For the first time in 35 years I didn’t join the morning commute to school on the opening day of the new academic year as I had taken “Early Retirement” a month before the summer holidays began! I now find myself on the outside of the school railings, no longer a participant in the educational process, instead merely an interested observer. I entered the teaching profession as part of the 1st group of B.Ed graduates from St. Pat’s in Drumcondra. It was chalk and talk, the Buntús on a flannel board, a TV on a trolley with a VHS recorder and several educational programs recorded from the BBC or Channel Four.
Over those 35 years many changes have occurred in the classroom and lots of those changes are as a direct result of the influence of ICT. Although on second thoughts, perhaps changes is the wrong word! Maybe opportunities is a better word; although many of these opportunities were never fully embraced by teachers or the Department of Education & Skills for one reason or another. Many teachers still cling to the more traditional classroom, sage on the stage style teaching methodology and back away from “Station Teaching” methodology or giving pupils joint ownership of an Interactive Whiteboard or classroom PC.
My first encounter with ICT was with a Commodore 64, brought across the “Border” and hidden under a blanket from prying eyes at the Custom’s Post.  It was later joined by an Apple IIe and in 1986 by an Acorn BBC Master computer with a whopping 128kB of RAM! Granny’s Garden was a must have problem-solving computer program which promoted thinking skills, reading and collaborative working (Yes! Some of us used those words way back then.) I recently read where the program has been updated to include a SCORM version for use in VLE’s, so it appears to have stayed the years better than I have!
clip_image001As we are all well aware, changes happen rapidly in ICT. Just as teachers in Irish classrooms are beginning to come to terms with Interactive Whiteboards, Web 2.0 tools and the use of Social Media in the classroom, along comes another ICT opportunity, one that is rapidly gaining a foothold in classrooms in the USA – the Flipped Classroom.  This ICT opportunity is turning the traditional teaching model on its head; instruction is delivered online, outside of the classroom and “homework” is moved into the classroom. Teachers create screencasts or instructional videos and pupils view these at home. The classroom becomes a collaborative learning environment where teachers guide their class through problems. The “learn at home” model allows pupils to work through these instructional videos, podcasts or screencasts at their own pace, stopping and rewinding whenever necessary. “New things” are learned at home and pupils are provided with the opportunities to apply the new learning when they are in the classroom.clip_image002
There are many positives to the Flipped Classroom model and some of the initial studies and reviews of the system are very favourable, showing a marked improvement in student achievements and attitudes to learning. Will the idea of the “Flipped Classroom” become a feature in classrooms in Ireland? The first adopters will undoubtedly be teachers who are totally comfortable using ICT in their classrooms and in schools where the management team have vision and are open to change. There is a learning curve to coming to terms with creating video content, adapting lessons to the new media format. Fast Internet access, a reliable Broadband system for all Irish schools, Primary and Post Primary would be a necessary requisite; the same would hold true for pupils also when they would access media rich files from home.
clip_image003Maybe when my grandson begins his educational journey in four years’ time his welcome pack will include a username and password for the classroom VLE and I can join him while he reviews his Jolly Phonics lessons online!

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