ICT innovation: Bring on the glittering prizes

Ballyclare High School have an exceptional ICT awards’ portfolio which includes winning the 2015 E-Safety Mark and the 2015 Intel World Visionary ICT Teacher award. TIM MARTIN speaks to GARETH SHAW, ICT strategy leader at the co-educational grammar, to discuss how he embraces innovation and the ways in which pupils are benefiting from a bespoke programme of ICT learning

Ballyclare High School has often enjoyed a reputation for punching above its weight. The Northern Irish school is well-known for regularly challenging the sporting might of Belfast’s elite grammar schools in the prestigious Ulster Schools’ Cup rugby competition. This sporting excellence seems to be evenly matched by ICT excellence following a series of awards that have established the school as a leader in the field of innovation and edtech.

Skills for the 21st century work place

Gareth Shaw, ICT strategy leader at the school, is a central figure behind this success and someone who has an obvious hand in every area of ICT. His sphere of influence includes everything from staff training to social media strategies, setting the school’s ICT vision and delivering a curriculum that he says, “…equips students with the necessary skills for the 21st century work place.” He also has many accolades to show for his work – even a cursory glance at his record of achievement is enough to catch the eye. He’s a multiple award-winner with the Microsoft Innovative Teacher programme and a World Intel Education Visionary.

However, he puts the school’s success down to team work rather than focusing on self-congratulation. “Our leadership team has established a strong vision and clear strategy for the use of technology which provides purpose and direction and guides future decisionmaking about, for example, the introduction of new technologies,” he says. This leadership team, otherwise referred to as the educational technology strategy group (ETSG) is made up of the school’s principal, senior team members, head of ICT, systems manager, e-safety officer and representatives of departments across the curriculum. “Our vision is documented, communicated, understood and shared widely with stakeholders; it draws on the curriculum and pedagogy rather than the technology itself,” Gareth explains. In this sense, ICT is an open secret both in and outside the school; staff, parents and pupils are all aware of what’s happening. Alongside this open approach are six key aims, developed by the ETSG, which support ICT innovation and teaching and learning.

This is an abstract of an article that appeared in the March issue of Education Executive. 

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