There’s a really interesting conversation going on on the CESI mailing list right now. It started off with the incredible news that the Irish government is spending almost half a million euro in licencing fees for products available to all Irish schools through the Broadband scheme. These products are two encyclopaedia – the World Book and Britannica Online.
Apart from the fact that it’s crazy to be spending so much money on these services, no matter how good they are, the craziest thing of all is the fact that nobody is using them. OK, nobody I know is using them.
It got me thinking about all the services that the NCTE (and Scoilnet) are offering Irish teachers. I have rarely heard them mentioned outside a PPDS course. This must be very annoying for the NCTE but it is their responsibility to get us using the stuff. Below is a list of some of the services the NCTE/Scoilnet offer all primary schools for free. Some of them you will know and others you won’t. Most of them are very good. God knows how much we as tax payers are paying for them!
Scoilnet is a service itself. It’s a portal for all teachers and students to find resources that will help with planning and learning. It used to be dreadful and now it’s quite good. My favourite aspect of the web site is its themed pages. My only gripe with Scoilnet is its lack of interactivity (besides a poll) and the fact that they take a long time to reply to emails sent through their contact form.
Imagebank is an image search engine. With Google Image search, you’d think there’d be no need for this. However, all images on this web site are free to use for all schools. You don’t need to ask permission to use them on your school web site. This is more useful than people might think initially. Having said that, I always use Creative Commons search engine. A way to improve this would be to let teachers know that they can upload their own images to their database.
3. Software Central
A software reviewing service. If you want to buy a piece of software, this web site should have a review of it. Unfortunately, 9 times out of 10 it doesn’t. Again, this would be much better if people knew about it and were able to upload their own reviews immediately.
4. Scoilnet Blogging
It took them long enough but now you can host a school blog instead of that dreadful WebsiteX5 creature that was cursing the land. This is one service that the NCTE did publicise reasonably well and word has spread somewhat. There are still a hell of a lot of people that still don’t know about the service though as I’m finding myself guiding people to it at least once a week.
5. SciSpy and I Am An Artist
Both these web sites cover your science and visual arts curricula brilliantly. We all got the DVDs in our schools but these services are still worth being part of any school’s Plean Scoile. Perhaps a reminder from the NCTE that they still exist?
6. Scoilnet Maps
I would put this down as a bit of a waste due to the infinitely more brilliant Google Earth. It probably cost loads to build this too. If Google Earth didn’t exist, this would be ground breaking though.
7. The Irish Times Archives
Now, I’m not sure if the Irish Times has given schools this service for free but it is an incredible resource. You can search for any article ever published by the Irish Times in its history using it. I’ve used it once or twice before and I must say was impressed.
8. Scoilnet’s RTE Archive
A joint project between RTE and Scoilnet, this site supplies archival footage from RTE. It’s not a bad little sub-site to Scoilnet but I can imagine very few people know about it.
Ok, that’s 10 (including the World Book and the Britannica Encyclopaedia) and in the tradition of lists, I’ll stop at that number. There’s probably lots more that the NCTE offer us but we just don’t know about and I’d love to see that changing.
Moreso, however, I’d like to see the NCTE letting us, as teachers, offer content. I realise that there are ways of uploading materials to Scoilnet but it’s a long process. It would be great to see a dedicated person employed by the NCTE to develop, collate and collect Irish-made content – there’s so much of it offered by individual teachers.
If nothing else, I hope that this post will give teachers an idea of what the government is giving us for their €450,000 per annum investment. We probably should use some of it.