Midway through Cookstown High School’s ambitious three phase ICT Development Strategy, Head of ICT in the school Robert Johnston says it has ‘transformed the way teachers teach and pupils learn’.
“We have moved away from ICT being a ‘bolt on’ to it being a fully integrated part of teaching preparation and delivery. Classes are more interactive and interesting for the pupils throughout the school. They are all encouraged to get involved in a variety of projects and this of course helps their independent learning.”
Cookstown High School has just under 1000 pupils on its rolls and 70 plus staff. Each has their own user area on the school’s network. All staff and pupils from Year 11 upwards can access their user area at school or from home.
“Coursework is an important component of many courses today, so access to the school’s network opens up many new learning resources to the students. Now that most people have Broadband in their homes, it is increasingly important that the school user area can be accessed from home,” says Mr Johnston.
Like other schools throughout Northern Ireland, Cookstown High School is very well resourced when it comes to ICT. In addition to the four dedicated ICT suites and the library - which has been recently refurbished and fitted with new computers - there are interactive whiteboards in 13 classrooms; 44 data projectors and 12 wireless laptops.
“The laptops are used primarily in Science classes and this has proved to be a very efficient way of bringing ICT into the labs.”
Cookstown High School is one of a growing number of schools in Northern Ireland to take advantage of the C2k managed service.
“Midway through the school’s ICT Development Strategy, I can say with some confidence that we are now reaping the benefits of our initial investment and will continue to do so for some years, says the ICT Coordinator.
“Transferring to C2k’s fully managed service have been an extremely positive experience for us. We have developed a good working relationship with Northgate who look after schools' local area networks for C2k. The level of support is excellent: Northgate are very responsive and obliging.”
Staff and pupils throughout the school use the school network as a location for learning resources and increasingly, pupils are using email to send coursework and homework to teachers to mark or to ask questions outside of class time.
In Year 8 a Geography class have entered a software pilot with C2K and use video conferencing to link with a school in Liverpool. Via a video link the pupils explored the topic ‘Making Connections’ and discussed, for example, similarities and differences in the places where they live and how they spend their spare time.
Year 8 and 9 classes were involved in different ‘ThinkUKnow’ projects to promote safe use of the Internet. Year 8 pupils designed a brochure while the Year 9s developed a website. The PSNI and Cookstown District Policing Partnership sponsored prizes for the best in each category.
One of the many teachers in Cookstown High School to have embraced ICT enthusiastically is Biology teacher Patricia Compton. She has introduced her pupils to novel learning strategies like animation, storyboards and movie making as part of her approach to make learning more interesting.
“ICT is no longer something new. Over the past few years in particular, there have been massive changes for everyone. At one point I think we were all in danger of ‘death by Powerpoint’ but we have moved on. We still use Powerpoint but are finding new ways to keep pace with the changes and make the classes more interesting and relevant.
“The importance of ICT has been recognised and the professional development of teachers is now supported by ICT showing it can be used to deliver improvements in the classroom,” says Mrs Compton.