Curriculum – TFC sa Churaclaim
All teachers use ICT seamlessly in their teaching. I was very impressed with the work in the senior class where the children showed how they plan, manage and present their newsletter, The Eyercourt Examiner. This publication has received national acclimation and was reported on in the national media and the EXCITED conference in 2015 in Dublin Castle. The children presented PowerPoint presentations which they had done and they also showed me how they use voice recorders to interview people for the newsletter. In all classrooms the children showed great enthusiasm about the work they had done and explained to me how they did it. The school uses the digital cameras and a host of software applications both content rich and content free throughout the day. The schools Internet Connection has recently improved and has given the staff added impetus to experiment more with technology such as YouTube, Khan Academy, GoNoodle to mention a few.

School ICT Culture – Cultúr TFC sa Scoil
The school has a very effective website and its key cultural activity is The Eyercourt Examiner which is sold at home and abroad and funds and management is looked after by the children.  The children were all at ease using technology either on PC, Laptops or on the IWB. They also use ICT for homework from time to time. The school communicates with parents in a variety of ways and they using SMS and they have a very good website. Many of the children have computers are home and the children show their parents their work. There is lots of evidence of pupils ICT work throughout the school. There is much evidence digital camera work in the school also. The School also runs after school clubs and Coder Dojo classes. This is an excellent initiative and is recognised internationally as one of the features of the Irish Primacy School’s where teachers give of their free time to facilitate after school classes and clubs.

Professional Development – Forbairt Proifisiúnta Leanúnach
At present training requirements are adequately displayed on the school notice-board and catered for by attendance at various courses and ICT Support evenings in various Education Centre. The Principal. Ms Tracey. is a PDST/TIE tutor and encourages all staff to participate in extra CPD. The ICT coordinator/príomhoide is presently appraising the various needs of the staff to ensure a continuity of excellent work throughout the school, especially a view to seeing how they can renew or refurbish their existing equipment.

Resources & Infrastructure - Achmhainní agus Bonneagar
The school has a variety of ICT resources, a teaching computer and IWB and visualizer and digital camera and audio devices in all classrooms. There are also a number of laptops and older PCs for student use in class and for research purposes. The school uses a variety of software tools in teaching and learning both content rich and content free. The most pressing problem now is getting more equipment for all the classrooms. They would need at least good working 3 PCs or laptops for each classroom and finding funds for this is a constant struggle. The school now has a pretty good Broadband service and much use is made of Google Drive and Aladdin, and Dropbox to share resources plans

General comments and recommendations -Moltaí agus Ráiteas breise
This school is a leader in many ways in its use of ICT in teaching and learning. The clever use of The Eyercourt Examiner to manage to reach all aspects of the curriculum is an example which we hope to highlight to other schools in the Digital Schools of Distinction Network. The children are exposed to the 21st Century skills such as good communication, creativity, critical thinking and collaboration at an early stage which will stand them in good stead when they move to secondary school and beyond. The children in all classes are encouraged to research and use tools to support their own learning at their pace which an essential lifelong learning skill which all children should be introduced today.

If this school had access to funds to update its hardware and give its enthusiastic students more hands on experience using technology this school would be a beacon school not only in East Galway but also at a national level. This would also give the teachers who are enthusiastic about the effectiveness of ICT in teaching and learning more opportunities to express themselves and their teaching practice more effectively.

Scoring – Marcanna bronnta
The visit more than validated the statements on their Self Evaluation Review.

Neil O’Sullivan, Chief Validator.

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