Digital learning makes a notable difference in inner-city schools

4 Jun 2009

Inner-city schools that use ICT more frequently than schools elsewhere in the country are experiencing unprecedented levels of creativity via technology, a survey of 167 teachers in 16 schools reveals.

The survey by the Digital Hub Development Agency (DHDA) found that teachers working in the vicinity of the Digital Hub use information communication technology (ICT) much more frequently than their colleagues elsewhere, and are more confident about integrating technology and digital media into the school curriculum.

As a result, lessons incorporating interactive whiteboards, webcams, podcasting, videoconferencing and animation are commonplace in the schools that work with the Digital Hub.

“Imagine a school where your teacher surfs the net, downloads podcasts and encourages you to create your own computer games,” Michael Hallissy, director of learning with the Digital Hub. “This isn’t some sort of far-fetched dream, but is actually a reality in the schools that work with the Digital Hub.”

The results of the Digital Hub survey illustrate the golden opportunity that is being missed nationally due to the failure to roll out ICT in schools across Ireland.

“The survey published today shows that teachers in these schools are using ICT in their classrooms on a frequent basis,” Hallissy continued.

“Crucially, they do not view ICT as a separate subject with a focus on equipping students with basic computer skills; rather, they integrate ICT right throughout the curriculum, thereby equipping their pupils with the digital literacy skills so vital for progression in 21st-century life.

“The Digital Hub’s learning programme has engaged with local schools in the south-west inner city for the past seven years. We are delighted with this evidence that our interventions are resulting in digital literacy levels that are significantly higher than the national average.”

The survey showed that 60pc of the secondary-school teachers surveyed use ICT in their classrooms on either a weekly or daily basis, compared with a national average of only 24pc.

Around 52pc of primary-school teachers working in the vicinity of the Digital Hub reported high levels of confidence in using ICT, compared with a national average of only 30pc.

The most common piece of ICT equipment used by both primary and second-level teachers is the desktop PC, followed by the digital camera for primary-school teachers and the data projector for second-level.

Nearly a quarter of primary-school teachers in Digital Hub schools use digital cameras in their classrooms, compared with only 14pc of teachers elsewhere in Ireland.

Three quarters of teachers at both primary and secondary level cited the internet as the application they use most frequently in the classroom.

Over 90pc of the secondary-school teachers surveyed have broadband access in their classrooms, along with nearly three-quarters of primary-school teachers.

In addition to evaluating ICT use in local schools, the Digital Hub survey also looked at the obstacles faced by teachers in incorporating technology into the classroom. Lack of equipment and lack of time were two of the main obstacles cited by teachers at all levels, which is in line with findings from international research.

“The obstacles faced by teachers in the Digital Hub schools are no different to those faced by teachers throughout the country,” Hallissy pointed out.

“Interestingly, the survey indicates strong demand for ongoing professional development amongst local teachers and a willingness on the part of local schools to avail of a range of support services from the Digital Hub.

“Teachers in Digital Hub schools are predominantly using ICT to support students in acquiring better literacy and numeracy skills. Through the use of tools such as PhotoStory, gaming for learning, mobile phones and digital cameras, students are building skills in teamwork, problem-solving, collaboration, communication and digital literacy.

“The survey findings published today show that teachers in the Digital Hub schools are well-positioned to equip local students with the skills they need to function effectively in the 21st century.

“Teachers are creating learning environments that engage students actively in the learning process, while ensuring classes are stimulating, relevant and meet the needs of their pupils. As a result, students in Digital Hub schools are amongst the most digitally literate in the country,” Hallissy added.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Conor Fitzgerald (aged 10) and Glen Kiely (aged 11), both pupils of Scoil San Seamus on James’s Street, with Aoife Goulding (aged 10) and Jane Tobin (also aged 10), students of St Brigid’s Primary School in The Coombe