Mobiles ring changes for oral Irish exam
STUDENTS could be allowed to use mobile phones as part of the Junior Certificate Irish test to how well they can speak the language.
Instead of sitting down formally with an examiner, they would instead speak Irish into the phones and be marked on what they said.
A pilot study called FON found that students were much more relaxed recording conversation into phones than facing adult examiners.
One teacher said: "They nearly lost their lives around an oral exam, but listen to them on the FON system and they're nearly singing."
However, teachers and students both agreed that some percentage of the oral grade should still come from a traditional face-to-face examination.
The move to use mobiles as a tool has come from government education advisers, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).
Early results from a pilot project in a small number of schools have been positive.
Students and teachers like it and it would also reduce the cost of sending examiners out to schools for the traditional-style oral exams.
Students involved in the FON project said they spoke more Irish and enjoyed using new technology as an educational tool.
Many said they were more relaxed when talking into a mobile phone than face-to-face with a teacher or oral examiner. Teachers also saw the benefits and said the use of mobiles would work for students who were not usually good at doing exams and would reduce exam pressure on students.
Earlier NCCA research found that FON was effective for improving student motivation for Irish, increased student use of spoken Irish, and improved student competence in Irish.
The latest phase of research focussed on how the mobile phone could be used to examine students. It was found to be an effective tool of assessment, although a definitive system has not been devised.
However, while efficient in one way, the introduction of such technology across all schools would be costly.
The NCCA said that students should be provided with free mobile phones if they were to be introduced for assessment purposes.
However, it suggested that this could be done on the basis of a partnership with private organisations.
Mobile phone company Vodafone was project partner for the most recent phase of the research and provided phone rental and call charges free of charge, with software developed and provided at a greatly reduced price.
The FON project is linked to the decision by the Government to increase to 40pc the proportion of marks awarded for the oral test in the Junior Cert Irish exam.