The first-ever Longford Microsoft Dream Space Showcase took place in Edgeworthstown last week.
The event showcased projects by over 300 primary school children from 11 schools across Co Longford, following their participation in the Microsoft Dream Space Academy.
This education programme introduces STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) subjects at primary level in a creative, fun and collaborative way.
Introducing computational thinking
The school programme in Longford started as a national pilot in January when Longford County Council IT Department and Longford County Library Services teamed up with Microsoft.
Over a 10-week period, Microsoft issued an email to participating schools providing online tutorials and classes to Longford primary school teachers to help them use small computers called Micro:bits.
These devices are a great introduction to computational thinking, problem-solving skills and critical thinking.
The showcase event on Friday was a celebration of all the schools’ journeys, where they presented projects and learnings from this programme.
The programme and the showcase were funded by Creative Ireland and supported by the Department of Public Expenditure NDP Delivery and Reform (PENDR) under the Public Service Innovation Fund 2023 and Longford County Council.
The project was also supported by industry partners Ericsson and HP, who exhibited on the showcase day at St Mary’s Community Sports Hub, Edgeworthstown.
Outstanding school award
The Longford tech all-star perpetual award went to St Joseph’s National School.
Speaking after her school won the overall prize, teacher at St Joseph’s Beatrice Shanley spoke about the impact the project has had on her class.
“We are just blown away by this whole process. This was the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced as a teacher within Co Longford.
"The whole process from the very beginning, week by week, generated so much creativity, inclusivity and interest among the children. I’ve never seen a project quite like it.
“It was wonderful for us as teachers to be learning alongside the children. It’s really giving Longford primary schools a running start at the new curriculum subject areas of mathematics, science and technology," she said.
Committed to providing opportunities
Speaking about the event, Microsoft Dream Space lead Amanda Jolliffe said: “At Microsoft, we are committed to providing every student on the island of Ireland with the opportunity to engage in an immersive Microsoft Dream Space STEM experience in an effort to cultivate a new generation of digital leaders.
"With this in mind, we were delighted to partner with Longford County Council to help bring this initiative to life by engaging more rural schools in STEM and digital skills experiences through our Microsoft Dream Space experience.
"It was great to see so many schools participating on the day and we’re looking forward to welcoming many of them to our campus in Dublin later in June, where they will be able to showcase their projects once again with schools from other counties who have engaged with us on this initiative.”
Longford County Council is working towards Longford being the first county in the country with computer science available as a Leaving Certificate option in all nine secondary schools.
The Longford Microsoft Dream Space Showcase will become an annual highlight for primary school pupils to work towards.
For further information, check out Longfordcoco.ie or follow Longford County Council on social media.