Newsletter
Autumn '99

 


ScoilNet Launched
ScoilNet, a comprehensive website for teachers, students and parents was launched by the Minister for Education and Science, Micheál Martin in Dublin. ScoilNet contains a range of classroom resources in a variety of subject areas for both primary and post-primary schools. During the summer many subject specialists prepared the site for its September launch. The site will continue to expand and develop as students and teachers can  contribute to and update its contents. Visit the site at www.scoilnet.ie.
 

Information Society Report
The Information Society CommissionÇs recent report Building a Capacity for Change - Lifelong Learning in the Information Society can be viewed at www.infosocomm.ie. There is much to be considered by educators in this report. On page 9  ÑThe most important skill needed to survive in today's world is the ability to learn and to continue learning. If we accept this premise then our present education and training systems must be seen to continue to move the focus away from the products of learning and towards the learning process.

Report from Eurologo99
The seventh European conference on Logo, Eurologo99, was held in Sofia, Bulgaria from August 22nd to 25th last. About two hundred Logo enthusiasts attended, mainly from Europe, but also from USA, Brazil, Russia and Israel.

The highlight for many participants was the presence of the Logo guru himself, Professor Seymour Papert, who was one of the originators of Logo at MIT in the late 60's. ( http://el.www.media.mit.edu/groups/el/ ). In his keynote address, Prof. Papert shared his thoughts on education and where it should be going. He holds that attempting to impose change from above on a complex system by tinkering with parts of it does not work - when the pressure is released the system slips back into its original state of equilibrium. Educational change is possible but the system needs to be allowed to evolve from within. He thinks one of the forces for change will be kidpower, the computer oriented generation of children now entering the system. The current approach to what we do in schools now is dictated by the technology of an earlier epoch. We need to reformulate the kind of knowledge which will be meaningful in the future. He went on to talk about Constructionism as an alternative approach to education using a more project-based approach. Logo enables children to deal with real ideas, is a tool for carrying out engaging projects. However these sorts of explorations cannot be done in the typical school period of 40 minutes. We need examples of total immersion in computationally rich environments.

The University of Sofia awarded Professor Papert the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa in recognition of his contribution to education.

In the other keynote address, "Playing with (and without) words", Professors Celia Hoyles and Richard Noss, Institute of Education, University of London, described their current research, the Playground project.
(http://www.ioe.ac.uk/playground/frame_f.htm). On the basis that children learn best through play, their idea is to present children with virtual playgrounds where they play with the objects provided, create new games and play them, reflect on and manipulate the rules of the game.  Such playgrounds will be built using Toontalk                     -(http://www.toontalk.com/English/toontalk.htm) and Openlogo, a new implementation of Logo from the creators of Superlogo  - Andrej Blaho, Ivan Kalas and Peter Tomcsanyi at Comenius University, Bratislava (http://www.edi.fmph.uniba.sk/logo/ )

The NETLogo project, (http://www.netlogo.org) funded by the European Commission, aims to develop a wide set of networked services: facilities for teachers and pupils to conduct on-line experiments, communicate over the network, exchange information with the site and with other schools about Logo and its teaching. One of the services will be an online training course for teachers on the use of Logo. The project is on-going and the site, while up and running, is not yet complete. You need to register (no charge) in order to access some of the pages. The NETLogo site should become a useful resource for Logo users.

There were many other interesting presentations from teachers and researchers covering topics including learning with Logo, methodology and curriculum design, software environments and robotics. The proceedings should become available in time at the Eurologo99 website which is at (http://iea.fmi.uni-sofia.bg/eurologo99/ ).  While you are waiting (!), the proceedings of Eurologo97 held in Budapest are accessible at http://caesar.elte.hu/~eurologo/ .

It wasn't all work - the social program included a sightseeing tour of Sofia and a visit to a traditional Bulgarian restaurant with spectacular entertainment. The conference was a great success thanks to the hard work and hospitality of the organising team led by Dr Roumen Nikolov and Dr Iliana Nikolova. We came away feeling that the spirit of Logo is alive and well and providing rewarding educational experiences for many.
Olivia Bree
October 7th, 99.

Teachers' Union of Ireland Policy Document
on
Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) 1999

The following are some of the areas of concern identified by the TeachersÇ Union of Ireland ICT Working Party: -

1. How IT2000 was to be introduced.
2. Teacher Training and Substitution
3. Productivity and Change
4. ICT Qualifications and Allowances
5. Resourcing/Equipment
6. Curricular
7. Class sizes
8. Technical Assistance with ICT Hardware and Software in class context
9. Social Inclusion/Exclusion
10. Health & Safety issues re ICT.
11. ICT at Third Level, e.g. Tele-learning/Teaching and job consequences.

The following are some of the Recommendations

* Any changes brought about through the introduction of ICT in our schools or colleges must be recognised as Productivity and recompensed.
* A reduction in class contact hours for teachers to introduce ICT into teaching practice and to develop suitable new programmes for their students must be sought.
* Release time with substitution cover for teachers/lectures involved in Whole School/College ICT co-ordination in Schools/Colleges is vital:-
* An allocation of 1 exquota teacher per 20 teachers to facilitate the introduction of IT2000, and to give individual schools ownership of this programme.
* Appropriate level of pay for preparation and teaching.
* We must demand that proper Certifiable and Accredited ICT training courses be offered to all Post Primary teachers.
* Programmes must be designed so that, teachers will have opportunities for progression in ICT education and training.
* We must ensure that all ICT courses and training are customised for pedagogical uses as well as computer skilled based.
* Qualification allowances for ICT qualifications must be comparable to other qualifications at presently awarded.
* Teachers with existing Computer qualifications to continue to be recognised.
* Teachers with Computer Science should be recognised as qualified to teach IT.
 

Regarding safety
* users, especially students, of computer facilities should be supervised by a qualified teacher.
* the number of computers installed in a room should not be excessive
* the work stations should be custom-made and reinforced - traditional desks won't suffice
* the refresh rate of the monitor should be of an optimal level: 60 -75 megahertz minimum
* there must be adequate and appropriate lighting
* filters should be fitted to monitors.
* equipment, especially hardware, should be adjustable
* adjustable seating should be provided
* the height of benches/workstations should fall within the optimal range - 72cm the norm
* there should be a minimum distance of 1 metre between users
* Teachers should be made aware of the NCTE's Advice Sheet  Internet Safety



Editor: Tomás O Briain
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