Teachers sharing good practice within their profession
Last Monday evening, November 7th, I had the pleasure to attend the launch of, Enhancing Literacy and Numeracy with ICTs in Dublin West Education Centre by Junior Minister Mr. Brian Hayes.
This publication, which was also supported by Navan Education Centre, contains a total of 18 chapters, all related to the theme of how the use of technology can enhance the acquisition of literacy and numeracy skills in Irish primary schools. This book follows up on a previous publication, ICTs in the Primary School – Teaching & Learning for the 21st Century, and a copy of this new publication will be distributed free of charge to every primary school in Ireland.
The book will make a great addition to every school and hopefully it will provide teachers and principals with practical approaches to enhance the teaching of literacy and numeracy in an age when ICT is all pervasive in our society. While I was thumbing through the glossy pages I got a little nostalgic and I reflected on how such knowledge was shared in the recent past. The publication brought me back to a time when education centres played a central role in identifying and sharing good ‘practical knowledge’ among teachers in their areas. This ‘sharing’ covered all areas of the curriculum, planning, assessment and much more.
ICT Support Groups
This was especially true in the area of ICT, particularly when the DES had no policy for the use of ICT in schools. I recall attending monthly Support Group events, organised by CESI, in Dublin West, Drumcondra and Blackrock Education Centres where teachers went along to share and develop their professional practice knowledge (that is what the literature calls it!). Teachers often brought their own computers, speakers, software etc. and we huddled around the monitor and listened to the presenters of an evening. I still recall these sessions with fondness and then we had a cuppa where we asked questions and generally shared and developed our own knowledge. These gatherings were dominated by enthusiastic teachers who gave of their time freely to network with like minded teachers and to share their knowledge. With the advent of national CPD programmes these networks seem to have dissipated and instead we had national initiatives, the one size-fits-all variety. The national programmes have their place but we have lost the local gatherings where good practices were gathered and shared over a cup of tea. But I think this book has shown that these days may be once again returning, particularly when the days of large scale national programmes are no longer feasible.
Practitioner Practice being Shared
Both Dublin West and Navan Education Centre should be commended for taking the initiative to publish this book and to putting a copy in every school. This once again puts the Education Centre Network at the heart of sharing ‘effective’ practice among teachers. Of course it is no accident that one Robbie O’Leary is the driving force behind the publication.
Robbie has been a leading practitioner in this field for many years and he used all his skills to identify and cajole teachers and others to contribute to this publication. This fact was not lost on Minister Brian Hayes who specifically commented on the importance of publications that showcased the work of teachers on the ground. This publication certainly fits into this category.
Other professions, such as medicine and law, place a high value on ‘tacit’ or ‘craft’ knowledge but sometimes it does not have the same value in education. However, such practical knowledge is vital for busy teachers who are interested in enhancing the experiences of their learners so let’s hope that other centres follow this lead. Hopefully we will see other publications in the near future that:
· link ICT to areas of the curriculum and
· that showcase the work of practitioners on the ground.
Ultimately this publication will be used in schools to guide additional CPD activities for staff who want to integrate ICT into their literacy and numeracy teaching activities.