Digital divide in Irish schools – a black and whiteboard issue?

10 Jul 2009

While a growing number of Irish schools have received whiteboard technology, it could lead to a wider learning gulf between schools that aren’t being provided with the latest computers and whiteboards.

It emerged yesterday that St Patrick’s National School in Stamullen, Co Meath became one of the few schools in Ireland to have whiteboards deployed in all 20 of its classrooms, giving its 420 students access to technology in every class.

The whiteboards were installed by technology firm Liosdoire Computers on behalf of Steljes, suppliers for SMART technologies in Ireland.

The fact that the Stamullen is one of the few schools in the country to use the technology is at odds with the experience of counterparts in Northern Ireland and the UK where whiteboards are now common place.

“We have deployed over 250,000 whiteboards in the UK where every primary school has a whiteboard,” explained Greg Tierney from Steljes.

“You can do an amazing amount of things with whiteboards and they play an excellent role in helping children absorb subjects. Think of it like this: ‘I tell you and you forget. I show you and you remember. You try it and you understand.’

“We have done a reasonable job of bringing broadband to the school door, but allied with whiteboards lessons permeate the kids’ thinking when used with every facet and subject. Whiteboards enable teachers to start introducing rich multimedia into their lessons and this could really boost the Irish curriculum.

“The kids start to physically use the boards to interact with lessons and get involved more in the learning process.

“As we start talking more and more about the smart economy, we learn that it’s not the retention of knowledge that matters, but the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn. It’s about the ability to be a flexible, educated workforce and be capable of moving into new jobs and careers. It’s about 21st-century work skills and interactive learning tools like whiteboards are a necessity if Ireland is to stay ahead of the curve.”

Tierney says that there is no lack of appetite on the ground amongst teachers and parents to implement whiteboard technology and he says that there are massive fundraising efforts being driven by parents to get these technologies into schools.

“However, what is needed is a cohesive strategy that ensures that all schools are moving at the same pace and no one gets left behind.”

By John Kennedy