I was lucky enough to go to Dualla NS with Pam Moran and Ira Socol as part of their preparations for the ICT in Education conference last weekend. The plan was that I would go for about half an hour and then return to Thurles to continue the last minute preparations, leaving Pam and Ira to complete the visit, and meander around nearby Cashel, before returning to the college for the CESI Meet, that would kick off the conference. That plan went out the window once we got to Dualla. It’s hard to put my finger on what entranced me about the visit and what kept me there for an hour longer than intended but that’s exactly what happened. Dualla is a 2 teacher school and because of our timing we only got to see the senior room which houses the children from 2nd to 6th class. What really struck me about the class is the sense of fun, of trust (between teacher and pupils and vice versa) and the ease with which technology has been woven into what is done in the classroom.
This is not a school with a state of the art computer room, yet technology is an integral part of the classroom. The technology consisted of an interactive whiteboard, a couple of laptops and an iPhone with a broken screen. During our visit we heard about the history of the school and the history of hurling in Tipperary, the children sang songs, taught Pam how to dance and how to hurl, and all the while pictures were captured using the iPhone with the broken screen, to preserve the memories, and to be used in the blog post that was put up before the visitors left . We checked where Pam and Ira were from in the US and saw Animoto videos that the children had prepared and all of this interspersed with the more traditional forms of display. The children were delighted to show us the school crest on the floor in the hallway (which had been designed by a pupil of the school), their projects about the Titanic on the walls and so much more.
One of the very strong feelings I got from the visit was the protectiveness that the older children had for the younger ones. As one of seven children it reminded of that sense of protectiveness that often exists within families juxtaposed with how well each knows the other. To my shame I had been a bit ambivalent towards small schools in rural Ireland and to be honest I had been dismissive at times, despite being educated in a four teacher school, but my trip to Dualla showed the beauty of small rural schools in all their glory.
My lasting memory of the trip was seeing Pam getting stuck in to a game of hurling with the children, after a very brief introduction to the mechanics of hurling. Once she hit the ball the induction was complete and the game called. To say that neither the children nor Pam held back is an understatement and I’m sure that I heard Pam mention a sore leg at some stage over the next 48 hours! Unfortunately on this occasion Ira had to watch from the sidelines due to the small matter of a knee operation only 2 months previously. I have no doubt that a return trip will result in a re-match with Ira in the thick of it all