St Brigid’s is a small three-teacher national school on the outskirts of Redhills village, in county Cavan, with a current enrolment of 72 children. The school’s student population is divided up into 29 in the school’s infant room, 20 in its middle room and 23 in the senior room.
Catering for such a broad range of ages represents a massive challenge for the school’s teaching staff, with individual teachers handling multiple age groups at the same time. As such, St Brigid’s might seem like an unlikely candidate for a technology-savvy case study. However, looks can be deceptive and, in fact, it is the only school in Cavan to be recognised with the Digital School of Distinction award from the Department of Education.
Kenneth Kerins has been the principal here since September 2014. At that time, he sat down with the board of management and put together a plan whereby they would get laptops into some classrooms and also future proof the school by implementing a Wi-Fi system.
“A very prudent and curriculum integration based strategy was set out by school management. All avenues were researched, including the benefits of purchasing tablets. Although popular, we didn’t see that we had a use for them. Today, every child has access to a laptop in the ratio of one machine between two children. Internet access is available throughout the building via an Aruba Wi-Fi network.” he said.
“I don’t think it would have happened without the financial support of our proactive parents’ association, as well as a very supportive board of management. Their funding also enables us to share activities on our recently renovated school website - www.stbrigidsns.ie. Meanwhile, over the course of a year, the school also went through the process of meeting the requirements for the Digital Schools of Distinction Award under the headings leadership and vision, ICT in the curriculum, school ICT culture, professional development and resources and infrastructure. The school was awarded this status in May 2015. The implementation of any plan is central to its success. At St. Brigid’s NS, our staff has embraced the use of technology and invested a lot of time and effort into preparing lessons digitally because the templates weren’t there previously. ”
All of the school’s laptops are used on a daily basis. In particular, the technology has made it significantly easier for teachers to teach a differentiated curriculum to pupils in the same classroom.
“For example, in the senior room, fifth and sixth class may be working on doing an online maths problem set by the class teacher in advance, while simultaneously the teacher is working with fourth class. All our laptops are installed along a beam at the side of the classroom. There is also the option of taking the laptops to group work stations or to a pupil’s desk for individual assignments. The extensive curriculum in Ireland makes it very difficult to schedule designated computer times. Therefore, we aimed to make the use of technology attractive and user friendly for everyone.”
The reception of the scheme by parents and children alike has been universally popular.
“The children are absolutely delighted - it’s a really exciting way to deliver the curriculum and it’s what they understand. It’s the way of the future and what we’re trying to do is generate a template here in the school whereby we prepare our pupils for life after primary school. I believe the opportunities and exposure to technology they are presented with at St. Brigid’s NS will benefit them as they progress through the education system.”