About two years ago we became aware of the new government initiative
known as IT2000 and, in particular, the schools integration project,
or SIP. It was a golden opportunity for our school, which has
always been open to new ideas and opportunities, to continue to
expand its IT resources. We had just received 14 new computers
under the Hewlett Packard K12 programme and felt that to get the
most from ourselves and our students we needed a target or challenge
that would allow us to stretch ourselves and develop new skills.
With this in mind we set about completing our school IT plan,
which was a pre-requisite for applying for SIP, and looking into
various possible activities we could use as our SIP project. We
wanted a project that was possible to complete so that we would
not become frustrated and disillusioned yet we wanted to try something
we had not done before. Within our school we have used many different
teaching resources over the years and one, which has proven itself,
has been the use of audio-visual material. The introduction of
the transition year program to our school in recent years has
meant that many teachers had to draft their own courses and syllabi
and develop their own resources for these.
This led us to wonder if we could use IT to develop material
that would provide teachers and students with a new resource that
would bring together many different tools in a multi-media CD
ROM. At the same time there was a lot of concern being expressed
by the government and other agencies about the lack of uptake
of science subjects, particularly chemistry and physics, at leaving
certificate level. In our school all first year students study
science and home economics but they must choose only one going
into second year.
Usually, slightly over half the students opt for science. At
leaving certificate level we offer chemistry, physics and biology.
The uptake of biology is very high, about 85-90%, but chemistry
has a much lower uptake, only about 10% and physics a little less
at only 8%. This is quite similar to countrywide trends.
We felt that if we could encourage more students to keep on science
at the end of first year we might be able to increase the chances
of more students studying science subjects all through second
level to leaving certificate. Also we noticed that the weaker
students, in general, tended to select home economics often because
they felt that, even though science was interesting, it was for
We hoped that we would be able to change this perception with
our SIP project. This gave rise, then, to the proposal that we
make a CD ROM that would be useful in teaching science to first
year science. We had never tried this before but we thought it
must be possible as we had heard about "CD burners" and "multimedia
CD ROMs" and thought we would like to try to make our own CD.
There were many CD's available at the time that were based on
the English education curriculum that were only partly suitable
for our courses so we felt that there was a gap in the market
that both we and maybe other schools might be able to benefit
from if we were successful. Another reason for choosing a project
that was software based was that the skills learned would be applicable
to any other subject. So, if we learnt how to make a science CD,
then we would be better able to create a CD in other subject areas
at a later date.