Introduction

Our school has a long tradition, thanks to its Christian Brothers' origins, of having a special regard for those students with special needs. Consequently we have run a special class for students with severe learning difficulties for the past 15 years. Over the years we enthusiastically took on board projects such as V.P.T.P. and the Alternative Leaving Certificate. These initiatives have put great demands upon the teaching staff involved. The Alternative Leaving Certificate has a strong vocational element with an emphasis on preparation for the world of work. In general, the students who opt for this course are non-academically motivated and may, in many cases, come from socio-economically-disadvantaged backgrounds. Many of the students would have a negative attitude to school and learning due to their past experiences of the academic environment. In general, they would have had disciplinary difficulties during their progress through the system. Many were only staying on because of their parents' wishes. As the class of 1999 was our third cycle of LCA, some of us who had taught all cycles and who experienced the difficulties involved felt that a new approach should be considered.

Thanks to the active interest and encouragement of our Learning Support teacher, Marie Whelan, we decided to make an application for a SIP project to test the efficacy of IT as a teaching tool for our 5th. Year L.C.A. class in 1999. Due to our experiences with LCA classes over a number of years we felt that IT in general, and portable technology in particular, would benefit the boys. At least, it would offer a different approach to a course, which has a strong orientation towards production of research work presented in folders. For many of these students, purchasing a home computer would not be an option so we decided to adopt a portable technology approach. As a core group of three teachers we prepared an application for a SIP Project, drew up a dream list and were surprised and gratified to have our application accepted. The only item, which we did not receive from our shopping list, was the .5 of teacher time, which we had requested. We did, however, receive .25 of a teacher, which went some way towards implementing our project. Our initial plan was to examine the commercial software on the market for second level schools and evaluate its usefulness in the LCA context. As you will see later on in my report we modified this approach in the light of circumstances.