Education news

Co Down teacher awarded for deepening understanding of computing

Eamonn O'Hare was named IT Educator of the Year

A TEACHER who uses play-based learning to engage the next generation of pupils and teachers with computing has been honoured.

Eamonn O'Hare from St Malachy's High School in Castlewellan is the first winner of the British Computer Society's (BCS) IT Educator of the Year Award.

The award recognises teachers who go above and beyond in raising awareness and deepening understanding of computing.

Mr O'Hare has been a teacher for four decades and is director of ICT and computing at St Malachy's.

He said there was a need to stimulate interest in computing from a young age and much of his work outside his own teaching hours is dedicated to this.

He brought Digital Schoolhouse to the north to help both primary-age children and their teachers.

Mr O'Hare hosts workshops for primary schools and uses play-based learning to help engage pupils and inspire visiting teachers to deliver the computing curriculum.

Much of these lessons, he said, used traditional teaching and learning methods including paper and pencils - teaching computational thinking without switching on devices.

Computational thinking allows children to take a complex problem, understand what it is and then develop possible solutions. Pupils may be asked to work out the right way to make a cheese sandwich or to learn a dance, Mr O'Hare said.

Mr O'Hare is also involved in the Barefoot Computing Project, which equips teachers with the confidence, knowledge and skills to deliver computer science.

More than 40 per cent of the north's primary schools signed up in its first year. Barefoot helps primary educators build their confidence and provides resources, which have been designed by teachers and tailored to meet the needs of the curriculum.

"It used to be that you couldn't get a job without Latin. That was then replaced with the three Rs, then with literacy and numeracy, then literacy, numeracy and ICT," Mr O'Hare said.

"I think we are now in the era of the three Cs - creativity, computational thinking and computer science. Those are the skills for the next generation. If we teach children to learn, they can go and be successful in life."

The new award was introduced this year, BCS said, in recognition of "the major role our teachers play in developing our next generation of professionals to the IT and digital sectors".

Dr Irene Bell, one of the judges and chair of Computing at School said: "It is wonderful that a prestigious professional organisation as the British Computer Society is recognising, through this award, the fantastic work that teachers in Northern Ireland are doing to move forward the computing agenda in their schools and classrooms."

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