IDEAL Reflections

Bray at the end of January. It was grey. The wind lashed the waves against the promenade and our visitors got wet every time they left their hotel. But, we had lots of catching up to do and new ideas to share, as well as cake and chocolate, a delicious lunch prepared by the students at Bray Institute of Further Education and cool music in The Harbour Bar. We really enjoyed the opportunity to welcome our IDEAL partners to our ‘cosy’ Centre here in Bray! Professionally, it was a chance for us to pause and take stock of what we have learned so far from the IDEAL project.

For those of you already attached to your gadgets, this project was a dream; for others who are not so tech-savvy, it was a steep learning curve. This project brought us initially to that place of discomfort where existing knowledge must be re-evaluated in the light of new learning. We didn’t want to be dazzled by all these new ideas, nor our students overwhelmed by a surfeit of new apps and websites. The challenge was to find the real-life problems that could be solved by the new technologies. The goal was to integrate them in a meaningful way to improve our students’ learning experience. There were lots of conversations in the staff room, as well as impromptu ‘How do you do that?’ sessions on the smartboard and iPad as we learned from each other and figured out what works for us. There were discussions with the learners to help us determine what was most effective for them and their needs.

The project has transformed us all. The anecdotal evidence from the students of their increasing confidence with touch screen technology in their everyday lives, the first hand evidence of how technology has enabled independent learning and the level of engagement with the tactile and collaborative nature of the smartboard activities has surpassed our expectations. As tutors, the benefits have extended far beyond mere digital upskilling. In a small centre with part time tutors, it can be challenging to find time for shared projects. The IDEAL project provided the focus and the impetus; the benefits in terms of shared learning and collegiality have been significant. I am reminded of a definition of professionalism which describes tutors who expand their knowledge, collaborate with colleagues, attend to the student voice, contribute to policy, work with external partners and prepare students for a complex and uncertain reality; I believe the IDEAL project has measured up to that definition.

We look forward to seeing you all in Rome in May!

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