Portlaoise College is marching ahead with technical advances, this year becoming one of the first secondary schools in Laois to introduce computer coding as a subject.
First Year students have taken on Coding as one of two 'short' courses, the other being Computer Design. The new options are part of the new reformed Junior Cert, chosen instead of another full subject.
Principal Noel Daly is delighted that a full class has taken it up.
"They are delighted with it. We introduced it because we felt there was a demand for it, and we must run with the times. I hope it will now grow and develop, as it is in line with the national strategy around STEM subjects," he told the Leinster Express on a visit to the school.
The coding teacher is Joe Gleeson, who is using the Scratch coding programme online.
"The students have the freedom to be creative, to use computational thinking, maths skills, and develop their communication skills through creating software and writing code," he said.
Next year the students will develop their own apps, and design code to carry out tasks.
First Year Noor Fatima went to Educate Together NS, and loves the coding class.
"It's really interesting, it is a head start if you want to do computer science when you grow up," she said.
Callum Ingham and Shane Byrne are both used to coding, as members of CoderDojo kids coding clubs.
"It's interesting, it's great to go in to school and learn to do code, we are doing all the blocks, doing algorithms, and drawing shapes, then if they don't work we can experiment further," said Shane.
Callen Dunne is also enjoying the class with an eye to a future career.
"It's a good skill to have with the advance of technology and new jobs," the first year said.
The course gives the students the option to go on to study technical subjects in the Leaving Cert cycle.
The new Junior Cert syllabus has more continuous assessment, and it has helped with stress in students says Mr Gleeson.
"It has taken the focus off exams, we don't teach to exam, but instead focus on the process of learning skills, rather than just information. It can be calmer for students," the technology teacher said.
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