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Our Lady's College saw how much scope there was for using these new skills for the benefit of all. Our Principal was very keen to keep the school moving forward and was willing to invest as much as possible in developing our IT resources. The vice-principal, Donal Lynch, was responsible for getting us initially involved in SIP and he worked extremely hard to get a group together who would work with him on the school's IT plan and possible project ideas.

The group, of about 6 members of staff from very different backgrounds, put together a comprehensive report outlining past achievements of our school and the progressive nature of our staff. We were successful in winning a network of 14 computers from Hewlett Packard under their K-12 programme. This programme is aimed at schools that have some link with HP - for example a parent of one of our students sponsored our application - and provides the successful applicants with a network of computers and technical support. The successful applicants must show that the school is worthy of such a prize and also show how the award will help the staff, the students and the community. The school should be a "centre of learning" in the community.

Our success in getting the K-12 award really brought our IT department forward. Our Lady's College has had IT, or Computer Studies since 1983(approx) when we purchased 12 Commodore computers. Several staff members attended a computer course in Trinity College at the time in order to develop their own skills. These computers remained in use in the school for many years. In the early 1990's there was a lot of interest again in the use of computers in schools and in 1993(?) we started a programme of purchasing 386 and 486 machines as money became available. Over a three year period about 20 machines were bought and they were used to teach both computer programming and IT skills such as word processing, spreadsheets etc..

With the introduction of Transition Year more people became interested in how we could use computers more creatively in our teaching. The K-12 computers gave us access to the internet for many people simultaneously through a network and saw a major increase in the demand for access to the computer room - both for class groups and individuals at lunchtime. Many of us in our school have seen the advent of ICT in education as a resource of great potential but the difficulty remains how to get maximum benefit for our students. We are all working with very limited time available to complete very demanding courses and we want to give our students the best possible chance of success in their exams. We are also aware that education is more than just passing exams, its the development of the whole person, to expose students to a wide variety of experiences and to stimulate their interests in all aspects of life.

ICT allows access to a whole world of experiences that students should have the opportunity to explore in relative safety. By using different teaching techniques we will be able to enhance our classes and, just maybe, simulate a new interest in our students. The IT skills they can develop may be more directly useful to the students than some of the course content they need to work so hard at. the other problem schools face is the cost of IT. The computers are expensive as well as the infrastructure need to run them. Technical support is also extremely expensive and very necessary. So much of the work done in schools is on a voluntary basis and is very time consuming - in fact many teachers have learnt a certain amount of computer maintenance skills out of necessity. We felt that our involvement in SIP would improve our IT situation in many ways. We would be able to get more hardware and peripheral equipment, we would be able to get access to more training more readily and that we would be able to get training for our specific needs. We also felt that, as we had learnt most of our IT skills on a "need to know" basis, we would develop further skills in needing to complete a project.