May 28, 2008

9am: Arrive in Ireland. 10am: Meet Government.

Minister_mcguiness_and_bertie_goldb It's not every day that, within an hour of landing at, say, Dublin Airport, you're sitting in the plush offices of the country's Minister for Trade and Commerce. I've been working for the Scottish Government in various guises for three years and never made it into a Minister's office here, let alone abroad.

I'm not sure if it was really me who got us into Minister John McGuinness' for a 40 minute chat about Ireland's potential for improvement in mathematics and languages learning from primary through to university level. But before the end of the conversation we had, I think, secured a roundtable task force with the Minister and his colleagues, the Google directorship in Ireland and other parties interested in how Ireland's education system could swiftly take its place as the creative, innovative and, importantly for Google, the robust furnace for future multinational programmers and net leaders.

It wasn't 20 minutes before we were walking through the Irish Parliament buildings, meeting up with the leading party's chief blog-reader (and one of Ireland's best photobloggers) and PR people, bumping into the Party leader and the T.D. (Member of Parliament) for Cork, pushing the agenda of getting not only adequate kit and connectivity, but world class training and pedagogical confidence running throughout the nation. Small passionate groups of the kind I was describing later in my talk at Tipperary Institute (mp3). Quite a morning, an unexpected one, too. Bernie really should take some credit for the menagerie.

To take things further, I've already been doing some work with the wonderful, enthusiastic, visionary and (what a euphemism!) compact NCTE in Dublin, the technology agency currently hatching some ambitious plans to raise the level of hardware, software and, vitally, connectivity in Irish schools. Soon they will be helping educators spend some €252m over seven years on technology for learning.

But if a political, enterprise and educator partnership of this kind can be created then those coders, managers, designers and visionaries  of the future might be able to ply their trade at home, rather than fleeing to London or Silicon Valley.

Comments

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The problem with ICT within the Irish education system (both primary and secondary) is that the politicians have talked-the-talk but rarely walked-the-walk.

The reality is that it's a complete mess.

The last "great push" was broadband roll-out; the end result is that most rural schools (even those within 5KM of a telephone exchange) are lumbered with an atrocious Satellite based system that's slower than dial-up during school hours.

And it looks like it's not going to get better, see http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/breaking/2008/0528/breaking52.htm

Tom

I agree with Tom. The government have dittered about with regard to this. My mum lives in a city and can't even get decent fixed line broadband.

Is 252 million euros enough? I think they need to spending alot more to bring Irish school ICT provision up to date.

In the past provison has been very patchy with schools having to usually fund the equipment themselves, with no central support.

The teaching friends I have at home are envious of the amount of equipment that we have over here and the level of support we get.

Why was this not part of the National Development Plan in the past?

@Barry

I'm not a teacher myself, but my sister is a soon-to-retire Primary principal, and as her (and occasionally my own children's school's) un-official technical support person, I've seen the joke that is ICT in Irish education first hand.

My sister has done wonders with tiny budgets (and none) and her own enthusiasm to make her own small rural school a fine example of the use of IT, but she's soon to retire and it looks like there's nobody to take up that role.

Most schools seem to depend totally on the effort of one or two teachers (if they're lucky). I know that's also the situation with things like sports, music and drama, but in our so-called knowledge economy, IT is not an optional skill!

Tom

Things might be moving forward in the PE world in Ireland I have been invited over in October to Dublin to present some of my work using Dartfish and support some of the pilot work taking place using ICT in PE.

Iain

@ Tom

Before I became a teacher I worked in some schools at home just to get some experience. One of the main things I did was sort their computers out. The system was a mess a mishmash of different machines from different suppliers, of varying ages. Some were also riddled with viruses.

It's not right that schools have to rely on parents, extended families or a few select staff members to deliver what is an essential service in education in this day and age.

But these are political decisions, that sadly will and are having an impact on Irish children's education.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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