A Fresh Look at an Old Reliable

clip_image002I am the type of person who embraces technology in all its forms. In the classroom, I am always open to new forms of technology such as interactive whiteboards, digital cameras, visualisers and anything else I can get my hands on! I also understand the importance of keeping up to date with the latest software, websites and the latest ways to use technology in my everyday teaching.

Without a doubt, having the internet available on “the big screen” (as my Senior Infants call it) is a major resource in my classroom. Personally, I am constantly coming across new websites to enhance my teaching, especially in the areas of literacy and numeracy. Often, I find a lot of these websites contain resources designed for American and British schools. This is usually no problem and something Irish teachers are well used to negotiating.

However, we all constantly seem to be looking for the next snazzy website with all the bells and whistles we’ve come to expect. It is a real minefield, not to mention very time consuming and sometimes very difficult to find what is relevant and useful to my class. However, sometimes we are looking so hard that we miss what is right in front of us!

I can’t believe, that in my sixth year teaching, I am only just beginning to realise how useful www.scoilnet.ie  is. I’m sure everyone is familiar with Scoilnet. In fact it is often the default homepage on school computers. (Unfortunately for me, it was one I always skipped past, usually to www.google.ie to search for a website/resource. )

clip_image004According to the website itself, “Scoilnet is the Department of Education and Skills official portal for Irish education. It is responsible for the promotion and use of the Internet in education under the Government’s ICT in Schools Programme. Launched in 1998, the website is managed on behalf of the DES by the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE).” So essentially this means that Scoilnet is aimed exclusively at Irish teachers, parents and children which in my opinion distinguishes it from other websites/search engines out there.

The site is divided into sections for teachers, parents and students. The teachers section is then divided further into first level, second level and special needs sections. Scoilnet has organised all the websites and resources it sees as relevant, into class levels/subjects. A quick search for English resources for the infant classes, brings up 107 links. This might seems like a lot, but it is a fairly manageable amount, compared to searching in Google for “Infant English resources”, which returns 15,600,000. No wonder teachers often feel overwhelmed! Scoilnet has already picked out resources relevant to the Irish curriculum – it’s up to you to see how relevant they are to your own lessons.

clip_image006I think that the resource finder is the most useful feature on the Scoilnet site, but it’s definitely not the only one. A personal favourite for me, would have to be the “Dates and Festivals” page. This lists all the dates and festivals for the current month, from the obvious such as Valentine’s Day to the more obscure, such as World Wetlands Day (February 2nd if you’re interested!) It’s always so much more interesting to the children to be covering topics that relate directly to the real world (not just the world of education) and as these dates often have a national or international involvement which can creates a real sense of worldly participation.

The link to Britannica is invaluable in providing reliable information for projects and general research in the classroom,

Scoilnet also provide other websites which I know are well used in many classrooms, including www.imagebank.ie and www.iamanartist.ie.

So although I know you have heard of Scoilnet before, I encourage you to take a fresh look and see what you can find for yourself! Personally, I’m going to set it as my homepage J

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