22 April, 2015- Address by Minister Jan O’Sullivan, TD, Minister for Education and Skills at the EUfolio Conference, Dublin Castle

Check against delivery

I am delighted to be here today to mark the end of the two year EUfolio project. This project brought together seven countries with a shared interest in promoting the use of technology in education.  Ireland participated in this project because of a recognition of the potential of ePortofolios in education, in particular the role of ePortfolios as a tool for formative assessment and for the development of 21st Century skills

I welcome the emphasis in the pilot on formative assessment. Pilot schools used the formative assessment potential of the ePortfolio to great effect in supporting timely effective feedback, student self-assessment and peer feedback. This formative feedback is invaluable to students throughout their learning journey and supports their ongoing development and the development of 21st Century Skills.

The potential of ePortfolios to support the development of 21st century skills in students was identified as one of the aims of the EUfolio project. 21st Century Skills are the skills that students require for the next phase of their learning whether in school or beyond. We need to prepare our young people for living and working in a digital society.  This will require development of skills including digital competences and a learning disposition so that they can become engaged life-long learners.

As Irish attendees will be aware, these are some of the skills we are seeking to embed through reform of our junior cycle.  I believe that ePortfolios could greatly assist with the implementation of those very necessary reforms.

The teachers and students here today give a wonderful insight into the development of essential life skills such as learning to learn, creativity, critical thinking and collaboration.

The key skill of collaboration or working together is very evident here today- the project itself has been a two year collaboration between fourteen partners in seven European countries all working together to design, develop and pilot ePortfolios. But collaboration in this project went further - teachers involved in piloting ePortfolios worked together to share good practice and I saw for myself in the showcase the great developments in classrooms where students are sharing, collaborating and engaging in peer feedback in the digital portfolio space. 

The development of creativity is also very clear in the words and the work of the students and teachers here today. The ePortfolio has fostered this creativity, where students can work in multi-media formats. Teachers involved in the pilot project are also being creative as they design learning scenarios and lesson plans that embed the ePortfolio into their teaching to support student learning.

This project has led to valuable knowledge and learning in education systems across Europe.  We need to ensure that the learning and the momentum built up in this proejct is not lost.  How do we do this? Firstly, my Department along with the support services and the NCCA will support a community of practice for those school leaders, teachers and all those interested in the potential of eportfolios.  This community of practice will only succeed with your input.  I would encourage you to participate and share your knowledge in this forum.  The schools in this project are pioneers in the area and I urge you share your experience with other schools so that we create a cascade effect.

My Department has committed to providing quality continual professional development where technology is embedded across all professional development programmes. We know the importance of timely and appropriate professional development and we also know the importance of peer learning and support.  I ask the school leaders and teachers here today to help us spread the message of the benefits of using technology in the classroom and in particular of the benefits of eportfolios.

The conclusion of this project has come at an opportune moment for the Irish education system.  We are about to embark on an exciting and ambitious programme of work which will further embed technology and digital tools across primary and post primary education. ICT is pervasive in society and therefore it should be pervasive in schools.  ePortfolios is one of the most powerful digital tools schools can use.  ICT can change the way teachers teach and how students learn. The depth and breadth of what can be done in the classroom using eportfolios is truly remarkable.

In Ireland we will ensure through our curricular reform programme and our forthcoming Digital Strategy for Schools that the knowledge and experience from this project will transfer to school practice. 

We have challenges ahead in Ireland in implementing our vision for ICT use in schools and I know our European colleagues face similar challenges. With the commitment of all partners in Ireland and working with our European colleagues we can overcome these challenges.  We can work with our European partners to address these challenges. 

I would like to commend the partners on what they have achieved.  The partners from Cyprus, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Slovenia, Spain, Austria and Ireland brought together a wealth of knowledge and expertise.  I welcome the inclusion of industry partners in the project.  Government and industry should work together.  We want the same objectives from our education system – a highly skilled workforce. 

European collaboration is to be encourage and the European Commission’s ongoing support ensures that these partnerships can flourish. 

I would like to pay a special mention to the schools across the five piloting countries who participated.  Without the schools there would be no learning to share today.  It is because of the commitment of the school leaders, teachers and students that we are today in a position to speak as experts on the use of eportfolios.

I would like to conclude by congratulating the project team on the success of the project.  I would like to thank you all for your active participation today.  I am sure you will agree that the speakers today were excellent.  Professor Klenowski set the tone this morning for an engaging debate. 

I would also like to thank the students here today, to those who showcased their work to Jonathan who took part in the panel discussion and to the transition year students from Ashbourne Community School who assisted in the smooth running of the event.

I would also like to thank the Youth Media Team.  I am sure you will agree they did a fantastic job.

Thank you.