Software Choice in Networked Rooms

One of the original goals of the Ennis Primary Schools Sip project was to evaluate the usefulness of an Integrated Learning System in our school networked Computer rooms. The possibility of using a central server to serve the needs of the Ennis computer LAN's was regarded as an exciting possibility.

Meetings were arranged at the Clare Education Centre to discuss the issues involved with a view to making an informed choice about the type of Integrated learning system we would investigate. The school principals and steering committee attended these meetings.

The issues addressed
:

  • Educational merit of this type of learning.
  • Availability of programmes in the various curriculum areas.
  • Age groups that could use the programmes.
  • Amount of time that would be required in networked Rooms.
  • Amount of time left for pupils who were not availing of the programme.
  • Amount of preparation and follow up work required in order to integrate the ILS with classroom work.
  • Amount of time needed for staff training
  • Other types of software that each individual school might find more relevant to its own situation.
  • The cost involved.

    Type of Programme

    The first area that the group looked at was at the curriculum areas offered by this type of software. The steering committee contacted all the major software companies and key members of the committee met representatives from these companies as well as attending major software exhibitions in the U.K.
    Eventually, it was considered that a Maths learning programme might be the most suitable for the Ennis situation.

    Educational Merit

    The steering committee and school principals were carefully monitoring the experience of our near neighbours in the U.K. In the "ILS A Guide to Good Practice" published by Becta in 1999 the group had the opportunity to study the findings from their extensive research. The steering committee felt confidant that the teachers involved in future use of the programme were already committed enough to integrate the content with the curriculum for their classes. However, this would necessitate staff training in the use and management of ILS and also integration in the whole school development plan.
    Principals were open to teachers having time out of class for this training but only if the entire group were convinced that this type of learning were superior to other types of learning that could be facilitated in the LAN.

    Time on the System
    Clarina, 1992 has pointed out that in order to justify the investment in ILS Software large numbers of pupils will need access to it for most or all of the school day and even beyond. This will tie up the use of the LAN for other purposes. The steering committee felt that staff would need to be highly motivated and convinced of its benefits to sustain such intense use.
    Evaluations in the U.K. have shown that pupils benefit from a break. The steering committee had reservations that staff might not wish to return to the ILS after a break or feel that they have had enough.

    Decisions of Individual Schools
    Each principal & staff took some time to weigh up the possible benefits against the possioble negative aspects of introducing ILS to their schools.
    It was felt that the programme under consideration was suitable for the junior end of the school. This would mean that senior would have a very limited time available to them in the Networked Laboratory. There would be continued movement into and out of the laboratory for fairly short periods and that could become extremely tedious for the classed involved.
    To justify the huge outlay on the programme, very little else would be done in the Networked rooms.. Some teachers were anxious to get involved in using multimedia authoring tools, DTP packages and Web design. These teachers were excited about using software that would promote higher order thinking skills and assist their pupils to construct their own learning, goals that are consistent with the Revised curriculum.

    Conclusion
    Each school drew up a submission stating the type and title of software they wished to work with and evaluate. These packages were to be compatible with sharing on the networks. This list was passed on to the N.C.T.E Below are some of the options chosen by the schools.
  • Hyperstudio - Multimedia Authoring package
  • Microsoft Publisher - DTPublishing
  • Primary Toolkit - Child Friendly Authoring package
  • Roamer
  • Curriculum Based Software - All Primary Curriculum Subjects
    Ennis Information Age Town
    SIP 058
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