Cog Notes: Quinn has a treat but no tweet

Here’s a sight to warm the hearts of every balloted ASTI member: Ruairí Quinn getting a guard of honour from pupils as he heads into a black-tie dinner.

The honour was bestowed on Quinn as he attended the 75th anniversary celebrations of St Conleth’s College, Ballsbridge, Dublin.

The secondary school was founded in September 1939 as an institution for "The Sons of Catholic Gentlemen". Among those welcoming the former minister – whose son Conan is a past pupil – were CEO Ann Sheppard, daughter of founder Bernard Sheppard.

Kevin Kelleher, who began teaching at the fee-paying school in 1944 and who continues to have a "daily presence" there, had the opportunity to catch up with many past pupils.

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The 93-year-old is best known for his time as an international rugby referee and especially for sending off New Zealand ace Colin Meads in 1967 during a game at Murrayfield, a decision which made front-page news.

Quinn expressed his delight at how the school was embracing technology in education. “We are experiencing a new ‘Gutenberg’ moment. The world of technology is transforming how we learn.” Mind you, for an advocate of new technology, Quinn’s personal Twitter account is surprisingly redundant. It shows he has yet to send a tweet.

Teachers asked to ‘cook up’ their own rules

For many a worker “consultation” is a euphemism for being informed of some annoying policy decision after the event. That is why the Teaching Council’s decision to start with a blank slate when drafting its new regulatory framework for teachers is such a refreshing approach.

Council director Tomás Ó Ruairc admits its plan to consult the profession without beginning with “a pre-cooked draft . . . is a bit of a risk”.

The intention is that an early trawl of ideas will feed into a draft plan on continuous professional development (CPD) that will then be put out for a final consultation before planned implementation in 2016.

So what ideas are already circulating? The international experience points to two models.

The first is where teachers have to accumulate a number of CPD hours over a period of time and self-declare this in order to re-register. The second approach, more common in medical settings, is where practitioners have to perform a lab test or demonstration in front of their peers to prove they are up to speed with the latest developments.

One proposal is that teachers would earn credits for participating in professional networks such as #edchatie on Twitter, which last week had a minor coup in getting Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan to answer questions on the forum.

The Minister herself has a few thoughts on CPD but one stood out last week. “If we want top-quality teachers in all of our classes, we have to make sure that teaching is a decent, well-paid profession,” she tweeted – to general applause from teachers online.

Points of view on television debates are no joke

All the furore about political appointments brings to mind a scurrilous rumour that circulated in the dying days of Ruairí Quinn’s term as minister.

The joke went that Quinn planned to appoint Jackie Lavin and Brian Lucey to the board of the HEA as a parting gift to education.

What fun that would be. However, straight-talking Mary Canning – who does actually sit on the board of the HEA – is still not laughing at that comical Prime Time "debate" between celebrity businesswoman Lavin and TCD professor Lucey. At the recent Irish Universities Association symposium, speaker after speaker emphasised the need for a public debate on higher education – at which point Canning reminded the chairman, RTÉ's John Bowman, of the last time the public broadcaster hosted a conversation on the issue. ("Totally disgraceful," were her words.)

Peter Cassells, who has been charged with heading up the working group on third-level funding, says his terms of reference provided for facilitating just such a public debate.

He noted the Prime Time format was designed more to generate viewers than “depth of discussion”.

But couldn’t we have both? Perhaps next time.

Science leads the way in awards

Teachers have come out top of the class in a new awards scheme to recognise excellence in teaching at third-level.

Some 53 teachers from 27 higher education institutions have received Teaching Hero Awards, with almost a third (17) from science or computing.

Business had 11 awards, and humanities eight.

Established by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in partnership with the Union of Students in Ireland, the awards identify inspirational lecturers who have a “a key transformative impact at a key transitional phase in education” such as moving from secondary to third-level, or from degree to postgraduate level, according to Prof Sarah Moore, chairwoman of the forum.

A full list is at teachingandlearning.ie