It was wonderful to see students at Le Cheile Secondary School after spending the morning learning about the Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 and the Junior Cycle. After all, they are the reason we do the work that we do.
We reached the school almost at the end of their school day and were greeted by Principal, Dr. Aine Moran. She quickly took us to visit a several classrooms before the students were dismissed. As we entered the classrooms, all students rose from the chairs to greet us. I was quite impressed with this, and their uniforms added to the effect. Most schools in Ireland have uniforms.
After spending the weekend in Dublin City Centre, and seeing a predominantly white and some Asian population, I was surprised to see the number of students of color. We were told that this school is in a rapidly growing area that is seeing many immigrants from Nigeria, Kenya, Iraq and Syria.
This is not your typical school in many aspects, but a couple of things stood out. The first was that it is a “School with No Books.” Dr. Moran believes that books, even e-Books, hold teachers back from truly transforming instruction. She recruited teachers who would design their own teaching resources and be nimble, creative and student-focused to respond to whatever their student’s learning needs were. Many of us do not have the opportunity to recruit 100% of our teaching staff, but seeing what the Le Cheile teachers were doing in their classrooms, drives home the point that if we move towards a constructivist pedagogical orientation, effective use of digital technology will happen. Without this change in orientation, we will be simply substituting what we have been able to do with paper and pencil.
The second thing is that it all starts with good Leadership. Dr. Moran is building this school (physically and academically). She is not just the administrator that is working around construction of a new building, but the Instructional Leader of the school. She quoted our Keith Kreuger as saying “Educational software is only one tool in the learning process…not a replacement for well-trained teachers, leadership and parental involvement”. But we know that it takes the Principal to make the other 3 P’s (The People, The Policy and The Plant) to work effectively together.