Inisbofin is a small island off the coast of beautiful Connemara Co. Galway in the west of Ireland on the Wild Atlantic Way. The name Inisbofin in the Irish language means “the Island of the White Cow” and is situated 8 kilometers off the Connemara coast. It is served by a local ferry which travels out twice a day during the winter months. The main income on the island is derived from fishing and tourism. The island has approximately 170 residents and only one school, a National School serving 13 students, In three classrooms. When I heard that the school was now using Webex Meetings, I reached out to the school principal Celine McCormack over Webex and got the full story.
The Problem and the Solution
The Islands small school has two mainstream teachers, a part-time resource teacher and a special need’s assistant (SNA). When the news broke that the school would be closing, they had only a few hours to inform parents of teachers and pupils. They had to come up with a strategy very quickly in order to continue their program for the remainder of the academic year.
Plannet21 is a Cisco Gold partner in Ireland and they very quickly offered the school a Webex trial as a way for the pupils and stall to collaborate. With the cooperation of the parents decided that this was the best way to continue their schooling online. That afternoon, Ronan from Plannet21 gave a demonstration to the parents and how to use Webex Meetings and explained what was involved. The children took to it instantly being in an information age they were very familiar with the technology.
Each teacher has a Webex Meetings Personal Room which matches the school ethos of “classroom door is always left open”, making teachers aware that you can always be heard and that nothing should be said that you would not want anyone else to hear. Teachers are accustomed to others working in the classroom such as a resource teacher, so teachers by their very nature are always on show. They found that using headphones during meetings helped enormously as it prevented background noise and helped the children focus on the lesson being delivered from the teacher’s personal room.
Initially, they had several students at the same time but decided that they had enough time to give individual tuition so they utilized the lock room facility in Webex Meetings and allocated 1/2 hour slot to each child for one to one classes with each teacher. The children in learning support received two separate half-hour slots to chat with teachers. As the days went on and they got more and more familiar with Webex Meetings and began to tailor the classes to the individual children’s needs and sought the best method of teaching a particular subject.
On Friday they introduced a Friday fun day over Webex. The classes came together for an hour to chat on such things as cookery STEM teaching using interactive games. The children really enjoyed this as they got to see their classmates and catch up while having fun.
From the teacher’s viewpoint, they found Webex Meetings very beneficial and intuitive to use. The application is very suitable for teaching, examples of such as the share option where you can show on screen the subject material to support teaching. A lot of School book publishers now publish school resources online and have interactive educational games as part of their package of ebooks. The teacher or student can use the annotate button to demonstrate any section and its also very useful as it makes the entire lesson so much more interactive.
The children too are enjoying the sessions, they’re relaxed in their own home it is easier for the children to engage in their schoolwork and their teachers as they associate schoolwork with their teacher. They have quickly forgotten they are now learning on the laptop and online.
When the children were told the school was closing and that we were unsure when it would be reopened, and in the next breath, told you can’t visit your friends, extended family, or go to the shops, park, or library. It seemed that all of a sudden everything they knew and enjoyed was being taken away from them, and they did not really understand why. Were they being punished somehow?
“I really want to see my friends and grandparents, cousins, aunts uncles, what’s happening?”
The fast implementation of Webex Meetings eased their fears and showed them that their teachers are still there for them their friends have not gone away you can still see them come to have a chat, you can still continue to have fun, play games, it’s just a little different it’s made at all so much more bearable to them.
The Webex Meetings application also gave structure to the children’s day. As for all children, they feel safe with structure and even more so for children with special needs. The children also have to support their parents beside them if they need it. Learn more about Improving Education One Virtual Connection at a TIme.
Celine said of the parents that they all found the Webex sessions great and has some really positive reactions.
“Since our school had to close, the teachers set up Webex for the parents and pupils so we could do a one to one with my son’s teacher. It was great, I don’t know how we could manage without it and I don’t know how we would have got this far with the school year without the help from our teacher on Webex.”
“ The first time my child had an online lesson with his teacher, I was really surprised at how easy he was with her. I suppose with him being my first to go to school, I wasn’t up to speed on teacher-pupil relationships, he really enjoys chatting with the teacher, and often says.. I can’t wait to tell miss when something exciting or interesting happens it was very sweet to see! “
Inisbofin national school has succeeded in building a bridge between pupils, teachers, and parents in a very remote part of Ireland using Cisco technology and in particular Cisco Webex Meetings. For Celine, the next step is the use of this technology to help the creation of a Secondary School on the island.