Supporting Teacher Training: ICT, the Spéis Project and Ireland

Alan Bruce
Universal Learning Systems, Ireland


The education system of the Republic of Ireland has undergone fundamental and significant changes over the past 25 years. There have been major alterations to the curriculum at both primary and post-primary levels. At a strategic and policy level several other issues have begun to make a deep impact. These issues include social inclusion, early identification of children with learning difficulties, multiculturalism, partnership with parents, rights, language learning and identity and, significantly, ICT all becoming central to the planning of quality educational provision. New technologies have emerged which play a central role in the way young people communicate and learn and teachers have been required to adapt their teaching to reflect the new reality. An increasingly diverse society, changing family structures and the emergence of new social problems have added to the complexity of teachers’ role. Specialized teacher-training colleges have been operated along traditional lines and are operated exclusively by the religious denominations. This paper examines a recent innovative initiative by the Church of Ireland College of Education (CICE) in Rathmines in Dublin on ICT and its role in the formation of teachers in their training and development. CICE has implemented an e-supported portfolio system of learning scaffolding for its teacher-training program. This project – Spéis (School Placement e-Integrated Scaffolding) – was designed by a consortium of Finnish and Irish educationalists and e learning experts to provide the first teacher placement e-support and portfolio system in Ireland. The project deployed advanced technologies to enable creation of a platform where academic staff, student teachers and administrative personnel could design, implement and review an ICT supported learning architecture.The Spéis project supplements and complements recent developments in Irish curriculum reform and is seen as a template for future e-learning supported initiatives in the wider field of teacher training and support. This paper also investigates the kinds of teacher-training support implemented and cross-references these to the changed primary curriculum, the Irish government’s E-learning Road Map and the move towards competence based learning and the utilization of e-portfolios in the wider Irish educational and learning contexts. Spéis is an innovative e-supported project and program, among the first in Ireland. In 2012, the teaching placement was extended to 10 weeks and was expected to require substantially more supervision, follow-up and monitoring. It is in this context that the College decided to move to a virtual learning, mentoring, supervision and communication system. This e-support system was designed to achieve a number of outcomes: supervision and contact for trainee teachers and supervisory tutors in CICE; on-line engagement with trainee teachers; an e-forum and seminar framework for group learning and exchange; integration of pedagogical processes and technology solutions to meet CICE requirements; a creative and dynamic mechanism to supervise and support the placement process over 10 weeks in various and remote locations.

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