Limerick’s Ardscoil Mhuire post-primary school has been connected to enet’s fibre network connection for over a year, facilitating next generation learning and interaction between students and teachers through the ultra-fast 100Mbps connection, provided by HEAnet.
Rather than simply relying on Google for research, the school is using online software packages to develop student ICT skills and bring Virtual Learning into the classroom, enhancing the learning environment using G Suite for Education.
One particularly successful innovation in the school this year has been the introduction of ePortfolios for Transition Year students with plans to expand to all year groups. Students are facilitated in the conceptualisation, creation, design, and maintenance of their own website through the Google Sites application. This process allows them to develop crucial ICT skills whilst also engaging in critical thinking and decision making. ePortfolios for Transition Year students allow the tapping of natural creativity and the building of a heightened awareness of different language families.
Collaborative learning is also prioritised with students making excellent use of Google Docs, Slides and Sheets to work together and learn with and from each other on a wide variety of projects. These pieces of work are then added to their ePortfolios for online feedback and grading. Google Forms also allow students to voice their opinions and to shape their learning experiences. Often used to facilitate the “Exit Slip” AFL strategy, forms are being used to survey TY students on their use and experience of ePortfolios for future delivery of the application.
The ultra-fast network connection is not only benefiting the students’ education and experience but allows the school to maintain their own website and social media platforms to interact with students and parents alike.
Ardscoil Mhuire has taken the opportunity to evolve the learning experience with Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) in the classroom. The school has a Virtual Learning Room (VLR) and is linked with St. Munchins College in Corbally on an annual basis to meet the demand from students. Consequently, students have access to very extensive and balanced curriculum.
One year on
Learning has been brought to life in the classroom through video and extensively multiplied research resources giving students the tools to collaborate effectively and enhance their problem-solving skills. It allows students to communicate their ideas effectively with new approaches which can be shared with others beyond the walls of their classroom or school.
Ardscoil Mhuire Principal, Ms Bríd Herbert, says, “The connection has made huge changes in how the teachers educate and the students have multiple ways of interacting and learning even outside of school. It has greatly enhanced learning and teaching in Ardscoil Mhuire. The school is very fortunate to have access to high speed broadband which it uses to full capacity throughout the school day”.
Ardscoil Mhuire is one of 780 post-primary schools across the country who receive broadband connectivity under the Government’s Post-Primary Schools High-Speed Programme,which is managed by HEAnet – Ireland National Education and Research Network.
Kerrie Power, HEAnet CEO says “It is great to see Ardscoil Mhuire taking full advantage of its high-speed broadband connection. It serves to illustrate the catalyst that quality connectivity can be in terms of technology enabling new ways of learning and collaboration. As managers of the Post-Primary Schools High-Speed Programme, HEAnet are proud to be associated with these advances at classroom level.
Conal Henry, enet CEO, says, “Schools like Ardscoil Mhuire are using the network connection to achieve a higher standard of learning, interacting and teaching. Virtual Learning is bringing excitement to the classroom and preparing students for the changing working environment. enet is the largest broadband network supplier in school projects, enabling more schools across Ireland to support students in their passion for technology from a young age”.
Everyone is benefiting
The school’s digital strategy embraces all stakeholders in its planning and provision including students, teachers and parents, with students at the core of the planning.
“Students are encouraged to take ownership of their learning”, Principal Herbert says. “This is to encourage self-directed students to become decision makers and manage their priorities. Moreover, using technology helps the students to achieve personal learning goals and to succeed in various learning activities. With these goals in mind, the school can ensure that ICT is always used in parallel with ethical usage”.
As well as planning lessons more effectivity, teachers are making better use of classroom resources, creating examinations and handouts for lessons, and sharing resources with colleagues. Prezi, (Presentation Software) YouTube, Online Dictionaries, Edmodo (Communication collaboration software), Mega (Cloud storage and file hosting), Dropbox and various other websites facilitate research and independent learning.
In addition, the teachers can now make better use of the free online calculator – GeoGebra, online learning flash cards such as Quizlet, the most up to date e-books, multi-media packages for recording music and creating videos and other online packages such as, Moodle, Powtoon and VSware.
Parents and guardians have been integrated with the strategy to support the use of ICT outside of the classroom to engage with their children’s learning through digital technology to collaborate and participate in school activities.
“Ardscoil Mhuire is an outstanding example of a school using the connection to its full capacity to benefit students, teachers and parents. The school is making use of the best technology and software on the market thanks to the its ultra-fast fibre connection”, Principal Herbert says. “What has been have achieved would not have been possible without the fibre connection and will open the door to a promising future for this school and others in the local area”.