24th May 2018

Mary Ward and Digital Learning

Whoever has ever heard anything about Mary Ward knows that she was a pioneer not only in women’s issues, but also in teaching in general. It is astounding that somebody who has never experienced school life herself as a pupil should be founding schools later in her life, even end up with a network of schools spread all over the globe!

If you think that computers, tablets or mobile phones in the classroom will improve teaching – think again. They don’t change anything automatically just because they are digital. I have just attended a terribly disappointing presentation from a leading publishing house’s rep who wanted to sell an internet software which was not even worth the attribute “digital”. There was nothing new in what he had on offer. In fact, if you took his material and published it as a book or as a collection of worksheets, the product would not end up as a success on the educational market.
Mary Ward was a keen writer of letters. She would have loved to be able to send emails, or WhatsApps or text messages. As a teacher, I believe, she would have embraced happily new technology for the classroom – but undoubtedly she would have pondered about its use and put into practice only what made a difference to the classroom. Looking at digital software, or teaching with new technology, requires us to think twice, scrutinize everything that is in front of us, and ask ourselves repeatedly: is this really worth the while, does this improve our lessons, will this really bring an additional input, can this digital tool create new situations in the classroom?
One option that fulfils this promise could be connecting and linking pupils or classes of different Mary Ward schools in distant places, maybe different countries or even continents. Real conversations between individuals would definitely increase learning motivation, be a source for authentic text production, expand learning situations and make the classroom so much more than one room between four walls.
Look at http://marywardexchange.weebly.com and see for yourself what the Mary Ward Schools in Traunstein/Sparz (Germany) and the Loreto College Crumlin (Ireland) created in 2012/2013.
If you are interested in starting a project like this, let us know and we will be happy to match you up with other classes or individuals who are also keen on contacting other Mary Ward Schools.

— Annette Haseneder

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