€150 Million Government Investment for ‘Smart Schools’
Today Taoiseach Brian Cowen launched a €150m plan for ‘smart schools’, a major high-tech drive to support the embedding of technology into the curriculum. As part of this initiative every classroom in the country will get a teaching laptop and a digital projector (not surprising, no mention of Interactive Whiteboards) within the next three years. This new action plan has been produced by the joint advisory group established by Minister, Batt O’Keeffe, and builds on the earlier strategy group report, ‘Investing Effectively in ICT in Schools’. This advisory group was chaired by Paul Rellis, Managing Director of Microsoft Ireland, and comprised members of ICT Ireland, the Telecommunications and Internet Federation, the Irish Software Association, the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and the National Centre for Technology in Education. The first stage of the plan will see €22m in grants given to primary schools before the end of the year whilst funding for post-primary schools will be made available early in the New Year.
Whilst such a significant investment in ICTs for teaching and learning should be welcomed, its real significance remains to be seen as we wait for more details of its implementation to emerge and see if the action plan is accompanied by a clear and learning-centred policy for integrating ICTs into the curriculum. To date this integration has been patchy to say the least due to a serious lack of investment since 2000, with only sporadic grants being made available. To boot, schools have been left to to deploy these meagre resources with little or no guidance leaving significant differences between the levels of ICT integration from one school to the next. To achieve meaningful integration in every school we need long-term support for ICTs not just occasional spurts of funding with comprehensive support and guidance for procurement and implementation.
As always the devil will be in the detail, and the jury’s out until these emerge.