Teachers can't access online encyclopaedia at home
KNOWLEDGE on tap was what Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe promised, but unfortunately the flow is turned off when schools close.
His department last year agreed to pay €450,000 annually to Encyclopaedia Britannica for teachers to access material online.
But teachers cannot gain access to the material on their home computers.
This is the second controversy involving Encyclopaedia Britannica, with some versions describing the Civil War as a conflict between Catholics in the South and Protestants in the North.
"However, this latest screw-up is a lot more serious as it affects how teachers can do their jobs," said Fine Gael education spokesman Brian Hayes.
He asked: "What is the point in paying half a million euro a year for a service if teachers cannot access it at home?"
He said that many, if not all, teachers prepared course work at home and it was here that access to this expensive service was needed.
"Why the minister and his department forked out such a large amount of taxpayers' cash for a resource with such limited accessibility is beyond me.
"In the first instance, home accessibility for teachers should have been sorted out and this needs to be done without delay," Mr Hayes said.
The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) said there had been no consultation with the union before the decision was made for a significant investment in online access to two encyclopedias.
The union said restricting access to school computers would severely limit usefulness to teachers, given the poor state of broadband connectivity in schools.
But the minister said that the National Centre for Technology in Education (NCTE) was exploring ways to provide home access to the digital content to all teachers.
"The challenge is in authenticating those who will access the content from outside the schools broadband network."
This had been done previously for 1,600 geography teachers in regard to home access to Scoilnet maps and digital mapping tools.
The minister pointed out that the NCTE was working to implement an authentication system that would allow teachers to access this digital content from outside the schools network.
The online encyclopaedias contain a diverse range of learning objects including text, research aids, video clips, 3D simulations and other media-rich representations.