Blog Post

How can I use the latest Digital Learning Planning Guidelines to make an ICT Policy?

This article is in two parts. The first part summarises/critiques the Digital Learning Planning Guidelines and the second part offers a different solution.

The Department of Education released its latest plan, the Digital Learning Planning Guidelines, a few days ago, and I thought I’d go through it to see what they possibly could have forgotten to do since the last Digital Learning Plan, which was called the Digital Learning Strategy and was released less than 2 years ago. Perhaps, it was because that strategy was completely forgettable and contained almost nothing concrete in terms of how the government were going to support primary schools on their digital journey.

This document is about half the size of its predecessor at 54 pages so I will attempt to go through it and summarise it into a more manageable size for busy schools. To help you along, you can skip the first 7 pages except just note that you have a new acronym to learn: DL stands for Digital Learning, (not decilitre, nor Distance Learning, nor an envelope size, nor Donegal.)

Once you hit page 8, you get your first diagram to help you plan for DL.

Honestly, this is the plan for Digital Learning. You can check it if you think I am joking. Yes, I know this plan could be used for almost anything. For example:

  • I want to buy a dog. (Identify focus)
  • I have the money. I have space in my house and garden. I like dogs. I want a dog. (Gather evidence)
  • The above criteria seems good. (Analyse and make judgements)
  • I have written a report outlining why I should buy a dog and how it would improve my life. (Trust me and trust that I shared it) (Write and share report and improvement plan)
  • I bought the dog. (Put improvement into action)
  • My dog seems to be weeing all over the house. He also keeps growling at me. (Monitor actions)
  • I have given him CPD. (Still monitoring actions)
  • My dog is no longer weeing or growling. This is good. (Monitor actions and evaluate impact)
  • I think I will buy another dog. (Identify focus)

Joking aside, I think the plan is a good plan but it’s a good plan for absolutely anything. Of course, the Department want us to focus on the 32 key areas they identified in the Digital Learning Framework! (You remember them, right?) They had snappy targets such as “Pupils enjoy their learning, are motivated to learn and expect to achieve as learners” and “Pupils reflect on their progress as learners and develop a sense of ownership of and responsibility for their learning.”

The targets in the DLF (I’m making up acronyms now) are as fluffy and unusable as the ones in the new Primary Language Curriculum, and, of course, 32 key areas is ridiculous. While schools aren’t being asked to cover all 32 areas, a school still has to identify targets from them. I’m pretty sure if I worked hard enough, I could set “buying a dog” as a target and it would be covered somewhere in the 32 areas.

Anyway, skipping down to page 11, a school needs to get a digital learning team together and come up with a whole school plan. Yes, that would be the same as you were probably doing before the moratorium on posts of responsibility when you had someone covering ICT as part of their post. And, yes, that would be the same plan you’ve been working off and updating since the mid-1990s while the Department of Education tried and failed constantly to come up with a Digital Learning Strategy. (Who remembers the Digital Roadmap a few years ago?)

You’ll need to develop a vision. I’d suggest using Richard Bruton’s vision for education and tweaking it for digital learning: “Our school will have the best Digital Learning system in Europe by 2026.”

The rest of the guidelines expand on the above with examples of what a school can do. Unless you are one of the schools, it’s very difficult to see their relevance.

Moving onto the appendices: Amazingly, there is nothing concrete whatsoever. My absolute favourite part of it is on page 46 where they describe Broadband and Technical Support, which have been consistently highlighted as the two most important things lacking in primary schools for the last decade.

The guidelines state that all post primary schools have fast broadband. There is no mention of primary schools but the inference is that primary schools don’t and won’t. For technical support, the Department describes exactly what schools need without offering any of it.

The most useful part of the plan is the template given in Appendix B for a DL plan, if a school doesn’t already have one or is thinking of updating theirs. The big mystery is why the template goes from Section 2.3 to 2.5 but the general gist is ok if you ignore the 32 key areas.

Appendix C lists the people who were involved in this, many of whom I have huge respect for, so I really can’t understand how this set of guidelines has ended up in the manner it has. However, from being asked to attend the initial meeting around the development of Digital Learning guidelines, a few years ago, I am sympathetic to the fact that just because one might be part of a consultation group doesn’t mean that anything you say has any consequence. For example, the “working group” that I was part of was supposed to meet every six months and address the issues being raised by all parties. We met once and the Digital Learning Strategy was published a couple of months later with none of the issues raised in it. We never met again.

Rather than simply giving out about the plan, I feel it’s only fair to come up with a different solution. We need to identify a few variables and then plan from there.

  1. The Department of Education have failed to fund primary schools properly from 1999 to 2017 in terms of technology in education.
  2. The Department of Education failed to provide adequate training to primary schools from 1997 to 2000, focusing on computer skills rather than integration into the curriculum.
  3. All Teacher Training Colleges teach ICT as a separate subject and, thus, all subjects are taught without technology integrated into them. Therefore, teachers are ill-equipped to integrate technology into their teaching in a meaningful way.
  4. The Department of Education failed to implement any of its Digital Strategies in a widespread manner as a result of the above so schools are now like snowflakes. There are no two schools that have the same equipment, the same plan, the same level of interest, the same level of expertise, the same level of support, the same level of infrastructure, etc.

Knowing the above, we need to plan with the following knowledge:

  1. While there is money coming for technology until 2020, there is little likelihood that investment will continue so schools will have to work from a budget of zero.
  2. Training is unlikely to change. Teachers will still come into the profession with a good knowledge of technology but a poor knowledge of how to integrate it into learning.

Thus, every school is going to have to have a completely different plan. If I were a school, I would probably do the following:

  1. Build a foundation. Every school needs to have a basic foundation before they even think about what they want to do with their technology.
    • Every school needs good wifi. It costs loads but get it.
    • Get the best broadband you can afford or shout at the PDSTTiE until they upgrade yours. Schools cannot exist on paltry broadband.
    • Every classroom needs a projector. Not every classroom needs an Interactive Whiteboard. There are arguments that Special Classes and Infant Classes may benefit from an IWB, but consider them a bonus rather than a foundation.
    • Every teacher needs a laptop. It doesn’t need to be fancy. It just needs to work.
    • Get some sort of technical support in place. Whether it’s paying a local company €90 an hour or doing something bigger, make sure to plan your budget with this in mind.
  2. See what you already have and whether it’s worth keeping.
    • Count your laptops, iPads, iPods, etc. Label them if they’re good, recycle them out if they’re bad.
  3. Now decide what you want to do.
    • Given that you have a foundation, you really need to decide what you want your children to be able to do. This is hard because no two schools are the same and it will depend how far you are down the line in terms of technology integration.
    • The main thing is don’t buy a bunch of equipment then decide what you’re going to do with them. If you’re at the very beginning of your journey, why not pick an area you are generally poor at (check your WSE) and hit that hard.
    • For example, let’s say Gaeilge isn’t going so well at your school, identify things you’d like the children to be able to do. Perhaps, oral language is an issue? How about starting up a Gaeilge radio station where children have the ability to record themselves speaking in Irish? How about getting children to make Gaeilge soundboards? How about getting children to perform or write a short play and show it on a YouTube channel? Now, what equipment do you need to do this? Have you already got some of it?
    • Identify how long you’re going to take to do this and then do it.
    • Once you’ve done it, pick something else and start from point 2.
    • If you have no idea where to start with this, contact your local education centre and book in a free seminar with an ICT advisor. They should easily be able to start you off.
  4. This is an optional point but I think it is necessary for schools to share what they have done in a brief summary and uploaded to a shared space (maybe Scoilnet?) If one school did this every month, we would have 10 simple ideas per year as to how to integrate technology into our schools. The summary would simply include: Curriculum Focus, Class Level(s), Technology Needed, What We Did with a few lines under each. Done! (This can only be done with the support of the DES)

I’m aware that the above is fairly similar to the 6-point plan that I tore apart earlier but I think it’s slightly more relevant to technology than buying a dog, for example. There’s no need to have 32 key areas for an ICT plan. ICT should integrate with the curriculum so these are the key areas you need to focus on. The technology should basically do it.

Ultimately, I think everyone is over-complicating technology in education. This is understandable because the government have put in so many obstacles. For example, we have poor broadband, almost zero technical support, almost no financial investment, and so on. This has been going on for 20 years so all schools are on completely different areas on the spectrum of technology use. The government have decided to counteract this by coming up with a 32-point rubric which covers nothing. Schools really need to take back the leadership on technology and use it for what we are good at: helping children learn. If every school tried one thing before the end of the year using my 4-step plan, we would have nearly 4,000 ways to show how technology can improve learning. I think that’s worth trying.


Last Update: March 28, 2018  

Total 7 Votes:

How can we improve this post?

+ = Verify Human or Spambot ?

Ask Us A Question

You will get a notification email when Knowledgebase answerd/updated!

+ = Verify Human or Spambot ?

Related Posts

Minister Bruton launches 2018 Digital Plan for Schools

Somehow, I missed this announcement last week even so it contains 80 actions and

Digital Schools of Distinction Booster Programme – Diary Entry 2

Scoil Cliodhna CNS – Our Digital Journey As it Happens – Part 2 Our teachers

Digital Schools of Distinction Booster Programme – Diary Entry 1

Scoil Cliodhna CNS – Our Digital Journey As it Happens – Part 1 Our school

ICT in Education conference 2018

From the conference organisers: The Programme for the ICT in Education conference is now available.  The conference will

Digital Schools of Distinction Booster Programme

The following is a series of guest posts from a school involved in the

Final Thoughts from INTO Presidential Candidates

Gregor Kerr Members have a choice. They can vote for more of the same, for

Do the candidates have opinion on other initiatives?

Apart from the few government initiatives mentioned in the last few days, what do

On coding in schools

Gregor Kerr How many times has the Minister announced Coding as his big new idea?

On the New Primary Curriculum

John Boyle Our 1999 Curriculum is now one of the oldest in Europe. I welcome

On Cosán: INTO Presidential Interview

Gregor Kerr As a member of the Teaching Council I will be watching this one

On Droichead

Readers of will know of my own stance on Droichead, which I’ve been

On JobBridge

Gregor Kerr I opposed its introduction. I supported NQTs when they looked for a directive

On Aistear

We ask the candidates some short questions on various initiatives brought in by government

On Diversity – John Boyle

Last Update: March 28, 2018   Share :  

Section 37(1) – Gregor Kerr

Last Update: March 28, 2018   Share :  

Section 37(1) – John Boyle

Last Update: March 28, 2018   Share :  

Which cut do you think will be the hardest to reverse?

There were so many cuts made to our profession in the last decade, it’s

Is the INTO too hierarchal?

Last Update: March 28, 2018   Share :  

Is the union too hierarchal?

One criticism I have of the union is that it is far too hierarchal.

If the DES allowed you to reverse one cut they imposed, what would it be?

Over the last decade, the government made several cuts to the education budget. Very

Gregor Kerr on Pay Restoration

Last Update: March 28, 2018   Share :  

John Boyle on Pay Restoration

Last Update: March 28, 2018   Share :  

What do you think is the INTO’s biggest challenge in the next few years?

In our series of questions to the INTO President candidates, we wonder what the biggest

How will you attract teachers to engage with the union?

People often complain that fewer teachers are attending union meetings and engaging with the

INTO Influence – John Boyle

Last Update: March 28, 2018   Share :  

Influence of the INTO – Gregor Kerr

Last Update: March 28, 2018   Share :  

Do you think the INTO is as influential as it always has been?

We asked both candidates for the INTO President position some questions to see where they

Gregor Kerr – Question 1

Last Update: March 28, 2018   Share :  

John Boyle – Question 1

Last Update: March 28, 2018   Share :  

Why do you want to be president?

Last Update: March 28, 2018   Share :  

INTO Presidential Election: Interviews

For the first time in many years, the INTO will be having an election

What you might not know about the ETB Community National School model

With the news today that Richard Bruton wants the ETB to lead an “identification

Who will succeed Tomás O'Ruairc on the Teaching Council?

It’s hard to believe that 5 years have passed since Tomás Ó Ruairc has been Predictions for 2017

Every year, I try to predict what the big stories will be in primary

Safe Christmas Playlist

Christmas is impossible to ignore no matter what type of school you teach in.

What next for ERBE?

As part of the government’s Pluralism and Patronage Forum, which is supposed to ensure the

Diversity in Primary Teaching

The Teaching Council hold a conference every year called Féilte. One of the topics

Empathy and ClassDojo

ClassDojo are currently running a fantastic series on empathy and it got me thinking about

Teddy Bears’ Picnic Playlist

Are you having a Teddy Bears’ Picnic in your school? Here’s a little playlist

Roald Dahl Playlist

“Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty.” So says the song in

Drum Solos Playlist

This playlist focus on drums, specifically, drum solos or famous beats. It’s amazing how we

Happy Playlist

Are you looking for songs about happiness? These songs are a selection from the

2010 to Now Playlist

Here are some songs from 2010 to today that are appropriate for primary school

Playground Playlist

If you want to play some tunes in the Playground to liven up break

Different points to enter Teacher Training College

RTE revealed that DCU’s newly formed Teacher Training course, which amalgamated 3 previous colleges of

Twitter and Droichead

There was a lot of talk about Droichead on social media over the last

Education Equality: Gathering for Change March

I was delighted and honoured to have had the opportunity to speak at the

What is the biggest issue for Community National Schools?

The Community National School model is being lauded as the ideal solution for primary education

What Vehicle will get us over the Bridge?

With the overwhelming majority of teachers voting to not cooperate with Droichead in its

Droichead: The People have Spoken

Yesterday, the INTO revealed the results of the ballot regarding non-cooperation with the Droichead

What’s the difference between the CNS model and the Catholic model?

Another government, another disappointing day for education. Jan O’Sullivan has left her mark and I

Are the Teaching Council acting ethically?

Right now, teachers are being asked to vote in a ballot as to whether

Why Ticking “No Religion” Shouldn’t Matter in Schools

For people without a religion, the census always draws up conversation. Mostly, it’s to do

10 Suggestions for the Teaching Council re: Droichead

I have been giving out about Droichead for quite some time so thought it might

What do Droichead, Irish Water and the Junior Cert Reform have in common?

In my opinion, the answer to the above question is the same. I know

ClassDojo Cartoons

I discovered something new on the ClassDojo website today – a whole bunch of

Another Alternative to Droichead

If you ask any principal in Ireland what the biggest threat to our education

Droichead: The Film Script

The story of Droichead has been worthy of a film. It’s got a cast

#dojoChatEU: Learning from mistakes in the classroom

Every week, I delve through ClassDojo’s Twitter chat and answer the questions that were

Were the Teaching Council Elections truly Democratic?

The Teaching Council elections took place last week and I was happy to see that

Teaching Council Election Results

Because the Teaching Council elections were done online, results were out very quickly. There

#dojoChatEU: Fostering Positive Relationships

Every week I answer the questions posed in ClassDojo’s weekly chat, #dojoChatEU. It happens every

How to make denominational schools more inclusive

Around 96% of Irish primary schools are under the patronage of a religious body,

#dojochatEU: Peer learning

Every week I take the questions from ClassDojo’s weekly chat on Twitter, #dojochatEU. This

Primary Schools: Inclusive or Tolerant?

As most people know, there are a number of parents in Ireland who have

Infographic of Survey on Inclusiveness

I developed an infographic based on the data received from my survey on how

#dojochatEU: Has technology a place in education?

Every week I respond to the ClassDojo #dojochatEU Twitter conversation, which happens every Wednesday

ClassDojo and Principals

ClassDojo have just released a way for principals and other school leaders to get

How inclusive are Catholic Schools?

Recently, The Irish Independent carried an article with the headline, Catholic Schools are as inclusive

#GE16 and Primary Education: Religion in Schools

As we come up to the General Election, I’m looking at the various parties

Is it ethical to publish League Tables?

The Irish Independent published, what they called, a definitive league table of the best schools

#DojoChatEU: New Year’s Resolutions

Every week, ClassDojo run a Twitter chat on a Wednesday evening. After a nice winter

The Mathematics of Patronage and Pluralism

Between 96% and 98% of Irish primary schools are denominational in patronage, which means

ClassDojo Comes to Ireland

For all you ClassDojo users out there, the people behind ClassDojo are coming to

2016 Predictions

As we come to the last day of year, it is traditional at to make predictions

What will removing Rule 68 actually do?

One of the rules of National Schools that has been causing much debate over

#dojoChatEU – Reimagine Learning

This week’s #dojoChatEU was titled Reimagine Learning, the theme of BETT 2016. The chat organised

Multidenominational: A long word, long-abused

The education landscape used to be an easy one to maneuver. Between the 1920s

#DojoChatEU – Collaborative Learning

Every week, I write a post based on ClassDojo’s regular Twitter chat on Wednesday

Can the new NCCA Ethics Curriculum work in Ireland?

It always strikes me as odd the stories about primary education that get noticed

#dojoChatEU: Breaking down the classroom wall

Every week I look at the ClassDojo chat and answer the various questions on

Why Pluralism in Education Doesn’t Work

I was listening to a debate on the radio about the Angelus last week.

#dojoChatEU – Global Issues and Topical Events

Every week I summarise the #classDojoEU conversation on Twitter with my own thoughts on the

#dojochatEU: Growth Mindset

Every week, I try to tune in to ClassDojo’s weekly chat on Twitter. I

Thoughts on the Digital Strategy

The Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 is the latest attempt by the government to

#ClassDojoEU: Resilience

This week was the first time in ages that I was able to take

#dojoChatEU: Future-Proofing our Learners

This week’s ClassDojo chat was called Future Proofing our Learners. As usual, I’ll be

ClassDojo Chat: Work/Life Balance

Every week, ClassDojo have a chat on Twitter under the hashtag #dojochateu. The chat

Should we be Celebrating the 1916 Rising?

Earlier this week, two army officials came to my school to present us with

An Alternative to Droichead

Following my blog post on Droichead last week, I thought I might expand on my

Droichead: A bridge too far

Droichead is a new model of induction and probation for newly qualified teachers, which

5 Ways to use ClassDojo’s ClassStory

ClassDojo, everyone’s favourite behaviour tracker, has released a new feature for the start of

Burren National School: A symbol of the divestment process

Today, Educate Together announced that the proposed new Educate Together school in Castlebar was

Where do unbaptised children fit in?

I’ve been following the recent discussions about unbaptised children accessing primary education over the last

ClassDojo releases ClassStory

As many teachers know, parents can log into their child’s ClassDojo account and see

Groups Come to ClassDojo

ClassDojo are releasing a number of updates over the summer. For teachers in Ireland,

#DojoChatEU Transition Days

This week’s DojoChatEU was called Transition Days and focused on moving from one class

Who are the role models in primary schools?

Last weekend, I was part of a panel at the Excited Festival of Learning

Why We’re Voting Yes to Marriage Equality

Commenting on referenda is not something that we generally do at but the

#DojoChatEU – Technology in the Classroom

I managed to attend a second #DojoChatEU in a row last week, moderated by

#DojochatEU – Developing a PLN

#DojochatEU is a Twitter hashtag for an event that happens every Wednesday from 8:30pm

Should schools be allowed to discriminate?

The headline grabber from the INTO congress was Jan O’Sullivan’s announcement that new enrollment

A ClassDojo Shop

Lots of classrooms are using ClassDojo as a behaviour management tool and it’s great

ClassDojo Ambassador

I have been aware of ClassDojo for a number of years and nominated the

Denominational Schools and the Upcoming Marriage Referendum

The upcoming referendum on marriage equality has sparked some conversation among teachers who work

Why we don’t need to start teaching coding in primary schools

Ciaran Cannon is one of the most innovative politicians I know and he is

Primary Schools and Broadband: The biggest issue in education today?

Following on from a conversation on the wonderful CESI list, I thought I would

What books would you recommend for a primary school teacher?

Facebook is awash with challenges from ice-buckets to listing how you’re grateful for the

A short guide to religion in primary schools

Over the last number of years, the population of Ireland has changed. One of the

10 Tips for getting Substitute Work

I received an email today asking for some advice on getting substitute work in

Why we should care about Ireland’s Human Rights Record in Education

Last week, the Irish government was given a major slap on the wrist for

Fitness to teach is all about motivating teachers to love their job-Part 2

Self-actualisation and flow In my first post on performance-related pay, I spoke about the process

Fitness to teach is all about motivating teachers to love their job-Part 1

Managing the performance When the Teaching Council brought up the Fitness to Teach legislation in the most

Cutting the cost of school uniforms? Why not cut them altogether?

Irish parents are to be balloted on school uniforms in the coming weeks in

How to save the Irish language

One of the most popular conversations I have with non-teachers is about the Irish

Everything I know about Féilte

Féilte is a festival organised by the Teaching Council for World Teachers’ Day on

What did the Teaching Council ever do for us?

One of the questions that is often asked amongst teachers is what do the

How not to get a job interview

Teaching jobs are getting more and more scarce every year in Ireland. The days

Do we need Teaching Council 2.0?

It hasn’t been the best couple of months for the Teaching Council. Established six

It's oh so quiet..New draft document on Inspectorate handing probation to Principals

Email I got an email today from the Teaching Council and I almost deleted it

5 Tips for Teacher Job Applications

The next month is going to be one of the toughest for any teacher

Douglas Adams, The Fourth R and Learning

I was happy to see that technology was on the agenda at the annual

12 reasons to have Computerised Roll Books

Imagine it’s 11:30am on June 30th.  What are you doing?  Apart from trying to

What have the Teaching Council ever done for us?

Have recently discovered Inside Education on 103.2 Dublin City FM. Simon introduced me to

Why Blogging is Best – a digiteach article

I was asked to write a follow-up article about my workshop at this year’s

Ask Us A Question

You will get a notification email when Knowledgebase answerd/updated!

+ = Verify Human or Spambot ?