Shared Education: Has an overly literal sense of “campus” excluded willing participants?

Garry McIlwaine is Principal at Ampertaine Primary School in County Lodonderry Schools in Northern Ireland are being encouraged to think ahead and to envisage how our education system might evolve in a developing political, economic, social and financial climate. As a community as a whole, we are, it seems, being directly tasked with shaping the…

Shared Education: Has an overly literal sense of “campus” excluded willing participants? was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

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Garry McIlwaine is Principal at Ampertaine Primary School in County Lodonderry


Schools in Northern Ireland are being encouraged to think ahead and to envisage how our education system might evolve in a developing political, economic, social and financial climate. As a community as a whole, we are, it seems, being directly tasked with shaping the organisation and delivery of education to provide for togetherness of learners and involvement of all sectors. We are to deliver educational benefits through efficient use of resources, equality of opportunity, good relations, diversity and community thorough creation of campuses.(DENI:2016)

Whilst it will be up to all of us to challenge / develop / pursue Shared Education, it seems that lessons of huge potential from at least one previous and one ongoing initiative have been overlooked.

The Dissolving Boundaries (DB) project, led by Roger Austin and Marie Mallon had the simple aim of connecting schools from all over Ireland so that learning experiences could be facilitated through the use of ICT which would, in turn, enable collaboration, create learning groups, upskill teachers and children etc. etc. It would also “dissolve boundaries” to whatever extent individual partners might be able to accommodate, given their contexts. In our school, DB was a first “toe in the water” which eventually enabled us to make applications for Integrated Education and Promoting Integrated Education (PIE) grants.

In practical terms, the DB project provided the finance for in-service training, collaborative meetings (I had never before met with teachers from the South), some hardware, online materials and, vitally, the technical support we so badly needed. Awareness of “internet safety” issues were addressed in a real way in a safe environment.

Sadly, withdrawal of Department of Education funding brought one of our school’s most fruitful, inspiring and enabling projects to an abrupt end.

We have recently undertaken work within the “CyberSmarties” social media project for 6-12 year olds with total support from parents and rave reviews from our children who are now involved in forming appropriate “friendships” through social media, gaming and problem-solving in a very tightly controlled online area. We believe that our potential to fulfil our E-Safety aims are hugely enhanced through this online facility.

The magic of DB was that no matter (almost!) where you were in Ireland, you had the potential to team up with, engage and invest in other real learners. As a huge bonus, children by the thousand were able to meet face to face with their partners at least once per year. Friendships were cultivated and nurtured in an Irish / Northern Irish “Campus.”

Isn’t is sad that the current Shared Education scheme in place in Northern Ireland is missing a ‘campus’ trick? Shouldn’t the powers-that-be be encouraged to harness the power of technology so that more remote schools like ours can be supported through their work in virtual campuses? Wouldn’t we all like to harness the potential to enable our young folk to work, learn and live together in ‘campuses’ through projects like Dissolving Boundaries and CyberSmarties?

Shared Education: Has an overly literal sense of “campus” excluded willing participants? was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

Technology: Next Generation Education

Claudia Hudner is a Senior Infant Teacher in St. Joseph’s Primary School, Charleville, Co. Cork As a relatively newly qualified teacher, technology has always been a part of my teaching experience. I spent my first two years subbing which allowed me the opportunity to see how other schools utilise technology as a learning tool. Most…

Technology: Next Generation Education was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog

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Claudia Hudner is a Senior Infant Teacher in St. Joseph’s Primary School, Charleville, Co. Cork


As a relatively newly qualified teacher, technology has always been a part of my teaching experience. I spent my first two years subbing which allowed me the opportunity to see how other schools utilise technology as a learning tool. Most commonly the interactive whiteboard is used as a springboard for learning activities for example video clips, images, games and cartoons. Others used it for everyday activities such as writing news in the infant classroom. Most interestingly, it can be used by children as a medium for communicating with others of similar age across Ireland or abroad as a modern take on a pen pal system.

In each classroom I taught in, I undoubtedly encountered some form of technology so it goes without saying that technology is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Not only that, the children of today are surrounded intensely by various means of technology in their daily routines so why then are children not being taught how to use this technology positively and safely? Cybersmarties is certainly the way forward to amend this issue. It is a fresh and current way of teaching children in a fun, safe and positive learning environment. I once read a quote about teaching in relation to routine/ discipline that stated ‘if you want something, teach it.’ It applies to this also, if we want children to grow up to be responsible teenagers and adults who can use the internet properly then it is essential that as children they are taught how to do so.

Currently I am teaching senior infant children and while they are only five years of age they are certainly not to be underestimated when it comes to technology. Technology is what they have grown up with and it is ultimately here to stay. If we want our future students to be responsible and safe across the cyber world, then we must teach it.

Technology: Next Generation Education was originally published on Cybersmarties Blog