Tag Archives: ‘ICT’ ‘ICT for Technophobes’

INOTE conference

How was it? Exhilarating and exhausting, inspiring, demanding and just very occasionally a little bit depressing.

After three and a half hours on the road in the company of Mark Kermode and the BBC philharmonic orchestra celebrating 50 years of James Bond, I finally arrived in Kilkenny. Somehow, however, I’d missed the email which told us that Clare Keegan would be doing a reading, so my copies of her brilliant short story collections “Antartica” and “Walk the Blue Fields” were left sitting on my bookshelves. Oh well, I still got to meet her and it was fascinating to hear her speak about the craft of writing so honestly and so eloquently. She spoke of the intensity required of the short story but also of the quiet observation of reluctant narrators which needs to happen before you’ll create anything worth reading. And she spoke also of the process of writing and re-writing, of revisiting the characters over and over again until what they are doing rings true and reveals who they really are. But quietly. Somehow you get to know them in silence not noise and I wondered how often our students do this? Visit and revisit draft after draft until they have crafted something to truly be proud of. Certainly they never get this opportunity in an exam which gives them only 1 hr 20 minutes. That’s why I generally recommend that students avoid the short story, not in life, but in the exams. In the real world I run a short story competition every year because I want my students to know the pleasure of crafting a beautiful piece of writing and of seeing their work in print but the brutal demands of writing a really good short story in such a short timeframe in an exam is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Meanwhile I’ve bagged myself a signed copy of Foster that I’m dying to dive into but chance would be a fine thing! I often hear people commenting how family-friendly teaching is as a job, but right now it doesn’t feel like that. Last Wednesday I didn’t see my daughter at all as I was away with students at our first Concern debate; Thurday I was home late after work and there in body but not in spirit for the rest of the evening as I was distracted preparing for the conference; Friday I was in Kilkenny and when I got back late Saturday night the house was quiet and everyone was in bed. Today Sunday I’ll be at the school musical dress rehearsal and I’ll be at there again for matineees and evening shows Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. These past few days have been so crazy I still haven’t met my beautiful little niece Clíona (born last Wednesday) and it’s hard not to feel guilty and overwhelmed. I’ve also got a stack of personal essays from my leaving certs that need correcting but right now it just feels like somethings gotta give. Still, mid-term is fast approaching so I’ll get some balance back then. And maybe even get a chance to actually read “Foster”…

Saturday began with our keynote speaker’s observation that ‘success for English teachers is not defined by A1s but how many future readers we inspire’. So far, so obvious. Sadly, the rest of her talk was a rambling rant at everyone in the room, accusing us of teaching to the exam, of not encouraging students to read widely, criticising us for the selection of texts on the list of prescribed material. She generally seemed convinced that all English teachers are complete and utter failures. She spoke of her experience in school of being given out to for reading something that wasn’t on the course and for only the second time in half an hour I could connect with something she was saying – I too was given out to at school for reading instead of ‘studying’ and it stuck with me. That’s one of the reasons I became a teacher. That’s the reason why my TY’s are in the throes of setting up their own book club, and the first years are taking part in the MS readathon and the entire staff are on board with the drop and read initiative. I think what made me saddest of all was the way she sucked the energy and enthusiasm out of the room and patronised a wonderful group of people who passionately love what they do enough to have gotten up at 5 and 6 am to drive to a conference for which there will be no recognition (the Dept tell us to do CPD but refuse to recognise it when calculating Croke Park hours). She spoke of inspiring people but if that was her version of inspiration, in my humble opinion, she’s got a lot to learn.

Thankfully, things picked up once we got stuck into the workshops. I was presenting on some practical ways that teachers can integrate more ICT into their teaching (you can read some of those tips here) and once I got into the swing of it my nerves melted away. I pointed to the confluence of factors which so profoundly accererated my journey to integrating technology in my classroom- teaching in a school with zero discipline problems; grappling with severe laryngitis; desperately needing to find a way to communicate with my pupils without using my voice; having an IT technician on hand 24 hours a day every time I ran into difficulties (my husband John). In the end we decided that this is the vital missing factor in schools and the motto for my talk became “everyone needs a John!”. Meanwhile, thanks to the wonderful John I’ve completed chapter one of the paper one book I’ve been threatening to write for the past year – if you want to download the pdf and photocopy any of it for use in class click here: (Bible w cover)

Just before lunch, Colette Kearney offered incredibly wise words on Literacy and Learning Support and Tony Tracey gave a fascinating and in-depth analysis of Blade Runner. I caught some of both once I’d finished answering questions and queries and bouncing ideas off other teachers. After both sessions and at lunch I had great inspiring conversations with some really vibrant and enthusiastic English teachers and I’ve made some great new connections, something that is so vital in teaching, a profession that can seem so lonely at times. I was only sad that presenting meant that I missed the wonderful workshops by Fiona Kirwin, Delmot Bolger (really sad about this one! I have a thing for writers…), Frances Rocks and Edward Denniston. Then we launched into our AGM with a heated and passionate discussion of the new Junior Cert, focusing most particularly on the abuses of the system which can occur when teachers grade their own pupils. The general consensus seemed to be that maintaining any kind of national standard will be impossible; that assessing our own pupils will profoundly damage our relationship with them (we want to be advocates not judge and jury); that the lack of information about who will design the new English curriculum and what it might look like is profoundly worrying and frustrating; and yet there remain many things to be excited about  – for me, I’m particularly enthused about the short courses in Digital Literacy and Artistic Performance. Nonetheless, the suggestion that these changes aren’t a cost saving exercise was met with a gale of laughter.

After a second round of workshops and a drink in the bar it was back on the road again. My phone kept beeping and when I pulled over in Athlone for a McFlurry with the lovely Elaine Dobbyn I was delighted to see some of my workshop attendees already giving twitter a go. To me these connections are what give us the energy and the drive to keep going despite the obstacles and the challenges and the perception we were subjected to earlier in the day that we daily fail our pupils. For me our greatest success lies in the fact that we care passionately about doing the best job we can possibly do for our students. Everything else is silence.

INOTE notes

ICT for Technophobes

Step 1: Use what’s already there!

Google – do a search & a list of search options will appear along the left side of the page.

Find exactly what you need by clicking on:

  • Images

  • Videos

  • News

  • Pages from Ireland

  • More search tools – reading age (click on “web” to find “more search tools”)

YouTube – if searching in class, you can scroll down to the very bottom of the page, you can select “safety” and turn it to “on” to avoid inappropriate content popping up.

Wikipedia – find languages on the left hand side and select “simple English”.

Also, students may find wikiquote useful for writing essays.

Websites I may have mentioned at the conference:

Check if they’re blocked by your school filter – every school seems to be different! We have 2 lines in to the school, one unfiltered for teachers & a filtered one for students.

Developing vocabulary and grammar awareness:





Timing exercises:


Creating online newspapers from word documents:

www.issuu.com (might be blocked by school filter)

Speeches and talks on every topic under the sun:




Step 2: Learning from other teachers:

Reading, writing, listening and speaking are the skills we want students to develop – using audacity develops their listening and speaking skills as well as their digital literacy. Also, they can all be talking at once and still achieving something! Which is nice!

Download audacity – go to www.audacity.sourceforge.net

You will also need to install www.lame.sourceforge.net – all files need to be saved as mp3s and this allows you to do it.

Most students (and adults including me!) I’ve come across are programmed to always choose “file save as”. However, if you do this with an audio file it will save as just so much gobbledigook! Instead you need to train them (and yourself) to select “file, export as mp3”.

Remember, having audacity on your computer isn’t enough, you also need lame which encodes the sound waves as mp3s.

More advanced tips:

I’ve noticed that it can be very slow when students are trying to upload recordings they’ve made to edmodo. Our tech guy figured out that we had a very high download rate on our school internet but a very slow upload rate so he contacted the people who provide our internet and balanced it out better.

If you have your own blog and want to embed audio files, you need someone to host your audio online. I use www.soundcloud.com – they have hours of free audio hosting before you hit the limit, after which you have to pay money to upload any more (or you could just create a second account!)

Step 3: Set up a blog

Setting up a blog is easy. Figuring out how to create categories, add tags, photos, videos etc is a little more time consuming! The blog platforms I see teachers using the most are


www.edublogs.org (however I heard a rumour recently that they no longer host videos)



Basically running a blog helps you and your students to be more organized. Everything you (and they) need is sorted into categories and available at the click of a button. Blogging also helps you to realize that the content is everywhere – so it’s really what we get our students to DO with the content that matters. Other advantages include less time standing at a photocopier and less panic as exams approach as your notes are available anytime, anywhere to anyone. Oh, so you do have to be OK with sharing your notes…

10 blogs being run by English teachers in Ireland:

http://www.sccenglish.ie/ Julian Girdham is the King of blogging and if you haven’t discovered his site yet you’re in for a treat! He’s here today and presented on ICT at iNOTE last year; search his site for incredible resources on this and everything English related.

http://calasanctiusenglish.blogspot.ie/ Elaine Dobbyn, former NUIG Lit n Deb head recently returned to her native Galway and is now blogging from Oranmore – great posts, links and tips. (She’s involved in INOTE and is here at the conference – if you see her do say ‘hi’).

http://dgsenglishdept.blogspot.com/ Formerly the responsibility of the aforementioned Elaine Dobbyn, this blog has passed into the very capable hands of Louise Donohoe who is blogging up a storm since September (she’s here at the conference somewhere too I’m told! Hello!)

http://meighan.edublogs.org/ This blog is full of really great observations, quotes, posts and links from Laura Meighan who teaches in Gormanstown. She once gave me a lift to the train station in Dublin. As a culchie from Mayo I really appreciated it!

http://juliecullen.weebly.com/5th-year-blog.html Julie Cullen is one of those teachers I’d never have gotten to know if it wasn’t for Twitter – she runs a great blog with different sections for each year group which has loads of ideas, posts, links.

http://6thyearenglish.tumblr.com/archive Katie Molloy’s blog for her 2012 Leaving Cert class is now archived but there’s still a serious amount of really valuable resources available here. (Katie’s here today too – hi Katie!)

http://collegebookclub.weebly.com/index.html Another great blog with heaps of resources for teaching English from Eve Roche, also in attendance today. Hi Eve!

http://newenglishirl.blogspot.ie/ I had to take to twitter to uncover the mystery identity of the teacher running this blog – his name is Eoghan Evesson. And this is a blog you don’t want to miss!

http://bccnsenglish.com/ Also run by a teacher/teachers I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting in person; some excellent resources and links here.

http://5j2012msgreville.wordpress.com/category/english-education/ Run by Natasha Greville, this site includes some great posts about teaching as well as lots of useful resources for English.

And there’s my blog www.leavingcertenglish.net

Step 4: Make connections

Join twitter to connect with other English teachers to swop ideas, resources & occasionally to whinge about the corrections you have piling up! Also, every Monday evening there’s a discussion on education issues on twitter. You don’t even need an account to follow what’s going on (referred to as lurking!) – just search for #edchatie or @fboss (he moderates brilliantly – he’s a former Art teacher who works for the NCTE).

If you can go to the CESI conference in February and/or the ICT in Education conference in Tipperary IT in May. Contact CESI on www.cesi.ie

10 English teachers (based in Ireland) to follow on Twitter:

@evelynoconnor @sccenglish @Elaine_Dobbyn

@brighidcannon @cullej29 @tashagreville

@ConnollyTrevor @newengblog @levdavidovic @portenglish

Step 5: VLE: There are lots of options out there.

Moodle is the most popular in Irish schools but you need someone in your school to do the techie bit and set it up. It costs a small amount of money so you’d need a few teachers on board to justify it.

www.icsgrid.ie Schools pay per user for this VLE but the courses are already set up for you in all of the major subject areas for both Junior and Leaving Cert.

www.edmodo.com – this is the one I use. I’ll be showing you this in action at the conference.

Make sure you do a quick survey of all students to see if they have internet access, how reliable it is, if they have to share one computer with many siblings. You’ll also need an ‘acceptable use policy’. Let parents know you’re using it in case they have any concerns.

Step 6: Create resources

To increase motivation make each group responsible for one aspect of the course. Tell them the Junior Certs are relying on them to create good resources for them to revise with (this may or may not work!). I generally go with groups of four.

If you buy flipcams don’t get ones with AA batteries – make sure they’re plug-in-able!

Step 7: Share with other teachers!

It’s kind of obvious but if we shared resources and ideas more we’d all have less to do!


Some more English teachers to follow on twitter – hope you don’t mind me outing you but if anyone does, send me an email and I’ll take you off the list! @Reve111 @NecieDon@susandhealy @ecenglish13 @gerinclare @Bcs_historydept @ClassiebawnKarl @treasanc @Kate_e_Ryan @DavidClarkeDub @KieransEnglish @gemmacorcoran3 @rsbeaver @RuthRkelly @GerADoyle @MrMcArdle @Markievicz @lcenglish1 @leenbre @eesxxx @MsFCampbell @JanetteCondon @HeleneOKeefe

And more English teacher blogs: