Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future. Niels Bohr
We are in the middle of a technological revolution that is fundamentally altering the way we live, work and relate to one another. How can we prepare our young people for the complex 21st century? Acquiring content knowledge alone is no longer enough. Students must be given opportunities to determine knowledge and meaning for themselves, transforming them from passive recipients of information to active participants in the learning process. This constructivist approach helps prepare students for the future by developing the characteristics that are necessary to negotiate our ever changing world. Confidence and self-awareness to counteract being told what you like from social media and targeted advertising, critical thinking to be able to distinguish fake news from real and emotional intelligence and cognitive flexibility to be able to manage change and work collaboratively across various disciplines.
The need to develop these key skills in addition to content knowledge is supported at national level and outlined by the DES in a number of key documents that form the basis of our teaching and learning policies – the Junior Cycle Framework, Looking at Our School and the Digital Learning Framework. In Sandymount Park, learning and teaching is enhanced with the use of iPad and O365. Students are encouraged to work collaboratively and independently, developing metacognitive skills to enable them to become self directed learners. Technology is harnessed to enhance the human to human contact that is essential to learning. Office 365 is our Virtual Learning Environment and is used by students and teachers to explore, create, collaborate, assess, reflect, give feedback and access and store information.
Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers can be transformational. George Couros
The ability to problem solve and think critically is dependent on the student acquiring a sound knowledge base. Direct instruction is a highly effective teaching method that directs mental activity towards important learning that will develop long term memory without over-whelming working memory. John Hattie describes a direct instruction lesson as ‘The teacher decides the learning intentions and success criteria, makes them transparent to the students, demonstrates them by modelling, evaluates if they understand what they have been told by checking for understanding, and re-telling them what they have told by tying it all together with closure’. In Sandymount Park, teachers harness technology to assist and enhance direct instruction to: present material in small steps, give detailed instructions, model steps, provide examples, scaffold, check for understanding, review, provide feedback, enable and monitor independent practice, enable student to show their learning in a variety of formats.
When the pandemic forced schools to close in 2020 and again in 2021, our embedded use of iPads and O365 allowed us to seamlessly transition to remote schooling with no interruption to learning. Technology played a critical role in enabling students and staff to stay connected, engaged and motivated.
Students displayed very good strengths in communicating learning. All learners, according to their ability, demonstrated their understanding competently. They contributed confidently through verbal engagement and in writing, including handwritten and digital formats. Science Subject Inspection 2019