e-Learning Plan RMDS 2015
Background and Introduction
The development of this plan was set out as a priority area by the current Board of Management for its term of office (2011-2015). As part of the School Self Evaluation process 2014-15, this plan was drawn up by the principal and the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Postholder in consultation with the staff, parents, pupils and the Board of Management.
There are four key aspects to this plan:
- Overall approach to e-learning to include the role of school leadership, planning for e-learning and the vision of an e-learning culture in the school.
- ICT in the curriculum, to include targets for each class level and examples of best practice in the school.
- Professional development issues, to include staff training.
- The ICT infrastructure in the school , to include a maintenance and refurbishment plan, budget and technical issues.
- 1. Overall approach towards e-learning
1.1 Vision for e-learning here in RMDS
In line with the guidance provided by the National Council for Technology in Education (NCTE), the approach in RMDS is to emphasise the integration of ICT across the curriculum, in order to improve the quality of teaching and learning. Therefore ICT is not a subject or a curriculum in its own right. It is a tool that can add value to the teaching and learning process when it is used appropriately. The purpose of computer literacy is the same as all teaching and learning, to awaken and to support the development of intellectual curiosity.
However, parents and teachers can overestimate the benefits of exposure to ICT for children. Some suggest that technology does little beyond distract children from real learning opportunities much of which could better be accomplished by pen and paper and traditional teaching. While children may have a passionate engagement with technology, some research suggests that it can lead them to trial and error responses (click and see) and guesswork answers. Technology can detract from time spent socially, from imagining.
At the same time, we are educating children who live in a technological age (digital natives) and so our teaching and learning must reflect that reality. Pedagogically, e-learning can be highly motivating for the learner and particularly for those children who find the more traditional methodologies of the school setting constraining. In that light, we will strive to maximise the potential for children’s learning using ICT, where appropriate.
Our vision for e-learning is about trying to ensure that the children begin to develop a critical appreciation of the role of ICT in society and develop habits which reflect an ethical and responsible use of ICT.
RMDS is committed to the implementation of an e-learning policy based on the following principles:
- ICT is a cross curricular tool, not a subject in its own right
- ICT is an essential part of the administration of the school
- Schools have a role to ensure that all pupils in the school, not just those with access to technology at home, can access an e-learning environment
1.2 Role of school leadership
The role of school leadership includes ensuring that the e-learning vision is fully integrated with the vision expressed in the whole school plan . The role of the principal teacher and the IT co-ordinating teacher is central to ensuring that such a culture flourishes within the school. The principal leads the process by:
- Supporting the role of the ICT co-ordinator.
- Ensuring that all staff members have a copy of the e-learning plan and provide assistance where necessary towards implementation
- Monitoring how the plan is progressing and facilitating discussion and review
- Ensuring the support of the Board of Management for the plan
1.2 Role of the ICT co-ordinator
Here in RMDS the ICT co-ordinator is a teacher on the staff with a B post of responsibility. The role includes:
- Co-ordinating the compilation of the e-learning policy and action plan
- Facilitating staff training
- Developing strategies in consultation with the principal and the staff for the integration of e-learning across the curriculum
- Advising on ICT strategies
- Evaluating the use of ICT in the school
- Preparing a plan for the ongoing maintenance and upgrading of the IT system in the school
- Liaising with the technical support provider - (at present this role is fulfilled by the ICT co-ordinator, who is paid by the BOM to provide this service)
- Preparing an annual budget for IT for presentation to the Board of Management
- Purchasing of IT infrastructure, hardware and software according to DES regulations and frameworks
1.3 Role of the teachers
- Being aware of the e-learning policy and action plan
- Sharing ideas and resources with colleagues in relation to e-learning
- Ensuring the appropriate use of ICT for pupils with special educational needs in order to support access to learning opportunities.
- Using scoilnet.ie and other suitable websites to assist in the integration of ICT
- Identifying and pursuing their own continuing professional development needs with the assistance of the ICT co-ordinating teacher and the principal
- Building on and contributing to the learning and teaching material provided on the shared network in the school.
1.4 E-Learning Culture
This section is related to how we integrate e-learning beyond the delivery of the curriculum. For example, to communicate with parents and the wider community. Here in RMDS the following give practical expression to this:
- At class meetings each September teachers outline for parents the policy and the role of e-learning in RMDS, in order to ensure a shared understanding
- Communication from the school to parents is paperless where possible i.e. weekly news, text notices, emails, school reports etc.
- The school uses a database for all pupil records and to share pupil information (See Data Protection Policy)
- From Rang 3 up, individual email addresses are set up for the pupils. (See Acceptable Use Policy)
- Parents can communicate with teachers by email re absences and general queries (See Communication Policy)
- Some homework assignments can be emailed into the school. This may be part of a programme of differentiation or for particular assignments, for example Write a Book projects.
- Group projects can be completed using web sharing facilities, allowing the children to continue their collaboration at home.
- Parents with particular expertise are encouraged to visit the classes in order to help facilitate a more advanced lesson. As well as benefiting the children, this increases the skill levels of the teaching staff as they too learn from this exposure. Examples include:
- An architect visit, showing how they use CAD in their designs and then helping the class to design some of their own buildings using shapes which they have been studying in the Maths curriculum. ‘Sketchup’ is a simple and free programme which is available to the children in school and at home.
- Parent showing how code is used in the design of websites and the children would then use simple code to design the front-page of a website advertising a product which they have designed for an English class.
- An app developer showing how to make a simple app which shows the tense for a regular Irish verbs.
- A movie maker showing how they edit movie clips, or create animations using any of the free movie editing software available.
- A musician showing how they can layer music and create a band effect with just one person.
This type of approach involving parental expertise benefits the school in that the children get more expert help. They see how ICT is used in the real world. It also benefits the teacher in that they, through watching an expert lead a session, will be able to use some of the skills learned in subsequent lessons.
1.5 The role of the website
The school website has several functions:
- To inform potential parents and the wider community as to what it would mean to send their child to this school.
- To facilitate current parents in accessing policy documents, to remind themselves of current school practice and to keep them up to date on events happening in the school.
- To act as an additional wall of the classroom and to enable the children to showcase their work to a wider audience.
1.6 Internet Safety
The NCTE provide a restricted/protected broadband service to RMDS. Our school is on level 3 protection which allows access to millions of websites including games but blocks YouTube and websites categorised as personal such as FaceBook. The teaching computers are on level 4, which is the same as level 3 but allows access to YouTube. The computers on level 4 are all password protected.
Parents sign an AUP Acceptable Use Policy in Junior Infants, which covers children until the end of 2nd class.
In the second term in third class, as part of the Stay Safe programme the children take responsibility for their own behaviour online by signing the AUP with their parents.
The Webwise Primary School Programme is designed to help teachers introduce Internet safety into their SPHE lessons. It can be taught from aged 8 to aged 12, that is rang 3 to rang 6. The resource pack can be downloaded at www.webwise.ie/teachers/resources
Webwise has also developed the Webwise Anti-cyberbullying Pack (2014) Myselfie.ie to help support teachers who want to raise pupil awareness on all aspects of cyber bullying (as required by the Action Plan on Bullying). These lessons are integrated with the Stay Safe programme (taught each spring term in SI, R1,R3 and R5.
We have complete wifi in the school which in the future could facilitate some teaching and learning with a bring your own device culture. Before the school moved in this direction, the school would have to look at potential internet safety difficulties/concerns which could arise from this. One concern is to ensure access for those who do not have access to such devices at home.
- 2. ICT in the Curriculum
The best ICT strategies in schools are those which are flexible and which can be easily and regularly reviewed and updated. The challenge is to ensure that the emphasis changes from technology provision to a focus on its deliberate use by the learner (DES 2008). This is related to our vision which sees ICT as a learning tool rather than a subject in its own right.
Currently ICT usage here in RMDS is to some degree dependant on the proficiency of the teacher or staff member. It is also dependent on the resources available within the school. However, in general there is a very positive attitude to IT uptake and use.
In the Infant classes activities include:
- The use of wireless mice and keyboards allow the children to interact with the class computer and the projected screen.
- Teacher led activities enable the children to become familiar with using ICT.
- Children can use the visualiser to display things to the class i.e. show and tell activities, stories, completed work sheets.
- Homework to take photographs (of houses, rooms etc) and email them to the teacher. The children taking an active role in the process.
- Use of google earth and google maps for lessons on Planet Earth and map reading skills.
- Interactive PowerPoints/digital stories
In Rang 1 and Rang 2 activities include:
- Opening websites such as Cool maths, BBC touch typing.
- Drawing shapes and recognising their properties using Sketchup.
- Playing simple games using their tables on coolmaths.com makes the repetitive task of tables much more enjoyable.
- Using Mangahigh in the same way to incentivise those repetitive tasks and to practice new skills taught in the classroom.
- Writing a collaborative story with ‘Microsoft Word’ and making a copy for each child to decorate. In Irish this could be a dictionary which will assess understanding.
- The children have also begun simple coding exercises using ‘Scratch’.
- The children use digital media to capture events in the classroom.
- Create a photostory about something in the local environment.
In rang 3 and rang 4 activities include:
- Exploring how to connect 3D shapes to make buildings etc using programmes like Sketchup.
- Using programmes like ‘Microsoft Word/PowerPoint’ to create their own documents/presentations.
- Publishing their own stories ‘As Gaeilge’ and make books which assess their understanding of the story.
- Using Mangahigh to develop their understanding of concepts and to make the repetitive task of tables learning more fun. Using games like ‘Tug Team’ in Coolmaths.com also help in this way.
- Setting up and using a school based email account which can be used for homework assignments and project work which allows them to work at home and in school. The process of redrafting becomes easier as the teacher and student can work on the same document. The child writes the first draft, the teacher adds comments in the relevant places and the child returns to the document making changes as they go. Once this process is complete the child can then publish their work using the skills learned previously.
- Continue to develop coding using ‘Scratch’ as Gaeilge. Minecraft is another opportunity to learn coding and create worlds which can be used in creative writing exercises.
- Using Google maps to help in the area of Geography, how to draw maps, how to measure distances, see their place in Dublin, Ireland, Europe and the world. Using Google earth for example, zooming in from space all the way to street view.
- Using digital media to record their work and add this to the school website.
- Using programmes like ‘Joytunes’ to practice music notes on their recorder and ‘Musicnotes’ to follow notation.
- Using programmes like ‘Movie maker’ to animate
- Scanning their own work into projects.
- Creating graphs using spreadsheets.
In rang 5 and rang 6:
- The children continue to use all the skills from the previous years and build on them.
- They use IT to collaborate, publish and present their work individually and in groups.
- They create projects for younger children, for example grammar charts and quizzes.
- They learn some more complex coding such as html to design a webpage for use in an advertising package.
- Using Mangahigh to develop their understanding of concepts in maths.
- Seniors take on the responsibility of reporting activities of a younger class on the school website.
- Using digital media to add to/record drama projects.
- The children manipulate media to create different effects.
IT and children with SEN
- Technology has the potential to raise self esteem, for example, by enabling the child who struggles with handwriting to present high quality finished work;
- Technology allows greater control over the pace of learning
- Technology allows greater opportunities for instant feedback, which in turn increases motivation.
- Technology allows the possibility for more interactive and active and personalised learning
- Technology can be used as a reward system and motivator in the resource room and the classroom
An action plan for e-learning, 2015-2018, accompanies this document
- 3. Professional Development
Given the varied levels of staff development regarding e-learning, a mentor system has been in place for some years. Any training should aim to quell fears of teachers and enable them to recognise the role that new technologies can have in helping them to teach and children to learn more effectively.
Ways in which we can support individual staff members include:
- Facilitating peer to peer coaching
- Having formal/informal discussion with staff members
- Discussing e-learning at staff meetings
- Sharing ideas, resources, classroom management approaches
- Ensuring new teachers are familiar with the plan and utilising the expertise younger staff may bring to e learning in the school
- Encouraging teachers to use Scoilnet
- Passing on good web resources in a more formal way .i.e. networked file/cloud document
4. ICT Infrastructure
The DES (2008) indicated desirable levels of ICT for primary schools as follows:
- All classrooms should be networked, working towards a 1:5 pupil to computer ratio in the classroom
- Computers should be located in classrooms not computer rooms
- All classrooms should have a fixed digital projector and teaching computer with a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse
- All computers in schools should be networked and broadband enabled
- Access should be available to a mobile laptop trolley - two for our sized school
- There should be a mobile multi-media station in every school, with integrated digital media features to enable content creation, editing and production, recording and duplication
- Resource rooms should be similarly equipped to classrooms.
4.2 What we currently have:
- All computers are networked and there is high speed wireless internet available throughout the school building and in most of the yard. We have a ratio of 1:2 laptops in the classroom.
- All computers are in the classrooms/ resource rooms.
- Each classroom has one fixed desktop computer which has a projector, visualiser and wireless mouse attached. In some cases teachers have said they do not need a wireless mouse keyboard. There is also a digital camera which can be used to take video. There are editing programmes on the computer which can be used to edit and manipulate the media. This is not a complete media station but currently this is satisfying the needs of the teaching staff.
- There are two laptop trolleys which are shared among 6 classes. In each trolley there are 15 laptops and a scanner. The laptops can all print to shared printers around the school.
- The resource rooms have an internet connected computer, access to ipads and a shared digital camera.
There is a commitment to ensuring that the computers are less than 6 years old and we are currently meeting that commitment. However, when new computers are purchased, serviceable computers are redeployed in the classroom where needed/wanted to supplement the IT provision in the school. In practice there is an extra PC in 6 classrooms.
4.3 E-learning Budget
There is currently an e-learning budget of €10,000 per year.
€3,000 is allocated currently to a maintenance contract for both the network infrastructure and school computers.
€2,000 is spent every year replacing 4 teaching/office computers/ printers. This is done on a rotation basis with the aim that the computers are never more than 6 years old.
€2,000 per year is allocated to the replacement/upgrading of the student laptops. The aim is that 15 laptops will be purchased every three years at an estimated cost of €6,000, using the NCTE procurement service. This allows us to maintain two laptop trolleys with 15 laptops no more than 6 years old.
€3,000 is allocated towards a replacement schedule for the class projectors. With a different model of projector and a regular cleaning schedule, the aim would be that this figure will be reduced after 3 years to €1,500 so that each projector is no more than 8 years old.
This budget does not include consumables.
Training for the staff is supported if suitable courses are identified.
- 5. ICT Policy Checklist
The following related policies are included as Appendices to this e- learning plan:
Acceptable Use Policy
NCCA Framework document for ICT (Adapted)
See also the following related policies in The School Plan:
Health and Safety plan
Code of Bbehaviour
Data Protection Policy
- 6. Ratification and review
This e-Learning Plan was approved by the Board of Management at its meeting of 8th June 2015. It will be subject to regular review in line with the priorities of the school
Chairperson of the Board of Management:
______________________________ Date: __________
______________________________ Date: __________
Acceptable use policy
E learning road map
Investing effectively in Information and Communications Technology in Schools, 2008 -2013
The report of the Minister’s Strategy Group
ICT in Schools Inspectorate Evaluation studies DES Inspectorate 2008
NCTE Acceptable use policy - Guidelines for Primary Schools (DES, 2000)
ICT in the primary school curriculum Guidelines for Teachers NCCA 2003
NCTE Planning and Implementing e-Learning in your School - Handbook for principals and ICT co-ordinating teachers
ICT Infrastructure in Primary schools, Tom Lonergan in Leadership, IPPN, March 2015.
Facing the Screen Dilemma: Young Children, Technology and Early Education, 2012. The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.
"Are Classroom Internet Use and Academic Performance Higher after Government Broadband Subsidies to Primary Schools?" ESRI Research Bulletin 2015/2/6