Prestigious European digital award for Mayo primary school

Pupils and staff at St Patrick’s NS Carnanool, Castlebar. The school earned the highly regarded Digital Schools of Europe Award. One of just 14 schools nationwide to earn the award, Cornanool is the only school in the west to achieve the award. PHOTO: ALISON LAREDO

St. Patrick’s NS, Cornanool – a three-teacher school located in the parish of Islandeady – has demonstrated the efficacy of its digital educational practice on both the national and continental stage.

It is one of 12 Irish primary and post-primary schools chosen to receive the Digital Schools of Europe Award.

The Digital Schools of Europe Award – a product of Dublin West Education Center (DWEC) – recognizes those schools that excel at digital educational practice.

It is aligned with both national and international policies aiming to embed digital literacy and innovative digital competence within the Irish education system.

The award recognizes collectivity and its criteria necessitate synergy of practice between the different groups which make up a school – teachers, SNAs, parents and guardians, boards of management and students – as well as empirical evidence of student-centred learning.

Upon review of the factors that contributed to Ireland’s last recession, the Irish government pinpointed enhancing its citizens digital innovative capacity as a means to ensure those lessons learned were not repeated.

The success of its resulting policies – the Digital Strategy for Schools and the Digital Learning Framework – were put to the test by schools’ ability to pivot from face-to-face teaching and learning to emergency remote teaching and learning during both school lockdowns.

St. Patrick’s NS began its online teaching and learning on the first day of lockdown one and continued its provision until the end of lockdown two.

In many ways the Digital Schools of Europe Award was a gesture towards the school’s endeavors during school lockdowns, where students and teachers connected via Google Hangouts, Zoom calls, Seesaw and Padlet throughout the day. Through these media students used Google Classroom and even Minecraft so as to continue their formal education.

While St. Patrick’s NS performed excellently at its online practice, its face-to-face practice, where students learn through Scratch, Microsoft Make Code, MakeyMakeys and MicroBits, determined the sophisticated level of its digital educational leadership.

Dermot Walsh, principal, who is researching in the area of ​​technology enhanced learning and who has recently stepped into the chair of CESI – the Computers in Education Society of Ireland – thanked Deputy Alan Dillon for presenting the award and Councilor Martin McLoughlin for formally hoisting its Digital Schools of Europe flag.

He also paid tribute to his colleagues, deputy principal Maura Cawley, Tanya McLoughlin, Laura Campbell, Kay Harrington and Helen McGowan for their ability to adapt to the changing landscape of education which the school has so avidly embraced.

Moreover, the board of management, which is chaired by Mary Walsh, and included treasurer Seán Mcloughlin, Parish Priest Fr. Chris Brennan, Eric Carney, Patricia Carney, Sharon Collins and John O’Malley, was identified as a key factor in enabling the school’s transition to 21st Century teaching and learning.

On the day of the award, Robbie O’Leary, representing DWEC, noted how enthusiastically students Molly Harrison and Paul O’Malley, along with parents’ association representatives Bernie Ginnelly and Ciara McDonagh, spoke about the school’s journey and recent growth.

With two new classrooms being built to innovative design specifications under the guidance of AXO architect’s Michael Horan and due to open in December 2023, Mr. Walsh noted increases enrollment inquiries to eolas@cornanoolns.ie and online traffic at www.cornanoolns.ie as a result of the school’s growing national and international reputation.

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