Journal posts Journal posts

Using technology for teaching across the whole school curriculum takes just 45 minutes of team work.

Scoil na gCeithre Máistrí is an all Irish school in Athlone, Ireland. There are approximately 299 students aged 5-12 years from all over Ireland. The school was founded in 1990, but was...

Observation visits Observation visits

Link observation visits schedule 2013

  • UK: 12 June and 27 June
  • Czech Republic: 16 September
  • Finland: 23 September
  • France: 30 September
  • Norway: 14 October
  • Italy: 21 October
  • Cyprus: 11 November
  • Belgium: 18 November
  • Portugal: 13 January 2014
  • Ireland: 20 January 2014
  • Austria: 27 January 2014
  • Lithuania: 10 February 2014
Journal: Observation visits Journal: Observation visits
Blogs »
Using technology for teaching across the whole school curriculum takes just 45 minutes of team work.

Scoil na gCeithre Máistrí is an all Irish school in Athlone, Ireland. There are approximately 299 students aged 5-12 years from all over Ireland. The school was founded in 1990, but was rebuilt in 2008 and the number of classes has been growing year upon year. At the time of the new build the school was given an ICT grant and this is pivotal to the use of technology across the school.

My morning begins by meeting the “ICT committee” – it all sounds impressive, and it is – because at the heart of this group of people is a teacher from each year group who meet for 45 minutes every two weeks to take a practical look at the use of technology across the school.  Gearóid O’Duibhir who is the lead LSL teacher has developed the work of this group as part of the Living Schools Lab project. There are three parts to the 45 minute meeting, Feedback, Planning and Training – each one lasts just 15 minutes.  (FPT45)  The ICT committee has been instrumental to some of the innovative changes that are taking place in the school. It is about having a focused time to look at teaching and learning using technology. This is far better than snatching 5 minutes at the end of a busy staff meeting to try and get colleagues interested in the latest trend; by having a consistent group across the school who are investigating innovative ideas; it gives much more coherence to whole school developments. Gearóid describes how the “filtering” of the information and the distribution of the tasks for the investigations means that staff are constantly inquiring about how to develop their practice and improving the use of technology across many subjects.
  • Do you have a group of teachers who work together to look at the use of technology within learning and teaching?
  •  How do you document the “professional dialogue” in school so that other teachers can access the information? (Some of our LSL schools keep a blog, a wiki or even just a noticeboard of teaching topics under discussion across the school. – Let your colleagues know what you are learning about and “bookmark” your progress!)
  •  What are your staff investigating? How is this shared across the whole school?
The first lesson I observe is with Carolyn Ni Mháille and her class of 23, 6th grade students (age 12 years) doing factual writing in English. The teacher begins with a whole class discussion about what has been happening in the news in the last week. The teacher captures this in a brainstorm on the dry-wipe board and helps the students to organise their ideas. Lots of the students contribute and soon there is a map of the main headlines for human interest; governmental issues, crime, entertainment and sport. (the football transfer window is critical dialogue!)
The teacher then shows the students a video clip of the News 2day; a local TV news programme. The teacher has divided the class into groups to work on a different section of the news. The students then have 8 minutes to write a short script on their item of news. Eight minutes is not long, but it is a clear signal to the students to get their ideas down on paper and that there is no need for a long story, it is just the headlines that matter!
  •  How often do you give your students a timed activity?
  • Do your students know how long the task should take?
Each group of 4-6 students then uses a “Fizzbook”, this is a notebook sized PC with a web-cam. The students have 15-20  minutes make a short clip of their section of news. This gives some much needed time to rehearse. The students concentrate on the tone of their voice, their body language and making their message clear. (But when your friend is looking at you, it is hard not to giggle!) The students work together to improve their performance.
In the final part of the lesson, the students get the opportunity to listen to each other’s news item; – I think we have some budding news presenters here in Ireland. 
  •  Have you got a student news team in your school?
  • Do your students present the school news each week?
  • Whilst most schools have a newsletter; have you thought about providing your own digital news channel?
In the next lesson, I am with Aisling Ni Chongaile with fourth class and the ten year old students. Here the students are being introduced to their new spellings for the week. The teacher gives the students a Promethean Flipchart with the words and definitions in two columns. The students then have to match the words to the correct definition. The teacher passes a gyromouse around the class and soon the students have found the solution.   
In the second part of the lesson, the teacher shows a piece of text using the visualiser and several students are selected to read the text aloud. The students also have their own copy of the text in front of them, but the visual display allows the teacher to help everyone to follow. The teacher can highlight words and build the students’ understanding of the text. Today the students are finding out about the “Sasquatch” and the “Lochness Monster.” (thankfully, I’ve never met either on my travels!)
The teacher then passes around a wireless keyboard and asks some students to put one of the spellings from this week into a sentence. In the final part of the lesson, the students have to take five of the new words and write them into their own exercise books. The next step will be to write a story together and record it using audacity.
Each classroom in school is equipped with the same technologies; this means that all the teachers can share their practice consistently. The Fizzbooks are delivered to the classroom at the beginning of each day by several student monitors. Originally staff used to book them out, but this meant that it was difficult for teachers to be certain about how many Fizzbooks they would have access to. There is a “station” in the classroom where the students can work individually, but distributing the resources has encouraged the teachers to use them creatively with groups.
  • How do you distribute your technology in school?
Finally in this school, I have the opportunity to talk to a small group of students about some of their favourite technologies. The students like to use audacity for recording themselves reading and they have enjoyed working with photostory too. There is also a real buzz about Mangahigh. (maths games online)
This is now the tenth country that I have visited as part of the Living Schools Lab project and one of the questions that I have found myself asking (particularly in Primary Schools) is:
  • Would the PCs from your computer lab be used more if they were in the classrooms?
There is certainly a real shift towards using the technology within many areas of the curriculum.
I’ll leave you with that thought as I head towards Austria where the temperature is several degrees colder than Ireland and I might need to get my skis out!