My experience in Ireland was amazing and will have a profound impact on the manner in which I approach my work in the future. The Irish landscape is one of intense beauty and filled with people who have a genuine spirit. These factors were present in both the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland. Equally evident was the remnants of a violent struggle for understanding and independence.
We had the opportunity to learn about the Minster of Education’s shift to a constructivist learning environment. This change is being both embraced and resisted. The resistance appears to be the universal resistance to change that we also face here in the States. The change will be slow but it seems to have strong backing and support. It was exciting to learn how this change will help to propel the Irish educational system. We had the opportunity to learn about the inner workings of the system during our time spent with the Education Centre Directors Bernard Kirk (Galway) and Dr. Frank Walsh (Athlone).
Although the Republic of Ireland has a large amount of centralization in regards to curriculum, that is not the case with technology infrastructure. It is my opinion that the country and the people of Ireland would benefit greatly from universal contracts like student information systems and network connectivity. Both are currently left to the individual schools to negotiate.
Northern Ireland seems to have the opposite issues as the Republic. For the most part, Northern Ireland had a well formed technology hub that manages most of the technology needs to the schools. This work is all carried out by a group known as C2K. In the North, they seem to be very conservative in their approaches to learning, still emphasizing the use of high stakes testing. This has led many schools to utilize assessment data to modify instruction and more effectively tailor instruction to the learning needs of the students.
In both visits, each held a large amount of promise and direction for the future. It will be exciting to follow Ireland’s development over the next couple years as they implement these significant changes.