Microsoft Ireland today marked the three-year anniversary of its digital learning experience, DreamSpace, by hosting a special Girls in ICT Day virtual event. Over 600 students from 22 girls’ primary schools across the island of Ireland participated in the virtual event, which was hosted in partnership with W5, Belfast’s award-winning science and discovery centre.
Students from 5th and 6th class at St Patricks GNS Ringsend were some of those who tuned in to the virtual session where students had the opportunity to engage in STEM learning activities including designing and testing their own bridges and coding their own Arcade games. These activities, like all DreamSpace experiences, aim to help foster critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity skills. The celebratory DreamSpace event sought to inspire primary school girls about the opportunities unlocked by science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
Over the past year Microsoft Ireland’s DreamSpace experience has adapted and evolved to meet the needs and requirements of students, teachers and parents as together everyone navigated the uncertainty of remote learning. Microsoft’s DreamSpace Digital Education Programme provided the education sector with a suite of new supports designed to meet all needs. The Virtual DreamSpace experience has continued successfully during the pandemic with the company hosting two schools a day on a guided DreamSpace experience from the safety of their classroom. Microsoft DreamSpace TV was another resource developed and introduced by the Microsoft Ireland education team over the past year and has enabled students, whilst at school or at home, to engage with a STEAM learning journey focused on computational thinking, creativity and problem-solving. And finally, DreamSpace Teacher has provided targeted supports to empower teachers to deliver their own DreamSpace experience in the classroom or by way of independent learning modules for students.
The positive impact of this extended DreamSpace programme has been proven through research undertaken by Maynooth University in partnership with Microsoft. The research looked at teachers and students who had engaged with a DreamSpace experience and found that 90% of teachers believe that DreamSpace has had a positive impact on students and led them to be more positively disposed to pursuing a career in STEM. This same research found that 87% of teachers were more confident in teaching technology in the classroom following the introduction of new materials like DreamSpace TV.
Cathriona Hallahan, Managing Director, Microsoft Ireland, said: “When we opened the doors of DreamSpace three years ago we never could have imagined the impact it would have. Up until last year, hundreds of students would visit our campus in One Microsoft Place to engage with the digital experience and gain an understanding of how technology could shape their future. The demand for school visits was so high that as a company we were always exploring new ways to expand our reach and in 2019 we were delighted to partner with W5 to help bring the DreamSpace experience to students in Northern Ireland. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit and the world responded at speed to the need to embrace technology that we realised we had an opportunity to engage far more students than we could have thought possible.”
“Over the past year our education team have evolved the DreamSpace experience so every school – irrespective of their location – can take part. We couldn’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate the third anniversary of DreamSpace than with this special virtual event and it was great to see so many schools participating. I’d like to thank everyone who is part of our special DreamSpace family for making it the success that it is today. Every student that has visited or engaged in a session, every teacher who has provided feedback to help us improve the experience further, and all the parents who so enthusiastically engaged with us over the past year. Each year brings something new at DreamSpace and we’re looking forward to another exciting year ahead.”
Anne Smith, Principal at St Patricks GNS Ringsend said: “We were delighted to have the opportunity to join the virtual event with the Microsoft and W5 team. The students all really enjoyed the session and they’re already asking about when we can sign up for another event or visit DreamSpace. It’s great to have events like this available to schools which help us bring technology into the classroom in a fun way for the students.”
Microsoft first opened DreamSpace following a €5m investment at its campus in Leopardstown in 2018. At that time, the company committed to engaging 100,000 primary and Transition Year students and their teachers over four years in the experience helping to shift their perception about the role technology will play in their future. In 2019, Microsoft expanded the reach of DreamSpace to schools in Northern Ireland through a partnership with W5, Belfast’s award-winning science and discovery centre. Since the launch of DreamSpace, over 60,000 students from primary and post-primary schools and over 3,000 teachers have engaged in the STEM experience that is designed to help develop critical, collaborative and problem-solving skills that will help students to participate fully in today’s digital world.
For more information about DreamSpace, log onto www.microsoft.com/dreamspace. For live updates from the Microsoft Education team follow them on Twitter @MS_eduIRL.