This year it is estimated that one-in-ten first year students began secondary school not with a bag full of books but with an e-bag containing a tablet and e-books instead.
Irish school textbook publishers reckon that within three years 50% of schools will have gone digital with the influx of e-books, smart phones, e-projectors and e-photocopiers to replace fuddy-duddy “old school” teaching equipment such as books and intercoms.
“Gone are the days of ‘open up your books’ or ‘sir I didn’t do my homework'” says Westmeath teacher Fungal Rightside. “Now it’s ‘power up your e-book’ and ‘sir I didn’t do my homework on this e-tablet’. It’s a new era for learning in Ireland”.
Parents may not be so enthusiastic initially, with tablets costing anything between €160-€500. E-text books for a First Year student can cost up to €300, with the licence you buy dying after a specified time – usually one, two or three years – depending on the course. Students will also require their parents to supply them with myriad other must-have digital devices which are all stealable, breakable and require batteries.
“What we are seeing is a massive advancement to the digital age for these backwards schools” gushed Bernard O’Plums, head of the new semi-state IT in Education Provision board which recommends the devices required for each child in school, with failure to provide said items soon to be classed as a criminal offence. “Instead of a Junior Cert geography teacher bringing in the telly and video to show a BBC documentary on population while he or she goes for a fag, students can just watch on their e-slate or smart phone or super book or whatnot” he said.
“And instead of ‘handing up paper’ the students can now e-send their e-homework via an online classroom e-forum where the teacher can ‘e-view’ each submission with ease. Assuming they are all handed up in the correct format, and that the students all have the correct passwords. And their devices are compatible” ha continued. “It will change how we think” he added.
A small number of schools are also exploring other ways of using technology and relevant online content in the classroom.
In Scoil Mhuire in Carrick-on-Suir, teacher Fintan O’Mahony allows students bring in whatever devices they are using at home, such as smartphones or laptops and they use those devices and Twitter in history class. “Students can look up pictures of Oliver Cromwell or Michael Collins as I dictate my class, the possibilities for learning are endless” says O’Mahony. When asked about the new devices his students seem positive about the move. However at a quick glance most are just ignoring him entirely & mooching around on Facebook or watching The Kardashians. One guy is smoking a big joint out of the back window and another guy is getting his e-book pushed down the back of his pants by some laughing bullies.