Best Schools? Another missed opportunity.

Sunday newspapers often feature supplements on different topics. This week the Sunday Business Post featured one called Best Schools. Last time they did this, unfortunately, it was more or less an advertising feature for lots of different companies involved in education with a couple of interesting articles amongst the litter. This time, it’s far worse.
If I were an average teacher who wanted to embrace technology in my classroom and this supplement was given to me, I would be very worried. Every article went along the same lines: the government need to pump more money into schools, they never plan anything, schools are not using technology enough, children’s futures are in big trouble…oh and if you do get some money, buy my product, everything will be that bit better for the children.
I understand that education companies need to sell their products and this is a good way to get their products out there. I’m sure that featuring in the supplement isn’t free. However, the big flaw is that these companies are not entirely focussed on education, their focus is profit.  As has been the case with every other supplement like this, it fails to speak to the teachers out there who are actually doing good stuff with technology in education – these are people who produce content, share resources and collaborate on ideas but don’t make money.
Where, for example, is the review of the amazing CESI conference, which happened only two short weeks ago? Between the 18 presentations and 12 workshops, one would easily have filled an eight page supplement with education gold! Need examples?

  • Amazing educators like Evelyn O’Connor, Pamela O’Brien and Nigel Lane (representing 3 levels of education) explained some really basic ways of using technology – free tools that any teacher could use no matter what their level of IT proficiency.
  • The Master of Twitter in Irish Education – Fred Boss – who heads up #edchatie would have been able to talk about the huge success of our weekly CPD fix on Twitter, which this week celebrated its 50th session.
  • Teachers like John Heffernan, Aibhín Bray and Pádraig O’Beirn use technology to help students learn history, maths and science respectively
  • Not to blow my own trumpet but what about the three teachers from Ireland chosen to go to the Google Teacher Academy in London?
  • Events like Digital Art Week, Signs of Spring, Science Week, Targetboards for Maths Week, Gifted Kids awareness and loads more led by teachers like Fred Boss, Damien Quinn, Peter Lydon and others
  • The fabulous blogs of fabulous teachers all aggregated by Nigel Lane
  • Seán Delaney – education radio DJ with Dublin City FM who podcasts his shows for everyone
  • Social Networking in Schools was discussed by several educators including Mags Amond and Catherine Cronin
  • Where can we get or create resources? Seomra Ranga has been offering free downloadable posters and PowerPoints for ages and recently celebrated its 5th birthday
  • The innovative studies of Patrick Felicia on Games-based Learning
  • That little matter called Scratch. Where were the case studies of all the schools who are teaching children how to program in a world where programming skills are proving to be more and more important.
  • Not forgetting CoderDojo – lots of teachers involved there.

I could go on about how this supplement failed to mention the podcasting, the film-making, the editing, the creating, the animating, the photography, the sharing and everything else that is currently going on in our schools. Despite the lack of funding from the government, the best schools out there are doing some great things that need to be highlighted in a national newspaper. The Sunday Business Post have published a doomsday supplement. Sure, we need faster broadband, better hardware, real infrastructure – we know that.  However, the picture isn’t completely bleak and I feel the newspaper should have highlighted some of the work that teachers like me and my colleagues are actually doing in our classrooms everyday.

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