2015, as always, has been a very busy year in primary education. Every year, we look back over some of our articles throughout the months to see how the year shaped out. The world of technology was a quiet enough place with very few new gadgets capturing the imaginations of teachers. 2015 seemed to be a year of consolidation and figuring out what to do on all the devices we have in classrooms. Outside of the edtech world, equality was the buzzword of 2015. Anseo.net got involved in the Marriage Equality debate and continues to highlight the many inequalities in our education system. At the end of 2015, it’s good to see a number of groups such as Education Equality and others putting pressure on everyone to recognise that a school day in the life of a child is not always an equal place.
January is the month of the IPPN conference for principals and it was the first time a Principalmeet was held at it. Although it wasn’t particularly well-promoted by the conference, over 120 principals squeezed into a tiny room for what was probably the highlight of the two-day affair. The most disappointing aspect of the conference was Jan O’Sullivan and she continued to disappoint me as the year went on. January is always a good time to launch new things and Enda Donlan’s Proj252 began its 52 week journey, culminating at the end of December. ClassDojo also launched officially in Ireland and so did Mathletes, both with good success.
If there was one gadget that tried to capture teacher’s imagination, it was the interactive touchscreen. We reviewed a few of them in February. It’s still early days but the jury is still out on them. Rozz also asked whether Internet Safety Day was simply a tick the box exercise.
The Department of Education went circular-crazy in March and we explored POD and the well-being guidelines. We asked why the INTO were publicly silent on Marriage Equality and we asked why a primary school who swapped their books for iPads was declared as groundbreaking by the Irish Independent.
In April, Anseo.net turned 10 years old. We explored how the web site has evolved in that time. We also updated our guide to kitting out a classroom with technology and launched Digital Art Week for its fourth Yeatsian-themed year. Outside of technology, the INTO had their annual congress. After 2014’s debacle where the union events were tarnished by a group of idiots behaving dreadfully, we decided to give a guide to teachers attending. However, what we didn’t expect was for the country to start talking about discrimination in schools. We asked whether schools should be able to discriminate. One commenter suggested replacing the word “school” in the article with any other word and the answer would be clear.
May was all about equality. While we knew we have very little pull in the world, we published an article to support Marriage Equality. It was wonderful to then be at Dublin Castle on the day of the result during the Excited Learning Festival where Simon was a panel speaker and we concluded that a successful education system requires role models. As well as celebrating Marriage Equality, we also celebrated the end of the paper-based roll book. (Yes, we cheered and fist-pumped.)
In June, we lost one of the few role models we have in primary education. Bianca Ní Ghrógháin was probably one of the most influential primary teachers in Ireland. She was a teacher that spent her time promoting educational technology and was selfless with that time. We miss her.
The summer months were reasonably quiet with July yielding the excitement of a web site dedicated to table arrangement! Simon spent some time with a Chromebook and gave it a thumbs up. The summer did end with some disappointing news: the collapse of the divestment process. It is a terrible scar on Jan O’Sullivan that Castlebar did not get its Educate Together school and also that she and her government have allowed children to be discriminated against in terms of accessing the full school day.
Back to school in September, the Teaching Council became the new public enemy number one with their flawed and ridiculous pilot probation project, Droichead. We suggested an alternative in the vain hope that they might actually listen to teachers rather than bulldozing and steamrolling their way into ruining the primary education system. We also wondered in light of getting an Irish flag from the army, whether we should be celebrating 1916 or not.
In October, we evaluated the Patronage and Pluralism idea that Ruairi Quinn started and realised it’s a really bad idea. We also looked at the new Digital Strategy which was as vacuous as the Minister for Education’s efforts since taking office.
In November we looked at a desk for the future and continued to ask why we still allow children to be discriminated against in primary schools and why the new NCCA ethics programme isn’t going to do anything to change it.
December saw the removal of Rule 68. Despite it being good news and it almost made me respect Jan O’Sullivan a little more, in effect, it was highly uncontroversial and really didn’t make much of a difference to the education landscape at present. The only silver lining is that it might become an influential decision for future generations. On a similar topic, we examined the long abused word: multidenominationalism.
Overall, for us, the key phrase of 2015 was “role models.” The story of this year showcased that we have very few role models for our children. There is little to no diversity in the adult population of primary schools. The government has failed to ensure that all children are treated equally in primary schools. The Teaching Council has failed to gain any trust from its members and there is discord between new teachers and older teachers due to pay inequalities that were voted for in the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
Obviously there are exceptions. Enda Donlon’s excellent Proj252, Ciara Brennan and Kathleen Byrne taking on Teachmeet Ireland and the first Principalmeet, Jenna Klein internationalising ClassDojo, Fred Boss continuing his brilliant work on Edchatie, Nicki Murphy who did not bow into pressure when she couldn’t get her child into any school in her area because he didn’t hold a Baptismal Cert, Ciaran Cannon (the only TD in this list) who has brought Digital Learning to a bigger audience and whoever decided in the Department of Education to scrap paper-based roll books! It’s almost inevitable that a few others have been left out. However, one person who embodied everything in a role model cannot and won’t be forgotten. Very sadly, we lost our most promising role model in Irish education this year, Bianca NíGhrógáin.
As we know 2016 will be the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising where a number of men took an unpopular decision to stand up and fight for independence. The upcoming year will require 21st century role models – ones that think differently and ask questions of the system. How will they utilise 21st century tools to achieve this, we will hopefully find out in the next 12 months.