Technology in school is about collaboration and ideas - not passively swiping at a screen

Technology at school isn’t about passively swiping at a screen, it’s about collaborating and sharing ideas, writes Caroline Delaney

Cormac Cahill teaches 4th class pupils at Carrigaline Educate Together in Co Cork and he is an organiser of this week’s #TeachMeetSouth event.

“Technology is pretty wonderful — I have a great bunch of students. We have written books, which are out on iTunes and it’s even fun seeing where in the world it has been downloaded.”

Parents of children struggling with hefty schoolbags or attending crowded classes in prefabs and lacking other basic resources might be grinding their teeth at thoughts of high-tech classrooms where every kid works on a sleek tablet.

But that’s a far cry from Cormac’s own class as well: “We have five iPads and we have a timetable for these so it’s important to schedule work and be ready to work on them when we get them.”

This is the second TeachMeet Cormac has been involved in Cork: “It’s a lovely night out — you have 15 or 16 people who share ideas and experiences for five minutes. You can just take a few ideas and try them out in your own classroom. We’ve had everyone from newly qualified teachers right up to retired teachers who just want to use more technology themselves.”

It’s all about using technology to collaborate on projects and share ideas rather than children ending up passively swiping at a screen: “You won’t ever replace the human element. You have 30 unique and individual kids and it’s about putting your own twist on ideas and making them work,” notes Cormac, who’s from north Cork and has been a teacher for 10 years.

Cormac Cahill

Cormac, who is in his 40s, is part of a worldwide network of teachers who are passionate about technology and who stay in regular contact and share ideas: “I get recharged from meeting and sharing ideas with all these other teachers.”

TeachMeet isn’t just for primary teachers though — a significant number of attendees are secondary teachers too.

Mary Linehan, a teacher for nine years, is based at Midleton College secondary school in Cork and is hugely enthusiastic about TeachMeet — and technology in general.

“We share class notes online — our notes on poetry and Hamlet are all available as well as the homework which is handy if someone is out sick and wants to catch up,” she explains.

So, are the days of filling a three feet long section of shelving with encyclopaedias truly over, I ask.

Definitely, according to Mary, who’s from Kerry. “I am an English as well as Technology teacher so I am no way against books. But it’s about using technology in a positive way. The information is out there on Google or online so it’s up to us to teach the students how to access and use it correctly.”

She does have some strong opinions on school workbooks where the child gets a single use out of them and they have to be dumped in the recycling afterwards, which might resonate with many parents.

Mary is a mum to three young boys too so I ask about the ‘battle’ that so many parents face over screen time — do you limit it? How do you supervise it when you have more than one child? How much is too much?

“I am very positive about screen time. I wouldn’t limit it by time — but I am anti mindless shooting games. If the children are creating things or problem-solving or using logic then that’s all good. And they don’t always have to have a perfect outcome either — if the children are creating a computer game and collaborating on that then they don’t have to end up with a completed game.”

Mary Linehan: ‘We come out with some great ideas and so much to think about.’

Mary, who previously worked as a graphic designer and is the author of some local history books, said she loves the atmosphere of TeachMeet: “The great thing about Teachmeets is that you will leave at the end of the night with lots of ideas to try out in your own class. It’s great — you actually come away buzzing. You’d be invigorated. And you have so much to think about afterwards.”

Teachers attending can share ideas or can go along just to watch and listen. The presentations are short, usually 2-5 minutes long and can be on anything from a website a teacher likes to use in class to showcasing a cool project they are working on with their class.

The TeachMeetSouth event takes place tomorrow at the offices of Trend Micro in the IDA Business and Technology Park on Model Farm Road in Cork.

Trend Micro is an international IT security company with an active commitment to being a socially responsible corporate citizen. Arvil Ronan, global programme manager for internet safety at Trend Micro, says this commitment sees the company hosting school competitions and free internet safety talks as well as teaming up with organisations tackling criminal online content.

PLUGGING IN

  • Blogging as a class: blog about experiences and experiments: “Yesterday we were outside dropping eggs in various ‘baskets’ and recording the results,” says Cormac.
  • Connecting with pupils in other schools.
  • Publishing books: Cormac’s classes have created books on the 1916 Easter Rising, ancient Rome, Minecraft, and superheroes.
  • Edmodo, described as a facebook-like platform where it’s safe for students to share information
  • Google Classroom: a suite of free productivity tools for classroom collaboration. This year Cormac Cahill will be presenting on using video and Green Screen filming in the classroom and there will also be teachers presenting on using Google Drive, Minecraft, Kahoot and Quadblogging and much more.


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