7,000 students return to school with digital schoolbags

2 Sep 2014

Luttrellstown Community College students Megan Kearns, Derick Muoh, Miriam Dalewska and Mia Hale

It appears that some 7,000 fewer students will be plagued by back problems caused by carrying heavy bags full of books. Education tech provider Wriggle says it has kitted out 7,000 Irish schoolkids with digital school bags.

Some 140 first-year students at Luttrellstown Community College in Dublin were the latest to receive the Wriggle 1:1 mobile learning kit that enables students to use mobile devices, such as iPads, to do their school work and replace traditional text books with digital books.

“We live in a digital age and school leaders, teachers and parents are quickly realising the benefits of integrating technology into teaching and learning,” said Beryl Furlong, director of education at Wriggle. “It is particularly important now in light of the new JCSA (Junior Cycle Student Award) curriculum, which will place significant emphasis on digital technology.”

Furlong said the advantages to using digital books over traditional paper books are numerous.

“Interactive, up-to-date content to engage students and increase attainment, and the ability to cater to different learning styles and rates of progression offers greater collaboration and instant feedback and fosters important life skills.

“Essentially 1:1 mobile learning allows students to acquire and develop what have become essential skills for the modern workplace and community.”

The logical next step in education

Príomhoide at Luttrellstown Community College, Fionnuala Ní Chaisil, said IT is already a key tool in teaching and learning and introducing individual tablets to students was the next logical step.

“The enhanced learning opportunities this will provide for students of all learning styles and abilities is what makes this initiative so worthwhile. I believe that e-books are necessary to encourage independent learning and enhance standards of homework.

“Teachers will continue to create their own material and resources, which can be made available to students through Gmail. Parents will also find it easier to support their son/daughter’s learning, with all resources available on the iPad and easier communication with the school through email.”

Wriggle was founded in 2012 as the digital learning arm of Irish IT services firm Typetec following more than 20 years as a trusted partner to the education sector.

A 1:1 mobile learning initiative, Wriggle has created a complete package to provide each school with everything they need to make the move to digital textbooks on mobile devices, catering for both students and teachers and delivering comprehensive on-going support.

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said digital technologies will make a difference to the lives of students.

“The digital revolution will bring a tidal wave of change to the classrooms, making a very practical and positive difference to the everyday lives of students.

“They will now have at their fingertips cutting-edge educational technologies which should be of immense benefit to them.”

The question now, of course, is that in addition to the Broadband for Schools programme, what does the State intend to do about kitting out the many thousands of other primary and secondary-level students with digital schoolbags to ensure all children, regardless of social background, benefit from the rising digital tide?

Previous ICT schools programmes came to an ignominious end thanks to budget cuts.

Many current ICT initiatives appear to be just that, initiatives by individual schools with an eye on the future.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years