SCHOOLCHILDREN who 'H8' learning Irish could soon find that it is as easy as 'TXT', thanks to the use of new technology in the classroom.
Mobile phones, laptops and text-based seomrai caint (chatrooms) are being used in a pilot project bringing the teaching of Irish at second-level into the 21st century.
It is part of a drive to motivate pupils, improve their communication skills in Irish and test the use of ICT (information and communication technology) in assessing pupils.
So far the pupils and teachers love it and Government education advisers, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), are hugely encouraged by the results.
The project was rolled out by the NCCA, in partnership with the National Centre of Technology in Education, Foras na Gaeilge and the State Examinations Commission.
Education Minister Mary Hanafin has said she is committed to boosting oral skills in Irish. By 2010, 40pc of marks in Junior Certificate Irish are to be awarded for the spoken word, with changes at Leaving Cert level by 2012.
The project involves a number of exercises, for which teachers decide on the content:
* Pupils use mobile phones to dial a number and hear a series of recorded questions to which they respond. They can re-record until they are happy with their response.
* Teachers listen to student responses online and provide feedback, either in printed form or on a podcast.
* Teachers use SMS to send a word a day to pupils for them to learn.
* Pupils log on to a secure web chatroom where a stimulus, such as a photo or movie, is provided to prompt a written story.
Students are provided with mobile phones for the duration of the project, which can only be used for related work. The initial trial ran at Ratoath College, Co Meath, in April-May , involving 69 second-year pupils and three teachers. The NCCA hopes to expand the project to around 10 schools in the next school year, depending on funding.