TeachNet Ireland’s goal is to encourage Irish teachers at both primary and second levels to develop and publish quality indigenous curriculum content on the World Wide Web, by providing a supportive network and teacher professional development opportunities. Established in 2001 and hosted by St. Patrick’s DCU, Drumcondra, the TeachNet portal boasts over 300 teacher generated projects. In addition, TeachNet hosts a regularly updated Learning Blog and offers a series of ever evolving online and blended digital learning related, professional development courses.
The TeachNet Ireland project grew out of the TeachNet US model developed by Teachers Network, New York (www.teachersnetwork.org). Following a successful pilot by the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE) during the 1999 – 2000 school year, it was officially launched by the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern TD, in St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra in October 2001. From the outset the primary goal was to develop a supportive environment to encourage Irish teachers to publish quality curriculum content on the Internet and a number of key project components were implemented to help facilitate this goal. These included:
- Identifying teachers and other educators to serve as mentors.
- Conducting professional development workshops focusing on using ICT in the classroom.
- Awarding grants annually to teachers to disseminate innovative student-focused curriculum projects.
- Developing an online database of projects to share with teachers and students both nationally and internationally.
- Creating a professional community of practice for teachers integrating technology into the school curriculum.
- The development of the TeachNet Learning Blog
- Publishing of a series of educational podcasts
- Development of a series of online professional development courses.
All of this was initially made possible by the generous support of the Citigroup Foundation and The Atlantic Philanthropies. When the Atlantic Philanthropies funding ceased Microsoft came on board as a project supporter with Citigroup maintaining their position as lead funder.
From the outset TeachNet identified the need for indigenous digital content for primary and second-level classrooms and set about addressing the need by developing a framework within which interested teachers could develop relevant online content. Best described as teacher-generated learning objects, content is developed by individual teachers to meet the needs of their own classroom context and classroom tested to ensure suitability. These resources are then published through the TeachNet portal to share with other interested teachers complete with comprehensive guidelines on how the resource can be used or adapted for use in other classrooms. Throughout the entire process a team of experienced mentors are there to support and encourage participants to develop their content. Teacher created resources often differ from resources created by commercial publishers in terms of sophistication and polish but they are typically more relevant and address gaps identified by classroom teachers.