Two hundred years ago a man called George Boole, now hailed as a forefather of the computer era, was born. He became professor of Maths at UCC and set about changing how people thought, the same year that The Model School in Dunmanway was built. Boole believed that there was logic to everything and he led the way to the development of a logical computer language. In 2013, the ‘Digital School of Distinction’ Award was initiated by the Department of Education and Skills to encourage schools to aspire to greater use of ICT in the classroom – both as a teaching / learning aid for teachers and students; and as a means of presenting work.
Last summer, Dunmanway’s Model School achieved the award. On November 13, Mr. Ian Coombes, Principal of the Bandon Grammar School, unveiled a recognition plaque. He also spoke about an initiative by The Grammar School to help schools get as much value from IT as possible, re-allocating computers with which industries have finished with, due to upgrading.
Pupils used the occasion to showcase what they had been doing using ICT.
Infants demonstrated apps, which improve hand eye co-ordination and letter formation. They love the touch screen facility, which is as natural to them, as using a pencil. Middle class pupils demonstrated a lot of educational activities. They also use computers for research and presentation purposes, typing their poems, copying and pasting in information, adding pictures and borders.
Today, learning in an ICT school is much more fun than it used to be, with visuals and sound effects stimulating interest. Children are motivated by immediate acknowledgement of right answers and rejection of mistakes. How thrilling not to have to do ‘boring’ corrections on yesterday’s maths, because you know after the first one if you are doing them wrong!
Differentiation is one of the most difficult things to do in a classroom situation. However children automatically travel at their own, individual pace when they work on ICT. A gifted child can be challenged to do more. A struggling child can use ICT to consolidate what they’ve just learned. This was demonstrated in Power Point presentations created by the children.
By the time children reach the senior classes, ICT has infiltrated every part of their curriculum. The internet is an obvious joy to have for Geography and History research, for example last year the 1901 and 1911 National Census records were much used in project research on the lives of our families a hundred years ago.
People often say that technology is functional but not really for fostering creativity! This is not so at The Model School where younger children take photos and play around with paint packages. Older pupils use a ‘Stop motion’ app on the iPads to make their teddy bears picnic and their toy tractors spread slurry in cartoon animation. They write their own computer programmes from ‘Scratch’ on the laptops to make digital games. Most years they make Fís films and play around with web design. Check out the website at www.modeldunmanway.scoilnet.ie.
Music is another area much enhanced by internet availability. Students sing karaoke style or jam with their tin whistles with their favourite singers on Youtube.
Having used Microsoft windows computers for years, the school bought interactive white boards for all the classrooms about ten years ago; five years ago a decision was made that the children needed to be proficient at both Windows and Apple systems. To this end, the school has been increasing iPad 2 and iPad Air numbers so that now a class of children may all work at the same time on their own Maths or English app.
ICT has really given the children confidence in themselves. Each child in the Senior Room last year made at least one power-point presentation to the class, explaining what they’d discovered about Greek mythology or a country of their choice or racing cars – whatever their passionate interests are! Difficulties that may have proved daunting for those of us who never saw a computer before we were adults do not even register with these children.