St Columb’s College is aiming to revolutionise day-to-day teaching and learning with the introduction of iPads for all Year 8 pupils, reports Sean McLaughlin.
The Buncrana Road school’s ICT co-ordinator, Mary-Jo O’Carolan, views the new venture as a “first resource for learning”.
As she, herself, says: “The text books are gone - but the hardback notebooks remain!”
Mrs. O’Carolan says St Columb’s has invested heavily in ICT over the last 16 years with the school constantly embracing the most up-to-date systems in a bid to improve teaching and learning.
“We want the pupils to have interactive resources but we are also conscious of a blended learning approach and teachers still like to mark and assess pupils’ handwritten work,” she adds.
“Before this latest launch, one of our methods of research was a trial with Year 13 Politics students using different devices. It provided us with plenty of data which enabled us to plan this strategic development thoroughly.
“It is this type of initiative that enabled us to be the first school in the North to achieve the ICT Charter Mark, an ICT Excellence Award, a National Training Award for our work in staff development in ICT and a Best Practice Public Sector Award.”
Mrs. O’Carolan says that, after much consideration and discussion with staff, parents, pupils and governors, the school has decided to give all Year 8 pupils an iPad “so they can begin their post primary educational lifetime in a complete and secure technology based environment.”
She adds: “After listening to parents’, carers’ and grandparents’ concers about the number of textbooks that pupils were expected to carry, we decided to look at this in a creative way.
“We also had teachers telling us about the fabulous online resources and apps available in their subject. Then, we had pupils telling us how inconvenient they found getting work at home or losing handouts, books etc., So, all in all, we hope our iPad initiative can change all this for the better.”
Mrs O’Carolan insists the iPad decision wasn’t one the school took lightly.
“We have been researching similar systems and models used in Ireland and the UK,” she reveals.
“We were keen to provide a top end device that pupils could use at home and at school. We also wanted to provide a financial package that would not exclude families. So, we provided different payment options to suit the different needs of our families. This has worked very successfully as the school is paying approximately 60% of the costs.
“It is our first year and we will learn a lot but ICT is a subject that is constantly evolving and we are always trying to keep up.”
Over the last year, she says, all school staff have been provided with an iPad and have been working “really hard” to prepare top end resources to engage and enthuse pupils.
“We are now good to go and we are excited by the challenges and rewards that it will bring.
“We have a statutory obligation to provide ICT skills to all our pupils in Key Stage 3. We want them to develop life skills from an early age and be e-confident. We also want them to connect the learning across subjects.
“To this end, we’ve invested in an additional wi-fi system which now means greater broadband access for all Year 8 pupils. Every classroom for Year 8 is now an ICT enabled learning environment.
“Most of us are aware that technology is changing so very fast that it is almost impossible to
keep up. Our parents seem as excited and engaged by our thinking, resourcing and planning as we are, so let’s hope the Year 8 pupils feel the same.”