Schools in Ireland received a €43 million investment for IT systems in November 2010 from the Department of Education, but this total is insufficient, according to the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE).
Here’s why all schools need IT investments.
This €43 million allocation was good news for schools, but the budget fails to meet actual ICT infrastructure needs, as defined by three recent reports.
- The first report, ‘Designing Primary Schools of the Future‘, looks at ICT use in Irish schools from an historical perspective. A key finding is that teachers feel they have insufficient ICT skills. The pace of IT also leads the researcher to note, ‘teachers of the highest calibre’ are needed to convey twenty-first century skills to the students.
- The second report, ‘2009 National Assessments of Mathematics and English Reading‘, provides national baseline data for mathematics and English reading but also refers to ICT skills. One recommendation is that teachers should have greater access to ICT training courses, on both an opt-in and a department-supported basis..
- The final report, ‘Better Literacy and Numeracy for Children and Young People‘, outlines a plan for how literacy and numeracy in Irish society can be improved. Part of the report redefines literacy and numeracy, which emphasise the need for everyone to have ICT skills, regardless of their age – particularly in the modern age of mobility.
Smartphones Are Personal Access Toolkits
The three reports show ICT is a major issue when building schools for the future. ICT assists all students with learning and is a vital part of teaching practice. Many teachers however lack the skills to incorporate ICT into learning systems, and need training to maximise professional efficiency and for continued professional development (CPD).
For deaf children, ICT tools improve access to classroom content, making new concepts easier to understand. Teachers with deaf children in their classes need digital tools at the core of their teaching and lesson plans to facilitate individualised learning for each pupil.
In recent years, (generic) training pilots saw teachers receiving in-service training and in-school mentoring, using digital and literacy tools. After these pilots, the teachers believed in the benefits and goal of of integrating ICT into learning in all environments.
Best Practice Outside Ireland
In the US, mobile telecom operator, Verizon, has met some schools’ funding shortfalls by sponsoring interactive whiteboards. Separately, Georgia Tech College of Computing has devised technology for deaf children to learn and practice new language skills.
Software is the focus of teaching in these projects. Teachers in Ireland must put IT and e-learning tools at the core of their teaching and lesson plans to stay in the game and prepare children and students for digital careers that don’t even exist today.
Ireland lags other European countries in ICT improvement allowance per child, but learning IT skills in schools will enable today’s students to innovate for the benefit of the national economy, regardless of their hearing ability.
(compiled by Nicola Fox)
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