Phase II 1997/1999
In 1997, Telecom Éireann extended its ‘Classroom of the Future’ Project to include six primary schools and four post-primary schools. All but one of the primary schools and one of the post-primary schools are located in Dublin city or county. Three of the primary schools are in the Department of Education’s Scheme of Assistance to Schools in Designated Areas of Educational Disadvantage. Some of the participating schools have considerable prior experience in the use of information and communications technology; others have just secured equipment and teacher training for the first time.
During the 1997-98 school year, each participating school was provided with a multi-media PC and software, an ISDN line, an internet connection, three e-mail addresses, and video-conferencing equipment. As part of the project, introductory-level courses in ICT/Computers are available to schools through the Blackrock Teachers’ Centre. In addition, training sessions and workshops on video-conferencing, web authoring and e-mail are being provided to ICT co-ordinators and participating schools and to some other teachers in these schools. The purpose of the project is to examine the use of the equipment by participating schools, and to investigate the educational benefits derived by schools, teachers and pupils as a result of access to the equipment and associated training experiences. Of particular interest are the uses made of and benefits derived from video-conferencing, internet access/web authoring, and e-mail usage.
The Educational Research Centre was asked by Telecom Éireann to evaluate the educational benefits derived by schools as a result of participating in the project. The evaluation will entail documenting the benefits of teacher training and the nature of the learning experiences provided by schools to pupils, as well as teachers’ perceptions of the effects of those experiences. In line with the technological focus of the project, it is proposed to examine these issues through the use of e-mail questionnaires and interviews with ICT co-ordinators and teachers using video-conferencing equipment.
Preliminary questionnaires were administered to the principal teachers in the 10 participating schools, and to all teachers in the schools in December 1997. The purpose of the questionnaires was to ascertain the views of schools/teachers on a range of issues related to information technology, to identify training needs in schools, to examine teachers’ expectations for the project, and to clarify teachers’ expectations for the project, and to obtain baseline data on teachers’ views on a range of issues related to the use of ICTs in the classroom.
A second questionnaire was forwarded to and completed by the ICT co-ordinators in participating schools in June 1998. The questionnaire addressed such issues as the use of ICTs in schools, participation a the story-telling video-conference for pupils in the fifth and sixth classes in the 10 schools, perceived benefits from participation in the conference, development of web sites, and participation in training activities.
The overall approach to be taken in evaluating the educational benefits of the project is to
- identify uses of ICTs in classrooms that teachers have found to be effective in promoting children’s learning;
- identify specific areas of learning in which children are believed to have benefitted from ICTs (e.g., reading skills, motivation for learning, written communication, mathematical and scientific concepts, project work, cross-curricular competencies etc.);
- the relative value of ICTs in comparison to other teaching tools. Consideration will be given to the effects of ICTs on pupils in different educational contexts (e.g., disadvantaged schools) and on pupils with differing educational needs (e.g., lower-achieving pupils).