Limerick Educate Together secondary school is growing fast. A move to a new site next year (2023), will mean they can more than double their numbers. For Fiona O’Shea (ADS Coordinator), choosing Apple, as they aggressively expand, was an easy decision. Ultimately, the school looked to choose a device that could reflect the inclusive nature of the Educate Together ethos. “Everyone in the school has the same device but we do not all use it in the same way. You have that freedom of expression, and it gives you a sense of individuality in the way you work on a day-to-day basis.”
How did Limerick Educate Together go from no technology to personalising educational experiences with iPad and Mac in a short amount of time?
“Apple just works!”.
- Eoin Shinners (Principal)
Designing a sustainable Plan
The school knew from the outset that Apple was their technology of choice. However, Eoin Shinners (Principal) is also acutely aware that simply deploying the devices is not enough to inspire sustainable change. “In a previous school, we took the big jump of rolling out iPads and it was great for the first year, but after that we started to encounter problems. As time went on, we realised that the teachers were not equipped with the skills and the knowledge to embed the use of the iPad in a long-term sustainable way. So that vision piece was very much missing.”
With previous technological experiences ringing in their ears, the main challenge for Limerick Educate Together was to build a deployment plan that would continue to support staff through Apple Professional Learning.
Designing ongoing Apple Professional Learning
Building a sustainable Apple Professional Learning (APL) plan starts with picking the right collaborator. Eoin explains that partnering with Select was a key element at the start of their journey. “We see Select as our education partners. They’re not just sellers of Apple tech. They get education. They are very astute at guiding us in a subtle way around how we deploy technology whilst also understanding our vision”' This in-depth level of understanding results in an informed Apple Professional Learning plan.
To counteract the challenge of ensuring the technology doesn’t slowly become underused within the school, Select collaborated with Limerick Educate Together to create a bespoke CPD plan that looks to instil ongoing internal progression. Fiona O’Shea (ADS Coordinator) explains that the plan started by “looking at departments and project-based learning leads. The idea is that within each department there is someone that is trained up and is a specialist who can pass information down. Working with the right individuals is therefore building capacity.” Even in these early stages, the school’s dedicated Apple Professional Learning Specialist (Craig Rulton) is helping the school build a foundation for sustainable success.
In order to train teachers on some of the more basic iPad and Mac features, Limerick Educate Together opted to subscribe their teachers to Select Academy (our online training platform). Brian Downey (Head of iPad Deployment) explains why. “Not all teachers are on the same level in terms of technology. Select Academy really goes into the nuts and bolts of how things work on MacBook and iPad, so teachers feel more comfortable.” Over time, the platform cultivates a baseline skill level for all staff members. Eoin Shinners describes Select Academy as “a game changer. It allows teachers, in their own time, to access tutorials and build their knowledge and skills.”
Through a solid partnership, Limerick Educate Together and Select were able to build a sustainable Apple Professional Learning plan with Select Academy providing ongoing support.
“No matter how stupid the question might seem; Select are always willing to help since day one. It’s given us freedom and it’s allowed us to solve any issues in a short amount of time.”.
- Brian Downey (Head of iPad Deployment)
Designing a future
Following the success of their embedment of technology so far, Limerick Educate Together have set their sights on becoming an Apple Distinguished School (ADS) and wish to be a centre of technology driven educational excellence. This aim is completely supported by the Apple Professional Learning. As Fiona says, “when we first looked at Apple Distinguished School, it seemed like a big initiative that we were taking on. The APL narrowed it down and we realised that the application married nicely with our project based learning plans and so then, we were supported by training our project-based learning leads to help start to realise our APD vision.”
More importantly however, the focus on CPD has created an open environment for collaborative professional development. The school’s investment in Apple Professional Learning has made an immediate and long-term impact. In Eoin’s words “if you provide that support for staff, it has value straight away. Ultimately, for any school to succeed in rolling out any initiative, you must build a culture in the school of sharing good practice and have those professional conversations. As the school gets bigger and bigger, we need our Apple Distinguished School team and our PBL team to be trained up so that it keeps the momentum going. It’s much bigger than us right now because eventually we’ll be long gone, and the school will still be there. So formulating teams ensures that it is sustainable.”