Council programme brings digital learning to the classroom

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Pictured with students from Markethill High School participating in the ‘Digital Youth’ programme are (from left) Carol Fitzsimmons from Young Enterprise NI, Lord Mayor Alderman Gareth Wilson and Fiona Corvan from MakeMatic.

‘Digital Youth’, an award-winning programme that was first launched by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council in 2017 enabling over 500 students in 12 local secondary schools to develop a stronger foundation in digital skills, is back on the curriculum this year with a new element that extends the reach of the digital learning experience to encompass teachers as well as students.

Lord Mayor Alderman Gareth Wilson joined students, Vice Principal James McCoy and teacher Gordon Parkes from Markethill High School, one of 12 secondary schools participating in this year’s programme, on Wednesday 7 March to mark the launch of ‘Digital Youth’ as it enters its second year. Representatives from programme delivery partners, Young Enterprise NI and MakeMatic, were also present.

Speaking about the merits of the programme which was named overall winner in the ‘Digital Skills’ category at the NextGen Digital Challenge Awards 2017, the Lord Mayor commented:

“Following on from the successful delivery of this innovative programme last year, I am delighted to welcome its return given the tremendous potential it offers in expanding students’ digital literacy knowledge in areas such as coding, app development, robotics, digital photography and filmmaking – thereby enhancing their exposure and building their confidence so that they may consider pursuing a career in the fast growing digital technology sector. It’s equally exciting to learn that teachers can now also participate in the programme and access vital professional development video learning. After all they are key to delivering digital skills in the classroom and supporting our efforts to cultivate a digital enterprise culture in the borough.”

Carol Fitzsimons, Chief Executive with Young Enterprise NI, the local charity responsible for delivering the programme on behalf of the council, added:

“Teaching digital skills in schools should be regarded as equally important as lessons in numeracy and literacy. We commend the council for supporting the education system in the development of young people and the application of their digital literacy. Many young people have no experience of applying digital skills in the workplace and don’t always realise the growing significance of this to employers across a range of sectors. This programme will equip them with the skills they need to develop bright careers in whatever industry they choose.”

As part of the programme, students will be able to attend practical masterclasses where they can get hands-on with a range of digital technology tools, develop their digital skills and explore career possibilities and qualifications.

They will also be supported and mentored by digital ambassadors who will inspire them to develop project ideas for setting up a digital business of their own in the future. Teams from schools will pitch their digital project to a panel of experts at a showcase event in June, which will also celebrate the achievements of all participants.

MakeMatic has also been brought on board this year to help teachers become more digitally literate so that they too can support digital learning in the classroom.

MakeMatic co-founder Mark Nagurski commented:

“We’re extremely excited to be working with the council and Young Enterprise NI on such a great project. Every teacher in each participating school will have free access to our full library of professional development courses. We’ll also be supporting them in-person through a series of on-boarding workshops. This is exactly the kind of innovative programme that can have a real, lasting impact.”

Other schools participating in ‘Digital Youth’ are Clounagh Junior High School, City of Armagh High School, Drumcree College (St. John’s the Baptist College), Killicomaine Junior High School, Lismore Comprehensive, Lurgan College, New Bridge Integrated College, Portadown College, St. Catherine’s College, St. Patrick’s College and Tandragee Junior High School.