'It has been a roaring success for us': Schools partnership Apple of firm’s eye

Educators on Cork’s northside, as well as pupils, tell Breda Graham about the benefits of being part of the Apple Education Programme
'It has been a roaring success for us': Schools partnership Apple of firm’s eye

SCHOOLS across Cork have been benefiting from a partnership with Apple, one of the largest employers in the city, which has seen students develop their tech skills at a young age.

SCHOOLS across Cork have been benefiting from a partnership with Apple, one of the largest employers in the city, which has seen students develop their tech skills at a young age.

The Apple Education Programme sees Apple assign a senior manager as a sponsor at each participating school.

The sponsors engage with the schools on an ongoing basis to ensure that Apple is providing the best possible support to the students.

The sponsors gather feedback from the schools, and that is used to identify areas for future collaboration.

Some of the initiatives Apple is carrying out with these schools include iPad donations whereby the company donates a full classroom set of devices to each school that it is working with; and tech education where each school is provided with access to an Apple Distinguished Educator who visits the schools on a weekly basis to provide training for teachers, enabling them to work with students on the company’s Everyone Can Create and Everyone Can Code courses, which are aimed at increasing student engagement through coding and creativity.

Apple also provides Leaving Certificate support where multilingual employees provide additional language support to students at the schools which the company partners with. It also provides career guidance which sees Apple host career events at the schools to help support students to find opportunities and identify areas of interest.

Speaking about how the programme has benefited her students, Phil O’Flynn, principal of Terence MacSwiney College, Knocknaheeny, said: “In 2015 Terence MacSwiney Community College leadership entered a partnership with Apple. As part of the collaboration, Apple volunteers began working alongside teachers at the school to help implement the Everyone Can Code and Everyone Can Create curricula, aimed at increasing student engagement through coding and creativity.

“Additionally, Apple provided the necessary funding and technology so the students could have hands-on learning experiences. The partnership helped spark positive momentum for Terence MacSwiney School. The students were now being exposed to the latest technology, creativity, and positive role models from Apple Staff.”

Ms O’Flynn said that school management and staff have witnessed the impact first-hand and have numerous anecdotes of student success.

“A recent example of students using their high-level technology skills with great purpose is the creation of a food app by our Food Fund group who redistributes excess school dinners to local food charity Penny Dinners.

“We are very proud of this initiative and the students’ nature combined with their tech skills and work ethic. Apple Volunteers have also contributed to enhancing the environment of the school by painting, planting, and landscaping the school grounds.

“A particularly aesthetic contribution from Apple staff was the creation of a mural in our outside area which has brightened that area and helped create a child-friendly, positive space,” she said.

The principal of North Presentation Secondary School in Farranree, Adrian Gibbs, said Apple has been working with the school for the past three years, which he said students have benefited from enormously.

“They currently supply 35 iPads and accessories for student and teacher use. They are mainly used by transition year students, who have benefited enormously from their use over the three years.

“We have seen a marked improvement in their digital skills during this time. We also use them with our first, second, and third years, allowing them to build up their skills for transition year and for the future.

“We are lucky to be supported in this by Miriam Walsh, an Apple Distinguished Educator, and Lorraine O’Keeffe from Apple, who is a past pupil of North Pres.”

Mr Gibbs said that next year volunteers from Apple will be helping the school to digitise its photo archive as it moves towards co-ed in September 2023.

“We also look forward to visiting Apple in 2023 as part of the TY programme.”

Kevin Byrne, a teacher at Scoil Bernadette in Montenotte, told The Echo that communication about wanting to work with the transition year students in the school was received from Apple in 2019.

“This meant we would receive 24 top-of-the-range student iPads and six staff iPads. Even better, they will be updated regularly with the newest models. Apple also sent an iMac for every class in a separate donation about the same time.

“At this point we got to meet with the Apple distinguished educator Miriam Walsh who provided a couple of our staff with training.

“Over the last school year, and the current one, we have really got to benefit from the investment that also included charging cabinets, two Beats Pill speakers, an Apple TV, Apple Pencils, iPad covers, and some mini keyboards.

“We have worked to fulfil Apple’s overarching philosophies that Everyone Can Code and Everyone can Create. All the students’ work is saved to a Minicac. Each student has their own login and as a result, every student in the school can use the iPads for research, photography, videoing, making podcasts, presenting work, writing stories, making music, recording science experiments, and anything else they can think of.

“They can draw, edit photos, control robots, program characters, and some have even flown the school drone using the iPad.

“We record school plays, and send videos and photos home to parents using our social media seamlessly through the iPads.

“Features like Airdrop and Screen Share let the students work collaboratively and present to their peers directly.”

Mr Byrne said the iPads have been used for environmental and sustainable good also, with the school’s Green Schools team using QR codes, online quizzes, and recording energy use through their iPads.

“We also find the iPads to be inclusive devices allowing students to participate in their own learning style at their own pace. Leaving Certificate Applied tasks in information technology were made simple this year thanks to iPads being so adaptable to the needs of the student designing the task and the students taking part in them.”

Mr Byrne described the venture as “so important” to students and said that without the investment and generosity of Apple the school could not have afforded to risk the amount of finance needed for this setup.

“It was a venture into the unknown but has been a roaring success for us. In the future, it would be great for our particular student cohort to see that there is a future for them at a company like Apple in some way however small.”

Scoil Bernadette pupil Oisin O’hAolain developed his technical and presentation skills throughout the venture with Apple.

“I loved the coding and the Book Creator app and everything I learned from our Apple Distinguished Educator Miriam who teaches every Wednesday. I loved presenting my news every Monday morning. I can now use a keynote slideshow and multimedia to bring my news to life in an inclusive way — sound, video, drawing, and not just typing,” he said.

Caoimhe Corcoran said she found the coding section most interesting because it was “easy to learn”.

“I also enjoyed getting to drive the Sphero Bolt robots. I can drive it or teach it to draw out shapes like a heart or a square.”

Rory O’Donovan said he loved the creative aspect of the programme which he said allowed him to make his own book, using his own photos from the farm at home, his horse riding videos, and friends at school to make a personal reading book like a real author.

Ava Freeman said she also enjoyed making her own book with pictures from home and school, while Cian Richardson said he learned how to drive the robot in their classroom and used it in Geography.

Adam O’Keeffe said he loved using the Sketch School application, which he said was “great fun”.

“I made loads of lovely pics with my class. Mirman showed me how to use the application. It was great fun.”

Speaking about the impact the programme has had on local schools, Cathy Kearney, Apple VP of operations for Europe, Middle East, India, and Africa, said: “We believe education is a powerful force for equity, opening doors to new opportunities.

“We are deeply committed to supporting our local schools here in Cork, helping equip young people with the tools they need to develop critical skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

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