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New laptops lighten the load for Galway schoolkids



Date Published: 31-Aug-2011

By Denise McNamara

This year County Galway VEC students will not only be sporting their shiny new shoes and flawless uniforms at the start of the new term – under their arms will be some very nifty Netbooks.

For the first, second and third year students of the 12 colleges spread far and wide across the county and her islands, gone are almost three-quarters of their school books.

In their place are small, lightweight and relatively inexpensive laptops. A 15 kilo burden has been slashed to just 2 kilos at the click of a mouse.

“The interactivity is a real bonus – it’s not like a traditional book. If it’s biology class you’ll be able to see an actual heart pumping, they’ll see an engine running or a volcano erupting,” enthused the principal of Coláiste Cholmcille in Inverin, Peadar Ó Sé. “There are so many possibilities. I think it’s the future.”

The Co Galway VEC is the first in the country to replace books with computers across its network of schools.

“We started out two years ago slowly with just 12 Netbooks in Mountbellew and are now rolling out 1,200. We have been training the teachers over the last year and have created a virtual learning environment where resources can be shared,” said Joe McDonagh, CEO of the Co Galway VEC.

“The big secret is having the necessary backup technical support for a scheme like this. We have an in-house ICT officer, support person and teacher trainer so we can make huge savings on technical support compared to individual schools which have to use private companies.”

The VEC’s bulk-buying power has resulted in reduced prices for the Netbook, the software and the e-text books which have been downloaded onto the computers. The books cost on average 25% less than their traditional print versions.

The cost for each machine is just over €300 – the VEC is subsidising €100 of it, parents are being asked for another €100 and the school is paying for the rest. Parents will also be asked to cover the €20 maintenance fee to sort out any hiccups in the machines. Up to now the school had asked for €50 per child, which covers the rental of books, school materials and photocopying.

This year the VEC is asking parents for the same amount to cover books not available for download as well as €120 for the Netbook and its maintenance.

“We’re very conscious of the cost to households, which is why we’ve kept it to €50 every year up to now. The €120 is a one-off charge for this year,” said Mr Ó Sé.

“This is one way to reduce costs. The VEC are bulk buying thousands of e-books. As publishers update the books, they won’t need to update the whole book but just replace chapters.”

Read more in today’s Connacht Tribune

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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