From Stand Alone to Network

An Ennis School's Experience

Holy Family Junior School Description

Our school is a junior school, which caters for children from the ages of 4-7 years. We also have a special unit for deaf children aged from 4-13 years and a special unit for Traveller Children aged from 4-13 years. In total there are approx. 250 children on roll. There is a staff of sixteen teachers.

School ICT setup before the onset of Ennis Information Age Town

Before Ennis was awarded Information Age Town Status our school had one computer which was used by the school secretary for administration purposes and two computers in the Remedial Room. Most teachers in the school had absolutely no computer experience.

Initial School Plan for ICT in Holy Family Junior School

Thanks to the Generosity of Ennis Information Age Town our school received 40 PCs (5 of which were networked for Internet and e-mail usage), 15 printers and 1 multimedia projector in 1998. We opted to distribute 35 computers throughout the classrooms of the school and to install the 5 networked PCs in the Resource Room. We believed that this setup would be most advantageous to the needs of the children in our school. We didn't foresee the need for a networked Computer Room and our reasons for this decision were as follows:

1. We viewed computers as tools used to improve computing skills. We could not have imagined how powerful they would be as pedagogical tools of learning and teaching.
2. It was thought that the younger children would not be mature enough to develop the skills needed to work independently in a Computer Room.
3. The children at this school graduate to the senior school, after three years. We felt that they could perfect their Computer skills in the Computer Room there.
4. We didn't envisage a huge demand for e-mail/Internet facilities, as we didn't appreciate how powerful a resource e-mail and Internet would be for all age groups.

Experiences of using a stand-alone computer setup in our school

For the first year of the project teachers experimented and became accustomed to using PCs in the classroom. Suitable software was purchased and great efforts were made to understand how best to use the newly acquired technology. This was a difficult year for all concerned as teaching staff had been "thrown in at the deep end". There was technology in every classroom but there was little guidance on effective usage.

In September 1999 one teacher was released from classroom duties to act as Resource Teacher for Information and Communication Technology in the school. From September until Christmas she tried to work with children and teachers in their classrooms, exploring the possibilities of using ICT as an Integral part of learning. This model had many successes:

1. The ICT Resource Teacher could spend time examining software and learning how to use it. She then endeavoured to pass this knowledge on to class teachers. Integration of ICT with curriculum had begun.
2. Teachers began to realise that computers were a valuable learning tool and resource, which greatly enhanced the learning of the child and reinforced the teaching of the teacher.
3. The youngest of children quickly grasped the computing skills required to effectively use the computer for the tasks required of them.

Problems with a stand-alone computer setup

1. With only 2/3 computers in each classroom, a lot of time had to be spent showing children how to use software.
2. Monitoring of children's work was difficult, as the teacher had to teach his/her class as well as supervising computer activity at the back of the room.
3. It was intended that the resource teacher's primary duty would be to support and advise the class teacher. This proved impossible, as the teacher could not leave the main body of her class to concentrate on what was happening at the back of the classroom.
4. The small network of computers in the Resource Room was impractical, as only 10 children could use the room at any one time.

Interim Stage - Working towards a solution

In January 2000 it was proposed that one PC would be withdrawn from each classroom and placed in the Resource Room. This would mean that each classroom had 1 or 2 computers and that the Resource Room now had 16 PCs. This experiment was to be reviewed in May 2000 at a staff meeting. This new arrangement of PCs within the school had a positive impact.
1. The class teacher, resource teacher and the whole class worked together in the Computer Resource Room during one/two timetabled periods each week. The whole group learned from each other.
2. Children were using classroom PCs competently, as they had become familiar with the software during their class time in the Computer Resource Room. They demanded less teacher attention as a result.
3. Class teachers too were receiving time to explore all avenues of ICT relevant to their class.
4. As a result teachers could plan exactly what reinforcement software/project work they wished children to work on in the classroom.
5. At our staff meeting in May 2000 all teachers agreed that a combination of classroom computers and a Computer Resource Room had greatly enhanced their class integration of ICT with the Curriculum.

Next step on the learning curve…June 2000

Since this new layout of hardware was strongly endorsed by teaching staff, we decided to network the Computer Resource Room and all classrooms in the school. This work is being completed thanks to the support of Ennis Information Age Town. We hope that our school network will be up and running by November 2000.

Reasons for Networking

1. Every computer in the school will have Internet and e-mail access.

  • Home school links will be enhanced.
  • E-mail projects will be classroom based.
  • Internet Research can be carried out at a time when the subject is being taught - not strictly at computer time.
  • Teacher to teacher communication will improve as internal e-mail may be used for staff notices.

    2. Installation and deletion of software should be more manageable.

    3. Children's work may be stored permanently so that they can carry the same folder from class to class as they proceed through the school.
    4. Printers and folders will be shared.

    On a final note… For the past two years the staff of Holy Family Junior School have been on a Roller Coaster voyage of discovery where appropriate integration of ICT in Education is concerned. We've had our ups and downs. Time has been our teacher and we really have learned from our mistakes and experiences.

    We now embark on yet another funfair ride - whole school management of a Network!!!!! No doubt we will have another tale to tell in twelve months time.
Ennis Information Age Town
Holy Family Junior School
SIP 058
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