How an Irish teacher is giving girls the best chance to learn coding
We talked to Deputy Principal Linda McCusker from St. Vincent's Secondary School in Dundalk about the use of technology in the school. This school is a shining example of how educators can be resourceful with the the technology that they have. Furthermore, the digital leaders of this school are extremely encouraging in giving their female students opportunities to engage with STEM learning.
What subjects do you teach?
I have recently been appointed Deputy Principal in St Vincent’s but I am a teacher of Business Studies, Accounting and IT.
How did you integrate iPad into teaching within your school/classroom?
In St Vincent’s we introduced teacher iPads first and conducted various training sessions with teachers . After two years we then introduced a pilot class but all our teachers created their our own interactive iBooks and content for use with these students.
What was the biggest learning curve when introducing technology into the classroom?
The biggest learning curve was to introduce it slowly and only use Apps or websites that are educationally beneficial – don’t just use an App or website just for the sake of it.
What is your favourite App to use and why?
There are so many Apps that I love to use but for classroom management I would say iDoceo – it is an online teacher journal and it can be modified to suit the requirements of each individual teacher.
In five years’ time, what will teaching be like in schools?
I think teaching will be more about facilitating students to learn and I think the use of iPads and technology is going to be vital in schools to allow this to happen successfully. We can see already how the new Junior Cycle is changing the landscape of education today so it will be very interesting to see how much more will change in the next five years!
How important do you think it is that Computer Science and Coding are integrated into the Irish curriculum?
I think Computer Science and Coding are hugely important and it is vital that that they are integrated into the Irish curriculum. As a school, we are very passionate about giving all our students the opportunity to learn Coding as we believe it is a necessary skill for all students. We are very lucky to have three fantastic coding teachers and have actually been offering Coding to all 1st year and TY students for the past three years. As a result of engaging all students in Coding we have a large number of girls very interested in computer science as a Leaving Certificate subject.
How can we promote coding better with younger girls and influence the gender gap in STEM?
I think coding events such as EU Code Week are a fantastic opportunity to promote coding to younger children. We invited local primary schools into our school during EU Code Week. Our TY students led workshops on Scratch, programming BBC Micro:bits, using inventors kits and using iPad and Sphero for 467 primary schools student and it was fantastic to see so many young children engage with coding.
Follow Linda on Twitter: Linda McCusker