KINSALE Community School is a pilot school for the Department of Education’s digital strategy.
But principal Fergal McCarthy doesn’t believe technology should be used exclusively.
‘ICT (information and communications technology) clearly has a place in education but it has to be used in a targeted way,’ he says. ‘There is incontrovertible evidence that ICT can, if used correctly, be a very powerful learning tool. But we should not completely rely on it.’
The Clonakilty man is only too aware of the drawbacks to technology, too.
‘When people talk about the weight of schoolbags today, and the role of technology, it makes for a very compelling argument, but a balance needs to be met,’ he points out. ‘We know that technology can lead to sleep deprivation, distraction, multi-tasking and overall have a negative impact on learning when compared with traditional methods. Paper provides superior levels of learning, it is a tactile experience,’ he adds.
The blue light emitted by the likes of iPads has been known to disrupt students’ sleeping patterns, therefore leaving them struggling to concentrate in school the next day.
‘It’s not fair or reasonable to expect them to work on a medium that has an adverse effect on them,’ he says.
The teacher’s role has changed fundamentally since the introduction of technology, explains Mr McCarthy. ‘Where once they were the purveyors of information, now every child has access to that information. So the teacher has moved from being the fountain of information to being the curator of that knowledge. And, yes, we can use ICT for a special purpose, but it needs to be understood, and we should not completely rely on it.’
It’s a matter of skilfully blending different systems of learning, he says.
‘What we see is a need for a skilful approach to utilising ICT’s positive effect, but equally realising it has limitations and consequences and needs to be delivered in a skilful way,’ he continues.
Mr McCarthy says the ‘clamour’ towards using iPads as an exciting way of reading or doing homework needs to be seen in the context of the research which consistently shows that the technological learning experience is in no way comparable to traditional methods.