Online Panel Discussion – Digital Learning and the Primary School

  • 14 Nov 2020
  • 11:00am - 12:15pm
  • Online
  • Organised by INTO

Traditionally INTO hosts an Annual Consultative Conference on Education in the month of November. Unfortunately, due to the current Covid-19 situation in Ireland with Level 5 restrictions across the country, it is not possible to proceed with a face-to-face conference. However, INTO is holding an online panel discussion on Saturday, 14th of November 2020 based on the theme of distance learning.

The closure of schools in March 2020 created a mammoth test for education systems across the globe. Teachers are the key cogs in the wheel of quality education and all over Ireland (and, indeed, across the globe) they rose to the challenge ensuring the continuity of learning for pupils in their care. The creativity, compassion, and adaptability to engage with distance learning, with or without the use of digital technologies was remarkable. For some, this situation meant that they were required to use alternative methodologies for the first time.

INTO recently conducted a survey of members (randomly selected) to gain an insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted teachers’ working lives, their level of engagement with digital technology and their hopes for the future. Some of the key findings will be shared with members at our event on November 14th, informing discussion and debate among our panellists.

This panel will be presented by INTO President Mary Magner and will comprise principals, teachers and other educators with a particular interest and expertise in digital technology. The webinar will begin with a conversation involving Paul Moroney (a teaching principal in County Kerry with a keen interest in technology) and Loretta Dunphy (an administrative principal in a DEIS school in Dublin). We will also gain an insight into the experience of teachers in Northern Ireland from Chair of INTO Northern Committee, Caroline McCarthy. The panel will also be joined by Ciara Reilly (Lecturer in ICT and Digital Education, Marino Institute of Education), Ciara O’Donnell (National Director, PDST) and Clíona Ní Chiosáin (primary school teacher also known as ‘Múinteoir Clíona’ of RTÉ School Hub fame).

Read the Digital Learning and the Primary School background paper here.

Panellist Bios

Paul Moroney is a teaching principal in Scartaglen National School, Co. Kerry. The school is involved in the School Excellence Fund – Digital and is also a Digital School of Distinction. Paul has an M.Ed. in ICT from Mary Immaculate College and is a member of the INTO Education Committee. He was recently elected as a primary representative for Munster on the Teaching Council. Paul is an advocate of the use of ICT to support children’s learning.


Loretta Dunphy is an administrative principal in St. Gabriel’s N.S, Ballyfermot, Dublin. Previously Loretta taught in a range of settings including primary, tertiary, and adult education in Ireland and overseas. She has worked in a variety of curriculum development areas from Literacy in primary schools in Hong Kong to the Stay Safe programme in Ireland.  She completed a Masters in Leadership and Management with a research interest in Patronage and Pluralism. She volunteers as a mentor for Newly Appointed Principals with the Centre for School Leadership and is currently working towards an EQA Practitioner level diploma in Coaching. However, since taking up the role as principal 13 years ago in a DEIS band 1 school, her focus has turned to DEIS related initiatives and issues.


Caroline McCarthy is Chair of the Northern Committee of the INTO this year. She has represented primary school teachers from her area of Belfast West for the past 10 years. Caroline’s teaching background is special education, having taught children with Severe Learning Difficulties and Profound and Multiple Learning difficulties for the past 24 years. As well as developing a functional and resourceful curriculum within her own school she supported schools throughout the north of Ireland with the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA) with Quest for learning. Caroline is passionate believer in special education enabling achievement and fulfilment at all levels working with children, parents, carers, and multidisciplinary teams anything is possible.


Is múinteoirí bunscoile í Clíona Ní Chiosáin. Bhain sí céim amach sa Nua-Ghaeilge agus Fraincís ó Ollscoil na h-Éireann Má Nuad chomh maith le Máistreacht Oideachas (bunscoil) ó Roinn Froebel. Tá sí ag múineadh le ceithre bliana anuas. Chaith sí trí bliana i Scoil Bhríde Cailíní i mBaile Bhlainséar (i ranganna príomhsrutha agus rang uathachais) agus sula dtosaigh sí ag múineadh i Scoil Mhuire, Moynalty, i gContae na Mí. Tá go leor taithí aici i gcúrsaí teilifíse le ceithre bliana déag anuas. Bhí sí mar láithreoir ar chláracha do pháistí – ‘How To Do Everything’ agus ‘Tír Na N-Óg’ ina measc. Le linn an chéad dianghlasáil, bhí Clíona agus beirt múinteoirí eile ag cur ceachtanna i láthair do pháistí bunscoile ar an ‘RTÉ Homeschool Hub’. Faoi láthair, tá sí ar ais ar ár scáileáin teilifíse ar an ‘Afterschool Hub’ ar RTÉ.


Ciara O’ Donnell is the National Director of the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), the Department of Education’s largest national cross sectoral Continuing Professional Development provider. Ciara is a primary school teacher and worked in Bawnogue National School, Clondalkin as a class teacher and Home School Community Liaison Co-ordinator. Ciara has worked in teacher education with the DE support services since 2005 when she joined the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) where she held the position of SESE Co-ordinator in the 99 Curriculum support team. She was later appointed to the position of Deputy Director with the Primary Professional Development Service (PPDS) with responsibility for the CPD design and delivery of curricular supports.  On the establishment of the PDST, she held the position of Deputy Director for Research, Policy and Development before being appointed National Director in 2013.


Ciara Reilly is an Assistant Lecturer in Digital Education at the Marino Institute of Education, working across various undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. She was previously a primary school teacher in St. Peter’s Primary in Bray and has also worked as an Advisor in Digital Technologies for the PDST Digital Technologies team. She is a Doctoral student in Digital Learning in DCU, a Trustee of USI and a Director of Comhar Linn. She is a regular commentator on education matters, having appeared on RTÉ Radio, Newstalk and the Irish Times in recent months.

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