New technology helps change the way children learn
A progressive primary school which teaches all of its 600 pupils sign language as part of the daily curriculum says new technology it initially began using with its 20 deaf pupils two years ago has totally revolutionised the way the entire school learns.
The investment in classroom technology has also boosted reading standards and helped deaf children integrate better into mainstream classrooms, assisting them in learning alongside hearing pupils.
St Columba’s Girls National School in Douglas, Cork has a facility for deaf children and bought its first interactive whiteboard in 2006. Today, it has 10 boards in use across its three classes for deaf and seven mainstream classes. The impact has been such that the all girls school is actively fund-raising to buy 13 more boards and kit out all of its classrooms with the 21st Century technology.
Proud principal, Michelle Cashman, says the Promethean interactive whiteboards have been phenomenally successful in helping their deaf children to learn and integrate into other classes. They have also stimulated and boosted many more mainstream children who are more visually aware than traditional book learners.
Promethean interactive whiteboard (IWB) technology compliments traditional blackboards in the school. The large, height-adjustable boards connect to a computer, displaying the information on the computer screen onto the board to an entire class.
The durable, interactive boards resemble traditional whiteboards and are used similarly but are completely internet-ready and include a host of attractive, hi-tech features – including subtitles and adjustable sound which are a huge boost for deaf children.
“Everyone in this school learns sign languages so there is a total acceptance of deafness. Some children wear glasses, others wear hearing aids or implants. Children recognise they are all different and deafness is not an issue in the school.
“The Promethean boards have been a phenomenal boost not only in the use of subtitles as a tool while learning but also helping integrate deaf children in our mainstream classes. The boards are incredibly visual which is a huge boost for deaf children. Work can be subtitled and teachers can scroll words up on to the top of the screen, helping visual learners in particular.
“Explaining something as simple as the difference between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ can be difficult to get across to younger children. We can explain this with the boards using suitable images. Imagery is everything when deaf children are learning. The boards have brought learning to life in our school and they have completely changed the coal-face of education. We can print out homework from the screen or email it home. The possibilities are endless,” Ms Cashman added.
Sign language has become second nature at St Columba’s, so much so that Christmas Carol recitals, the Christmas concerts and other seasonal productions at the school being sung and narrated are also being signed.
“Schools are under pressure to raise funds for lots of different things. We wouldn’t be so committed to fundraising for Promethean boards if we had any reservations about them,” she added.
Independent research shows that IWBs boost pupil concentration and make learning more fun – an experience borne out at St Columba’s. “Having the internet at their fingertips and being able to learn by doing and virtually travelling around the globe from their classroom excites and invigorates our pupils. Teachers can video the children or video things like experiments or lesson plans when class is over. This can then be played back in class time.
“Many teachers who would typically be making charts after school can make 10 charts in a few minutes using the features of the boards. They can be stored and shared and everyone can see them at once,” Ms Cashman concluded.