'There's a different atmosphere in class – discipline is not an issue'
THE difference is the way the kids engage with their schoolwork.
"They are completely focussed for the entire 40 minutes of the class", said principal Patricia Hayden.
Teachers are noticing "a completely different atmosphere" where discipline is not an issue.
The difference is the arrival of e-textbooks for first-years at St Joseph's Secondary School, Rush, Co Dublin.
Even last September, Ms Hayden could not have predicted the roll-out of mobile devices and ebooks to an entire class year. But, such was the success of a trial run, there was no holding back the future.
The fast-growing 683-pupil school co-educational secondary school in Dublin decided to dip its toe into e-learning last year.
For the trial run, 180 first-years shared 30 iPads and educational publishers provided free content for the pupils of the school, which is in the Department's of Education's DEIS scheme to combat educational disadvantage
It was a success. "We couldn't believe it," said Ms Hayden. Encouraged by her staff, the school took the step to mainstream e-learning, starting with the 120 first-years enrolled this September.
Parents were similarly enthusiastic and, with some subsidy from the school, a €700 package covering the cost of the iPad and the e-textbooks over the three years of junior cycle was put together.
Ms Hayden found that many of the pupils already had iPads, which reduced the cost to about €250-€300.
Although e-books still represent a small proportion of all textbooks being used in schools, their use is spreading rapidly.
A recent survey by the Irish Educational Publishers' Association found that publication sales figures rose from fewer than 100 e-textbooks in 2010 to almost 40,000 in 2012.