In response to some comments yesterday I thought this business report from the BBC on the preference-through-necessity in Irish medium schools for technology-based education tools, including etexts and ebooks, might be of some interest:
“Technology and education have a long, complicated and sometimes exaggerated relationship.
Digital technology is associated with the classroom of the future. And if you throw iPads into the mix, you’re even more likely to hear the language of an over-optimistic tomorrow.
So you might not expect to find tablet computers being deployed to defend a language first written down 1,700 years ago when “writing on a tablet” would have meant carving on a stone.
But in an innovative blend of ancient and modern, online technology is being used to keep alive teaching in the Irish language.
And Apple, the Californian technology giant, is using this schools project in the west of Ireland as a signpost for a much more ambitious, global application of iPads in education.
The problem that it’s trying to solve is how to provide a full range of textbooks and teaching materials for a small, specialist, under-served area of education.
The number of schools in Ireland teaching through the Irish language has grown sharply in recent years, after near extinction in the early 1970s. But in total there are still fewer than 250 primary and secondary schools.
“It doesn’t make sense for publishers to put money into translating text books from English,” says Sean O’Gradaigh, lecturer in the school of education at the National University of Ireland, Galway.
It means there is demand from Irish language schools, but not enough resources to breathe life into the teaching.
Mr O’Gradaigh’s response has been to use tablet computers – in this case iPads – to produce digital textbooks that can be downloaded and shared by Irish language schools.
Irish language schools are big users of technology, says Mr O’Gradaigh. In about three-quarters of secondary schools, all the teaching staff will have their own iPad. In one in five schools, every pupil will have their own.
Mr O’Gradaigh says this reflects two sides of Irish language schools. They use iPads to get access to the digital resources. But also, because Irish language schools tend to appeal to middle-class families, the schools and their families can afford the expense.
The big picture here is that schools and academics have become the authors and publishers of their own specialist textbooks. And because it is online and digital, it can be replicated and shared immediately.”