22nd January 2013 - Use technology to improve primary school teaching, IPPN tells ITLG summit

Technology should be used to improve teaching methods in primary school classrooms, according to the Director of the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN), Seán Cottrell, who will speak at the annual summit of the Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG) in Cork later today.

Mr Cottrell will tell the ITLG panel, ‘Education and Skills for Ireland's Tech Industry - Closing the Gap’, that the way to establish Ireland as a high-tech vanguard was to invest in digital pedagogy.

‘The Government should set targets for the delivery of an IT-based curriculum where the teaching of each subject is mainly delivered by means of technology. It could start by committing to the teaching of a single subject through technology - science or maths, for example - from junior infants through to the Junior Certificate,’ said Mr Cottrell.

He said we need to examine how science and maths are taught in primary schools, with a new emphasis on the real-life application of textbook learning.

‘It may also be time to seriously consider introducing foreign languages in the primary school curriculum, not least since the absence of a second or third language is among the labour market barriers often cited by employers,’ said Mr Cottrell.

IPPN has called for multi-annual budget for technology in primary school classrooms, an integrated technology-supported curriculum, and adequate professional development support for teachers in delivering digital pedagogy.

‘Our future will be in the knowledge economy, enabled by technology. We need to invest in areas that will have a longer-term dividend. That means creating a new generation of “digital natives” in our classrooms, and equipping them with the fundamental skills to analyse, listen, communicate, listen, enquire, problem-solve and team-work. Teachers, too, must be properly resourced to deliver an integrated technology-supported curriculum,’ said Mr Cottrell.

Results from the latest major international tests of literacy, maths and science, known as PIRLS and TIMSS, shows that Irish primary school students are scoring above average. In reading, they rank tenth out of 45 participating countries. But, in all three tests, we still trail other countries.

‘Sustained investment in our education system, particularly in curricular reform, continuous professional development and school leadership, will help us to keep improving outcomes across these vital categories,’ said Mr Cottrell.

This week, some 1,000 primary school leaders will attend the Irish Primary Principals’ annual conference in Dublin. Themed ‘The Future is Now’, the event will be the largest gathering of primary school principals in Europe this year. Over 20 industry and academic leaders from household names like IBM, Ely Lilly, Kerry Group, DCU and UL will join school leaders for a workshop to discuss leadership and future skills needs.

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