Govt outlines 2010 investment in broadband and ICT for schools

Communications Minister Eamon Ryan TD said last night that €45 million will be spent on modernising Ireland’s telecoms infrastructure and that 100Mbps of high-speed broadband will be delivered to 78 secondary schools across the country.

The €45-million investment revealed under yesterday’s Budget for 2010 includes the National Broadband Scheme to bring broadband coverage to target areas in rural Ireland where broadband coverage is deemed insufficient.

The National Broadband Scheme is supporting 250 jobs directly.

Ryan said work will be advanced on positioning Ireland as a testbed for energy-efficient fibre-optic networks.

In terms of Education & Science, €715 million will be provided but total funding in 2010 will amount to €794 million, according to Education Minister Batt O’Keefe. Some €579 million of this, including €74 million carried over from 2009, will fund the important school building programme.

This will be complemented by an investment of €50 million, including €7 million carried over from 2009, in ICT for the classroom.

A further €141 million will fund infrastructural investment in higher education, including €46 million for the promotion of science and innovation.

Courtesy: Silicon Republic

Rebellion manuscripts go digital

AT TRINITY College Dublin, 1641 is coming face to face with 2009, to the benefit of scholars but also the public.

A set of priceless manuscripts – aged, coffee-coloured and covered in the looping, spidery scrawl of many different 17th-century hands – is to emerge as a cutting-edge semantic web and documentation project accessible by all online.

The manuscripts are the famous – or, depending on your view, infamous – 1641 Depositions, eight volumes of 1,559 personal accounts of one of the most violent moments in Irish history, the 1641 Rebellion.
The depositions – witness statements taken mostly from Protestants – describe incidents of murder, rape and pillage but also many aspects of everyday life in the 1600s.
This rich material is valued by social, religious, historical and political researchers but is also the source of hundreds of years of bitter dispute over the truthfulness of the events described. Read More

Courtesy: Irish Times

More bang for your buck with latest consoles

THE ALLIANCE of Microsoft with Sky this week has signalled a clear intent by the Xbox maker to target those paying for the presents this Christmas.

Xbox Live users can from this week subscribe to the full range of channels available through Sky Digital. The service does not require the user to own a Sky box, as content can be accessed directly through an Xbox 360 console. This alliance is the most significant part of a series of non-gaming efforts by Microsoft to make Christmas shoppers think about the console as more than just a gaming device.

On top of Sky Digital, there are downloadable movies, music on demand and upcoming Facebook and Twitter services. All of this is part of a push to spread the appeal of the Xbox 360. Hardcore gamers will always prioritise gaming, but this latest effort aims to target a different market segment. Read More

Courtesy: Irish Times

57,500 receive Leaving Cert results

Around 57,500 students have been receiving the results of their Leaving Certificate exams today. This year's results follow previously seen patterns of low achievement in maths and science subjects.
The number sitting higher level maths fell, with only 16% of students sitting the paper.
Once again there was a low uptake of physics and chemistry at higher level and high failure rates in all science subjects. After the emergency rescheduling of the second English paper, students' results in that subject are broadly in line with those of previous years.

While there are minor fluctuations, the State Examinations Commission said the rescheduling of the paper did not adversely affect the quality of this year's scripts. Read More

Courtesy: RTE News

The Challenges of Implementing ICT in Secondary Education

There is no doubting the power and importance of technology in today’s world which has no place for technophobes or those who shun this marvelous invention. Technology has revolutionized the way we teach and learn by making inroads in the field of education and assisting teachers and students alike. But there are a number of problems that arise when we integrate technology into the classroom and harness its power to assist the process of learning, especially when it comes to secondary education and K12 students.

The thing with technology is that it keeps changing in the blink of an eye; what’s relevant today is outdated tomorrow; and by the time we get up to speed and learn to understand one, we are bombarded with ten more programs or gadgets that are more sophisticated and advanced than the ones we are used to. Using technology in education is a task that needs to be researched and tested for viability before it is implemented. And once put into practice, it cannot be discontinued in order to accommodate a newer version or better program.

For one, it takes time for both teachers and students to get used to the new system and way of doing things. And for another, it takes money and other valuable resources to invest in technology and implement the same. But when you don’t stay up to date, the students are at a disadvantage because they are not getting the most out of the technology that is available.

Another problem that we face in using technology in education is that many teachers are not in favor of changing their tried and tested methods to accommodate the new technology. Either they are reluctant to learn new things or they are scared to try the technology because they feel they may be inadequate at it. Children are remarkably sharp when it comes to learning how to use technology, so many teachers feel their authority slipping away from them when they are not used to the technology but the children are.

The only ways that technology can be efficiently used in a classroom are when the teachers are given enough training, when the technology is used effectively to enhance learning specific to a subject and improve general education skills, and when it is easily upgradable without the investment of too much time or money.

This guest-article was written by Kat Sanders, who regularly blogs on the topic of best online engineering degree at her blog - The Engineering A Better World Blog. She welcomes your comments and questions at her email address:

The Next Great Disruptive Technology?

We are now just over half way through the Connect School Project and in the process of procuring the hardware for Yr 4. This time round it will be 10" Netbooks running Edubuntu Linux. In yr 1 it was 15" Laptops running Windows - would anyone like to do quick figures on the price difference?

St Aidan's has been named as one of the 78 post-primary Schools to be included in a new broadband for Schools program that will see our pipe grow from 4Mbps to 100 Mbps in the coming year! The significance of this cannot be underestimated - our Teachers have been getting to grips with creating and uploading multi-media content to the Schools Virtual Learning Environment, the new pipe will mean access to this content in-class will be seamless.

Google announced this week that they're working on an open-source operating system that will initially be available for Netbooks by mid 2010 It will integrate with their browser, Chrome, which is increasingly becoming the platform of choice for developing web applications.

And there is now a test version of Moodle available that incorporates single-sign-on for Moodle and Google Apps. Since we use both here in St Aidan's this is good news for our administrators - no more need to create 2 spreadsheets of usernames/passwords for each system.

Things have changed so dramatically in the past few years in the world of ICT in Education it is difficult to see where we'll end up. In yr 1 we rolled out 15" Laptops, will be be rolling out phone/netbook hybrids in yr 5? At one point in this project we were seriously considering linux thin-clients but these looked like they'd only really prove useful in dedicated classrooms on wired connections. It just didn't seem like a throw-switch solution.

It seems that progress in this sphere will continue to a large extent to be driven by "disruptive" technologies such as the iphone or the netbook. What will the next great disruptive technology look like? Why did the Netbook, which looks like such a market staple now, take so long to appear? I suggest that the development of the Netbook was not really in the interest of the industry, it said Moores law has gone far enough and I dont need massive storage since storage can now be online.

Cobble a few of the above ideas together and what do you get? Ideally Students needs seriously inexpensive devices to access the internet. With gigabit wireless, 100 Mbps broadband and online applications how much processing power need reside in the local device? Wouldn't a shell with screen, keyboard, graphics card and network card accomplish most of what's required in the modern school? As Sun said a long time ago - "The Network is the Computer". But what manufacturer would dream of selling such low-end access devices? Granted these devices would be practically useless without an internet connection (unless of course you included a firmware-installed skinny linux) , but then again the device I'm typing this on, a Dell XPS M1710 would never be turned on either were it not connected to the internet.
Managing School Computers

There are now over 350 Laptops in use in the Connect School. Maintenance was always going to become an issue so we have a policy of "rebuild & return"
We use Google Apps as well as Moodle so documents should already be stored online - this allows us to rebuild without fear of loosing data.
Each time a new consignment of Laptops is rolled out a master disc is created by the suppliers which we use for rebuilding. This solution can only work for so long because of Windows Updates, new software requirements, antivirus updates etc.

What's really needed is an Operating System Build Server. This Computer would store Operating System images for each hardware iteration in use. Then systems which fail can be rebuilt from these images. But the problem of adding updates and new software remains.

We've made some progress lately in resolving this. Using an Open Source program called Clonezilla, a base system was copied to a 16 Gigabyte USB and then used to rebuild another system which was blue-screening - it failed to boot and stalled at the notorious BSOD or Blue Screen Of Death.

Clonezilla can also be used to "massively clone", that is to build 50 to 100 systems simultaneously over a network. Now that we have the Clonezilla Live working - one-to-one system cloning - we will next be looking at Clonezilla Server to build multiple cloned systems at once.

Clonezilla Live for one-to-one cloning works like this:

You will need: 1 up-to-date system, 1 damaged system, 2 usb keys.

To copy a "good" system:
  1. You create a Clonezilla Live Bootable USB Drive.
  2. You enable the Base System (Good) to boot off USB in the bios by hitting the relevant Function Key , usually F10 or F12, during startup.
  3. Boot Base System from USB and follow onscreen instructions.
  4. Insert another high capacity USB Drive (I used a 16 Gb USB stick)
  5. Good system will be copied onto High Capacity USB and checked.
  6. Power down system and remove USBs
To rebuild a "bad" system:
  1. You enable the Damaged System (bad) to boot off USB in the bios by hitting the relevant Function Key , usually F10 or F12, during startup.
  2. Boot Damaged System from USB and follow onscreen instructions.
  3. Insert high capacity USB Drive containing good build when required.
  4. Good system will be copied onto Bad System hard drive and checked
  5. Power down system and remove USBs
  6. Boot "bad" system and hey presto, system is restored!!

The procedure above took a total of 20 minutes, 15 to copy the good system and 5 to rebuild the bad system. It used to take 2 and a half hours to rebuild laptops and someone had to be present to ok the various options presented. Clonezilla is an excellent tool for unattended cloning.

Over the next few days one iteration of each Laptop Hardware type will be completely updated and an image created and stored in the manner described above. Then we plan to deploy a Clonezilla Server and test build multiple Laptops over a network.

I'll post on progress as it happens. In the meantime I highly recommend Clonezilla for managing Computers especially in a School Environment where resources are tight.
Connect School Project launches eBooks Pilot in Partnership with Gill & Macmillan Educational Publishers, South Dublin County Council, South Dublin County Library, and St Aidan's Community School, Brookfield, Tallaght.

The eBooks Pilot will see a class of 2nd year Students having their History and Geography Books downloaded in digital format onto their Laptops. No further need to carry print versions of their textbooks!!

The eBooks will integrate with Gill & Macmillan's innovative testing and revision website. It will also be integrated with St Aidan's own Virtual Learning

Friday 24th April 2009 marks another very significant date in the development of the Connect School Project. The Launch of the eBooks Pilot Project took place in the Big Picture (South Dublin County Council's Interactive Exhibition Centre, opposite the last stop of the Luas in Tallaght) and was followed with a demonstration of the County Library's Digital Download Service in County Library.

It is hoped that this innovative initiative will lead to more books becoming available electronically for the Students and Teachers of St Aidan's!!!

Over 2,000 students to participate in SciFest 2009

The organisers of SciFest have said they expect over 2,000 students expected to enter this year's SciFest event.
SciFest is a one-day festival of science which is held in Institutes of Technology all over the country as a regional equivalent of the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, with local second level students demonstrating their projects and participating in a competition.
SciFest has been created to cater for the excess demand and provides an additional forum for students who wish to exhibit their work and experience the excitement of sharing their findings with other like-minded students. Read More

Courtesy: RTE

St Aidan's Website, Moodle and Google Apps.

The School Website here at St Aidan's has been redeveloped. One of our Teachers redeveloped the site using iWeb on a Mac Powerbook. The site now looks cleaner and is easier to navigate.

We have also given St. Aidan's Moodle a bit of a facelift, replacing the old theme we'd been using with one that ties in better with the look and feel of our Website. Our Moodle front-end shares some of the Website's features such as the Google Map identifying the location of the school and the Google Calendar.

Prominent links have been placed on Moodle to allow Students and Teachers to easily access the School Website and the School's gmail.
We hope all our users find the new Website and Moodle theme user-friendly. We see this as a first step in more fully integrating Moodle, the School Website and the School's Google Apps.

New business game for students launched

A new online game supported by Microsoft and the County and City Enterprise Boards, aimed at teaching students business skills, has been launched. The Small Business Game, which involves students running a virtual sports shop, teaches key skills such as marketing, finance and stock management.
The Business Game gives students the opportunity to develop enterprise skills in a virtual world.
It will also be closely linked to the Junior Cert curriculum. This means that teachers can utilise the game to give students the opportunity to have their students examine business concepts in a more realistic way.
To play the game, schools needs to register at Read More

Courtesy: RTE