The internet, the laptop and the interactive whiteboard are the three cornerstones of the modern education process. Both inside and outside of the classroom children rely on the internet and ever-improving interactive software to help them learn and get their homework done.
Scoilnet.ie is the Department of Education and Skills’ official portal for Irish education and is managed by the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE). It has a vast database of more than 11,800 digital resources for the classroom including lesson plans, multimedia and quizzes.
Scoilnet.ie is aimed at both primary and secondary school students but also has a log-in area for teachers and a special parents page with news, advice and information.
Encyclopaedia Britannica Online (School Edition)
This version of the Encyclopaedia Britannica is designed for helping school children with their research. Through Scoilnet.ie all schools in Ireland have free access to this powerful and reliable database. You can log in through Scoilnet.ie.
This is a great resource for parents and teachers looking to get younger children interested in science. Teachers can download science activity sheets, find out where the nearest Discover Science centre is and show their class the science activity movies.
There is also further encouragement with the Awards of Science and Maths Excellence. More than 4,000 primary schools in Ireland are already registered.
Here teachers will find everything they need to educate their kids about climate change, sustainable living, waste management and Ireland’s biodiversity – from coastlines to woodlands and in between.
From this website you can also visit ENFO Kids, a microsite packed with fun facts, posters, videos, and plenty of information on what kids love best: bugs and beasties!
This index of lesson plans and materials from Coxhoe Primary School in the UK is used by several schools around Ireland. It has resources for teachers and pupils as well as plenty of multimedia content, including clip art, videos and sound files.
The lesson plans also include whiteboard resources, and cover most of the subjects pertinent to primary schools from fractions and decimals to poetry and proverbs.
Windows Live SkyDrive from Microsoft is a free online cloud storage service that is perfect for children who want to save class work for access later or perhaps upload various bits and pieces from projects they’re working on for anywhere access on the go.
SkyDrive gives a whopping 25GB of free storage to anyone who has or signs up for a Hotmail or Windows Live account.
If you’re worried that your kids are too busy updating their status on social networking sites to get any real writing done why not encourage them to get their own blog where they can showcase their writing and ICT skills?
Teachers can set up a class blog with more than one contributor while keeping control over administration themselves. There are thousands of fun templates to choose from and a blog is only as boring as someone allows it to be.
Habbo Hotel is a social networking site aimed at young adults. It is set in a cartoonish online world where your child’s avatar will not be a photo of themselves but rather a character. Parents should note, however, that the minimum age for joining is 13.
Like all social networking sites it is advisable for parents to ask their children about their usage and make sure they have a safe environment.
Educational benefits of technology
With teachers widely adopting e-learning, computing devices getting smaller and software getting smarter technology is helping rewrite the future of education says Teresa Hagan, vice-president, Global Digital Content Development at the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishing company.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) is the largest provider of educational primary and secondary market in the US and much of the multimedia and interactive software developed is carried out in Dublin.
“People tend to think of technology in a number of different ways – that schools still haven’t moved on and that the one-to-many model is still in place. Alternatively, many think all kids have a laptop and have one teacher to every few students,” says Hagan but the reality is somewhere in between the two.
“The most popular methods are the interactive whiteboard. According to Anseo.net 40-50pc of schools in Ireland now have interactive whiteboards, which is a significant increase of penetration.
“Typically the interactive whiteboard will stand at the top of the class and is used to explore digital content, research, games with class, group work, videos,” she adds.
HMH itself is working on some new educational software and online resources and is in the final stages of developing a science and a language arts programme (this is the US equivalent of our English programme).
With the science programme students will get to carry out experiments such as measuring the wind speed of a hurricane or mixing chemicals in a lab beyond the classroom. And it’s completely safe because it is completely virtual.
“They can then write this up in their lab book and come to their own conclusions: discover answers rather than learn while receiving guidance and scaffolding.”
Today’s children are digital natives says Hagan: “providing them with this kind of learning experience and technology is extending their current reality.
“We’re not saying it is better to teach only through technology, but it is how we respond to the needs of students. This is how they’re interacting with technology and they spend a huge amount of time outside of the classroom doing this anyway.
“E-learning does engage the student and it will change the education industry,” she affirms.