NI school leaders attend the inaugural Inspire conference showcasing latest education technology

More than 400 education experts gathered at the Titanic Centre in Belfast on the 17th November for Inspire 2015, a conference showcasing some of the world’s leading educational technology. Supported by Google for Education and HP Inc, the event was the first Capita and C2k Inspire Conference for School Leaders.

Delegates – including teachers from 350 schools – heard from leaders in education who work with government and schools around the world. The conference was opened by John O’Dowd MLA, the Northern Irish Minister for Education. Speakers included Tim Rylands an internationally recognised teacher famous for his work with Web 2.0 and Professor Stephen Heppell, the renowned new media and educational technology expert, who spoke to delegates via a live stream from Australia.

The importance of ICT skills to the NI economy was outlined by Tom Gray, Vice-Chair of the Matrix Group and CTO, Kainos. Another of the main focuses of the conference was the issue of e-safety in school. Geraldine Donnelly, Principal of St Joseph’s Grammar School in Donaghmore, shared her experiences and the importance of ensuring students remain safe while using technology.

Delegates also celebrated the achievements of schools in the Capita Managed IT Solutions and C2k Education Network ICT Excellence Awards. The new awards, running for the first time in 2015, celebrate the innovative and collaborative use of technology in schools across Northern Ireland and its positive impact on students and their wider communities.

The winning school in the category ‘Transforming Teaching & Learning Through Technology’ was Cumran Primary School in Clough, County Down. The school has fully integrated technology in the learning experience from the interactive use of projection to stimulate ‘carpet time’ discussion, through the use of coding/control and Green Screen technology cleverly integrated with topic work to bring elements of the curriculum to life, to the use of Augmented Reality/QR codes to make display interactive rather than passive.

The winning school in the category ‘Developing Excellence in the Use of Technology Through Partnership’ was St. Canice’s Primary School in Feeny, Londonderry. The school is engaged in partnerships with several other schools aimed at improving teachers’ confidence and the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning.

It uses the systems and resources available through the C2k Education Network and makes particularly effective use of the Fronter VLE and Equella content management system, Collaborate conferencing tool and C2k Newsdesk. Having built up this base of good practice, the school has encouraged and enabled the ICT Coordinator to share their knowledge and experience with others.

Stephen Moss, Innovation Forum Chair, was one of the judges of the ICT Excellence Awards. He said: “It was a pleasure to have been involved in the judging of these awards, which enabled schools to demonstrate the impact that their use of ICT has had on teaching and engagement with pupils, staff and wider schools communities. The quality of the entries was extremely high and all schools should be proud of their achievements.”

Paddy Mackey, C2k’s acting director, said: “This was a wonderful opportunity for our schools to demonstrate how they are involved in some fantastic initiatives to integrate ICT into their teaching. It was fascinating to hear about the next generation of educational technology and how it will continue to have a growing role in classrooms over the coming years.”

Ed Brown, managing director of Capita Managed IT Solutions, said: “It was great to welcome so many leading education technologists to Belfast. Northern Ireland has led the way with building cutting edge technology into its schools. This conference demonstrated the passion that our school leaders have for using technology to enhance the teaching experience.”