Microsoft: Classrooms need latest technology

ALL students and teachers need access to the latest technology in class if young people are to meet the challenges of the 21st century, the head of software giant Microsoft Ireland has warned.

Paul Rellis said Microsoft has a simple vision of students, teachers and parents being developed to realise their potential any time, on any device through the power of technology.

“In real terms, this vision translates into providing increased levels of access for students and teachers to technical devices that they can use in the classroom and in their homes,” he said.

At a conference organised by employers’ body IBEC on teaching and learning in the 21st century, Mr Rellis called for a debate on how to deliver a new method of professional development for teachers and an assessments system with digital technology at its centre.

“Things are changing so quickly, we need to continually innovate so that we can continue to compete. Equipping our students with relevant IT skills is an essential part of ensuring that Ireland is in a position to compete in the medium and long term,” the managing director said.

Mr Rellis said new thinking needs to be brought to the professional development of teachers so the curriculum is delivered in a way that ensures the right skills are in place for the economy’s future.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) said it shared this vision but it is impossible to use information and communications technology (ICT) as a classroom tool when almost a third of school computers are past their sell-by date.

“Many children use modern computers and software at home for social networking, surfing the web and creating sophisticated presentations. But in most classrooms it’s impossible to do any of this because there are too many pupils and too few computers,” said INTO general secretary John Carr.

Teachers’ unions and opposition parties have been calling on the Government to meet its commitments under the 2007-2013 National Development Plan to spend €252 million on ICT for schools.

A spokesperson for Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe’s said €14m of the funding is being spent this year through the National Council for Technology in Education, some of it being used to train 11,000 teachers on the use of ICT in the classroom.

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