Two schools in Ireland’s flagship digital town have joined with local technology companies to produce some of the most technically proficient second-level students in Ireland.

Gorey Community School(CS) and Creagh College have positioned themselves to be national leaders in the area of digital engagement through partnerships with local technology hubs which has seen Gorey named as Ireland’s 2018 Digital Town.

The north Wexford town will this week host a series of high-profile events for Ireland’s Internet Day, celebrating the digital transformation of the town.

Creagh College is a fully iPad-based school where students create new and exciting ideas in the world of IT, such as their own VPNs, apps and in some cases automated systems.

So far, their students have produced timed reaction games creating own bleep tests, made weather stations, GAA score counters and mock-up traffic light systems for the town.

They are in the first wave of schools nationally to teach computer science as a subject, but beyond that, they have linkages with local companies that has allowed their students to accelerate their interest in IT and offers them a potential future working locally.

The Educate to Innovate fund set-up by technology company Innovate, based in Innovation House, has assisted in setting up the computer science lab in Creagh College and a unique IT Hub in Gorey Community School, modelled on Microsoft’s Dreamspace in Sandyford.

Gorey CS is the largest second-level school in the country with over 1600 students and 140 staff.

Part of the pilot Digital Learning Framework Programme, their integrated digital plan is now seen as a template for schools nationwide.

All staff and students are connected through the Microsoft Office 365 for Business Platform, allowing seamless collaboration which has transformed teaching and learning.

“The Educate to Innovate Student Hub is an amazing student-only space where small groups of students can meet, collaborate, create and learn,” said Brendan O’Sullivan, IT Coordinator and Digital Technology Leader.

“Innovate’s investment in the school feeds into Gorey’s vision of connecting local business, schools and community organisations to provide for a growing technology-based town where people can opt to de-commute and work in their own area.

“As well as the advice and support we receive in the Hatch Lab, IT Tallaght also run coding programmes for our young innovative students, with opportunities being explored for students to engage in online projects with experts there.”

Brendan has been selected to attend the Erasmus eTwinning Conference in Poland this week, which will provide an opportunity for Gorey CS to work with schools throughout Europe on eProjects in language, culture, history, geography and IT

Across the town, Creagh College have equally embraced all aspects of digital learning.

All students have iPads, access to 200mb wi-fi and all classrooms are essentially computer labs.

Staff share interesting and fully interactive resources with their students at the drop of a hat which results in a more immersive, engaging and interactive learning experience.

“We are already offering the new Leaving Certificate Computer Science course where students cover a vast quantity of computational concepts including programming in Python, JavaScript and HTML, analytics, robotics, data mining, networks and embedded systems,” said computer science teacher Tony McGrath.

In addition, Creagh offer an Embedded Systems module to their transition year students which is also being phased in from first year on.

“This involves programming Raspberry Pi and BBC Microbit and comprises programming, technology, robotics and artificial intelligence,” said Tony.

“Students build and develop a range of physical computing devices such as line-following robots, motion activated alarm systems and environmental interactive systems.

“This is an instant way of beginning to understand inputs, outputs and how you make things respond rather than just sitting there and playing with Scratch.”

After school coding and technology clubs are provided to build on students existing interests and skill sets.

There has been an exponential rise interest in third-level STEM courses as a result of the digital transformation in both schools.

“Because of the Embedded Systems module and the Computer Science course we feel that there will be a three-fold rise in our students studying these disciplines, which is a great result for the school and our community,” said Tony.

Gorey Chamber are closely involved in the tie-up between the town’s schools and its digital infrastructure.

“We have set out a 30-year strategy for Gorey with education at its heart. As the saying goes: ‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest’,” said Diarmuid Deveraux, CEO of Gorey Chamber.

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