Broadband 'paying off in schools but challenges remain'
High-speed broadband is paying off for teaching and learning in second-level schools - but teachers and students still face many challenges around the use of computers in the classroom.
A new report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) highlights how Irish education still has a way to go to integrate technology into daily school life.
According to the report there are a "number of persistent challenges that are likely to hinder further progress", including the need for more investment in infrastructure, better technical support and more teacher training.
It says classroom usage of the new technologies varies considerably across schools and is heavily influenced by the support offered by school leadership.
Researchers looked at the experience of 400 second-level schools, with an in-depth study of 10 schools, after they had received the reliable internet connection through the Schools 100Mbps Project.
The report put a particular focus on the views of students, which tend to be largely absent from studies about the use of information and communications technology (ICT) in education.
Researchers say broadband provision has had a noticeable impact on the quality and use of the internet in schools, with many teachers reporting the benefits for teaching and learning.
Students reported a lighter school bag and easy access to information for project work as being among the benefits of using personal devices for school work.
They were generally positive about the use of ICT in the classroom and also reported receiving adequate information relating to online responsibility.
However, pupils voiced dissatisfaction with the quality of some educational apps, in addition to the high cost of purchasing and maintaining devices.
While high-speed broadband delivers a reliable internet connection, schools reported other infrastructural issues including internal school network reliability, quality of equipment and the availability of online resources.
Another downside reported by schools was the amount of work involved in the upkeep of technology.
Many teachers reported needing support not just in learning how to use the technologies but also to help them make judgments about the most appropriate technologies to use.
Report author Sean Lyons said the study had uncovered broadly positive attitudes to the increased use of technology in the classroom. It also found evidence of a growing place for technology in schools.
But he said developing leadership, at both national and school levels, to support staff, as well as providing more infrastructural supports was critical in cultivating the successful use of ICT in classrooms.