Keep On Track

It greatly frustrates me when I read newspapers talking about education.  I don’t take notice of the usual teacher-bashing. It only slightly irks me that primary and secondary schools seemed to be lumped together as one.  However, I get really annoyed when there are headline-grabbing stories about technology in education.  Either it’s that Irish teachers are not with the times as we’re not using it at all or that we’re being incredibly innovative because we’ve been sponsored to use the latest fashionable hardware device.  There’s rarely anything about real learning.  That seems to be secondary to actually using technology.  Nationwide events focused on learning are largely ignored by the press.
However, these things are happening every day of the school year by individual incredible teachers who just get on with it.  Two such teachers are Kate Murray, principal of St. Augustine’s NS in Galway and Cathal O Connell, Teacher, Holy Spirit Boys, Ballymun.  Working with 15 schools on the Dublin-Galway rail line and some education centres, the project aimed to connect schools along this line in some cross curricular subjects and share these projects on a blog.  Irish Rail and the NCTE came on board(!) and the results can be seen on http://keepontrack.scoilnet.ie
Some of these projects are simple but have fantastic learning opportunities.  Murray has published a number of curriculum plans that schools who wish to try a similar project – (JJ Kavanagh’s bus route from Waterford to Dublin anyone??) – could adapt and build upon.  Each school also made a digital collage of the story of their project all of which can be seen on the blog.  However, the biggest learning comes from the huge collection of information about each station along the way!
I checked out Clara at random to see what was there.  I was amazing to see so many activities that had taken place.  Apart from the collage, the school gave a complete history of Clara train station with lots of photographs.  They made a video of the train coming in and out of the station.  They showed how the project integrated with several subjects on the curriculum.

Image from Clara on Keep on Track Project

The technology wasn’t the important thing here. It didn’t matter what kind of computer they used, if they had access to expensive video cameras or anything like that.  It was all about how they were going to present their findings and about what they were learning about.  One could instantly see that these children know everything there is to know about trains and their town and village!
The only shame is that this project wasn’t headline news nationally.  There is no longer any reference to it on Irish Rail’s web site and while I can’t be 100% sure, I cannot find any reference to it on the NCTE’s web site.  This is a project worthy of a television documentary where hundreds of children from across Ireland came together to create something huge and something very special.  I hope that this isn’t the last we will hear of the Keep On Track project. Perhaps it might run again with more support from Irish Rail and others. However, whatever happens, all 15 schools should look back and know that they did something more innovative than anyone else has in many years.
Download some more informatio about Keep On Track.

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