St Joseph’s Boys’ National School in Terenure has begun using a digital curriculum whereby every teacher has been supplied with a laptop and all of the classrooms have been fitted with a digital projector along with a wired and wireless network.
The project has been funded by the pupils’ parents and the private sector after the school’s IT co-ordinator Declan Donnelly presented the concept and demonstrated the technology. The investment needed to install the hardware throughout 16 classrooms and give laptops to 16 teachers and another six in learning support was not excessive, Donnelly said. “We could do four classrooms for the price of one interactive white board,” he said. “Once you have the initial hardware purchase, a lot of the material is free on the internet.”
When teachers log onto the network each morning they have access to a resource library which is categorised by subject and age and covers all areas of the curriculum. It could allow a geography teacher, for example, to use material about volcanoes in class.
According to Donnelly, the material has been developed through a combination of teaching tools and website links that are freely available online as well as lessons that have been developed by teachers at the school. “The teachers are at the stage where they’re creating their own resources and these are then available to the whole school,” he said.
Each classroom has its own email address and the children send their projects or homework by email to their class teacher or to Donnelly’s computer room. Pupils use video in the classroom and can review their work on the data projector. Donnelly noted that children in the more senior classes have created interactive exercises for the junior classes.
In addition to classroom use, technology is being adopted throughout the school. Teachers use Skype software to hold videoconferences with other schools. School policies or plans are now developed on laptops and presented digitally, as well as being made available subsequently on the school network.
Last month St. Joseph’s was presented with the Digital Schools Award by Minister for Education and Science Mary Hanafin TD in recognition of how it has integrated ICT into the school.
Donnelly pointed out that the wider agenda of making a success of ICT in schools involves more than just giving PCs. “The development of the digital curriculum is not just a case of installing hardware in schools. It needs a more integrated approach,” he said. “You also need to put in a library of resources that teachers can draw from. At the end of the day you need to have the whole package in place.”
He added: “Teachers will embrace ICT if it is a better way to deliver the curriculum. This is the way forward.”
By Gordon Smith