TechSpace Network (Camara Education Ireland)
Youth workers and educators working with 12 – 18 year olds
The main goal of the practice is to offer the TechSpace programme through the medium of the Irish language- Ireland’s national and first official language, spoken by a minority in the country. The programme is funded by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under its 20 year strategy for the Irish language 2010-2030. The programme aims to support organisations – who are working with young people through the medium of the Irish language – to become part of the TechSpace network by training educators to deliver digital media and STEM to their young people.
The practice initially involved a pilot programme to offer training and support to a number of educators in 2015. This developed into a strategic plan for a national rollout across Ireland, based on a region by region approach. A key success of the programme has involved partnering with industry professionals to support the development of the programme and offer young people more opportunities normally unavailable to them through the Irish language. An annual celebration event called Tech Féile was borne out of such a partnership with national broadcaster, TG4.
Educators are trained in how to deliver digital media and STEM projects through youth work principles and learning by doing and experiential approaches. By placing emphasis on the youth voice, educators can integrate non-formal approaches into their formal education settings – ensuring youth development is at the heart of the programme. Educators are supported to do this through a community of practice and their local cluster coordinator who is on hand to provide ongoing support through site visits, creative tech support sessions and by creating local opportunities for young people involved in the programme.
Organisations who become part of the TechSpace Network, can avail of an equipment grant through the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. This grant allows organisations the opportunity to purchase the necessary digital media and STEM equipment to implement the digital and STEM technology programmes. Educators are also given access to online resources.
The programme has been successful in responding to the needs of young people through its Creative Consultant approach – where young people come together to share ideas and advise on the programme’s content and how it should develop. Young people whose native language is Irish have found it refreshing that the programme meets their needs, and young people who don’t have much Irish are excited to learn more Irish by engaging in an innovative programme.
Feedback has been positive and encouraging. The emphasis on developing the programme with a needs-based approach and in collaboration with young people, youth workers and educators on the ground has meant that the programme has evolved and is continuously being evaluated to meet the needs of its participants.
The practice has brought a rich learning around the importance of a needs-based and community of practice approach when working with a minority language. Rather than translating materials – training, resources, and opportunities need to be developed in collaboration with its members to ensure the Irish language and its culture are at the heart of the programme.
Tech Féile – Showcase Event: www.techspace.ie/tech-feile