Cog Notes: Is the ASTI wasted on the young?

Like other trade unions, the ASTI has been struggling to get younger members involved

It will be interesting to see who turns up for the ASTI's special rules convention on November 14th and 15th. Like other trade unions, the ASTI has been struggling to get younger members involved, and for that demographic, spending a Friday and Saturday in Athlone discussing changes to the union's constitution might not be a high priority.

One of the proposals to be debated at the conference is that only serving teachers should be allowed to attend the annual convention as delegates. This would end the usual practice whereby retired teachers can vote on policy matters affecting the working lives of young ASTI members.

Any such change to the constitution requires a two-thirds majority, however, and given the demographics of ASTI conventions, success will involve turkeys voting for Christmas.

A far more controversial proposal is to reduce the membership of the central executive council from 162 members to 72 and make it subordinate to a new ASTI executive council. This would bring it in line with other trade unions where decisions are made by a core officer class. The ASTI is unusual in that the council, which is composed of branch members, is the "supreme governing body". It meets twice a year and sets policy that must be followed by general secretary Pat King and other executives in the existing "standing" committee.

Of course, this attempt to "normalise" the ASTI is seen by some as a mere power grab. Mark Walshe of the ASTI Fightback group says the reforms will make the union less democratic, and he rejects the suggestion that a more agile or reactive ASTI will appeal to younger members. "The reason young people are not participating is because of social partnership."

As to whether they should scrap the vote for retirees, “I would not be in favour of it. There is a militancy associated with older members that younger people have lost,” says Walshe. “A lot of retired members have strong convictions and they can be mentors for new members.”

The desk of the future

One of the fancy gizmos at the Web Summit in Dublin this week promises to revolutionise e-learning in the classroom or, in its own words, to create "new pedagogical and interaction affordances".

Behind the tech talk is a nifty idea: to produce a low-cost, interactive desk that is linked up to the teacher's whiteboard. The Tip Tap Tap system is designed by the Nimbus Centre at Cork Institute of Technology.

Backed by €296,000 in funding from Enterprise Ireland, the researchers have developed touch-sense technology that can be embedded into new school desks, or retrofitted on to existing desks like a laminate overlay.

Only a prototype has been developed so far but the plan is for an affordable unit – about €60 per desk – that would link into any existing school computer system.

Meanwhile, Cork IT's popular student recruitment roadshow begins tomorrow at the Midleton Park Hotel at 7pm.

Together on video

It's hard to comprehend the degree of volunteerism and community activity in Irish society, but the Better Together Video Competition is having a shot at documenting it.

Dozens of community groups and non-profit organisations have been posting videos to the site in recent weeks, including many with an educational angle.

These include the Galway Educate Together Second Level Start Up Group ( Its campaign was given added impetus with the opening of Knocknacarra Educate Together National School in September, which brings to four the number of Educate Together national schools in Co Galway.

You can vote for your favourite video at until November 21st.

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