Hi-tech pupils prove 'amazing' iPod isn't too cool for school
Laptops are considered old hat and the term 'app' is a daily buzzword in Ireland's most hi-tech school.
Not content with having a single computer per classroom -- the stated official aim of most schools -- teachers at St Aidan's Primary School in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford went much further.
Taking their cue from an experiment in England, they equipped all their pupils with an iPod touch, a €170 wireless, handheld device made by Apple.
The same as an iPhone, except for the ability to make conventional phone calls -- the mini-computer connects effortlessly to the internet and allows teachers to give pupils learning tasks in everything from maths to visual arts.
The device, with slick touch-screen technology, razor-sharp images and even a mini-keyboard, is so sophisticated it has even relegated some textbooks into second place.
Using 'apps' -- computer software applications -- pupils can be given geography tests using maps and questions on the device as well as trying to beat the clock in vocabulary quizzes.
Excited pupils can't wait to use the device.
St Aidan's principal Peter Creedon said: "Children find this technology extremely cool -- I cannot over-emphasise the cool factor."
It changes the child from being a passive learner to an active learner, he added.
Mr Creedon was inspired by a pilot scheme sponsored by computer giant Apple, offering a small number of iPod Touches for school experimentation.
So impressed was he by what he saw on a familiarisation visit to UK schools last spring that, instead of relying on the small number available under the scheme, St Aidan's bought one for every fourth class pupil.
The 852-pupil school, designated as disadvantaged, used its own funds and, at €170 for each of the 60 pupils involved, spent around €10,000.
Mr Creedon said they were considering buying laptops "but this made us make the decision to go straight into handheld".
This term, an iPod Touch is being provided for fifth- and sixth-class pupils. By early next year, all second- and third-class pupils will have one, thanks to government technology grants.
Pupils use the iPod Touch to source data on the internet or via an array of educational apps.
Fourth-class teacher Sarah Maher said the educational and other benefits were "amazing".
One bonus was progress in language development as "children are finding more and more opportunities to talk about and explain their learning to peers".
"There is no discipline issue once the iPods are out," Ms Maher added.
The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) said the iPod Touch initiative showed many primary schools were years ahead of official policy in the area of school computing.
On the government initiative to fund a laptop and projector for every school, INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said: "It doesn't put one piece of technology into a child's hands. . . Government policy is more like 'hands-off' learning."