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Mercy Mission

Adult Education - Computer Skills

Retirement comes to every Sister. For me the date was July 31, 1990. Fortunately I was prompted to “think about it” ten years earlier, when information about an Adult Education Course in Maynooth came my way. That the “subject” I would eventually ‘teach’ to adults would be Computer Applications, had not even been thought of. It certainly was not planned – it just happened.

As I had been on the Mission in Florida between 1961 and 1976, on retirement I was asked to return to Ascension School where I was charged with re-organising and updating the Computer Lab as well as Teaching Basic Computer Skills to some 500 students. At the time I had taken one short Word Processing Course. Needless to say I had a lot of ‘learning’to do! It was a time of growth in the development of technology – particularly in the schools. The whole five year experience went very well.

When I was returning to Ireland in 1995 I was presented with a computer by the Bohne family. Meitheal Áth Fhirdia – a small Adult Education Centre, had been set up by Sr. Catherine in 1988. So, with just one computer, Training in Computer Applications for Adults was introduced in September 1995. After a term giving individual lessons, I got some funding from the Meitheal kitty, and with some sponsorship from the Credit Union, the Bank of Ireland and some personal contributions I managed to get two more computers. The possibility of achieving a Certificate was limited to those who had at least a reasonable level of keyboarding proficiency.

In the Summer of 1997 I heard about ECDL a “Not for Profit Organisation”. When its philosophy was explained to me. I knew that it was exactly what my students needed. To be in a position to offer every student (irrespective of educational achievements to date), the possibility of gaining certification in computer applications seemed to be too good to be true. My fourth vow of 'Service to the Community' took on a new meaning as we approached the end of the millennium.

The European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) is the world’s most successful IT skills certification programme. The Irish programme is administered by ICS SKILLS.

The ECDL is intended to establish a standard for everyone who uses a computer in either a professional or personal capacity. It is a certificate that verifies competence in computer use, making the holder readily mobile within the Irish and international job market. The Syllabus has been developed again and again over the ten years – this year Syllabus Version 5 was released! No chance for sleeping on the job here!

The ECDL syllabus covers basic computer skills and the use of common applications in the workplace, the home and in society in general. It is divided into seven modules, six practical and one theoretical. Aside from the basics of computer use, modules also cover word processing, spreadsheets, databases and presentation applications. A test in each module must be passed before the ECDL is awarded.

Advanced ECDL courses are also available as a follow on for graduates of the original programme. ECDL Advanced consists of four individually certified modules in Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Databases and Presentations. For those who have completed each of the ECDL Advanced modules, an ECDL Expert certificate is available, which clearly demonstrates that the holder has a comprehensive knowledge and skill level in computer applications. Some specialist Courses have been added over the years - CAD (Computer Aided Design) WebStarter and Imagemaker.

The work in Meitheal has changed over the years – always in response to the needs of the learners. It has grown from basic and simple courses in the Cookery and Craft line to Fetac Certified Courses such as Child Care, Classroom Assistants, Special Needs Assistants and many more. The Courses in Computer Applications fit right in there. Each student is asked to give a reason for being there. Every effort is made to enable them to achieve any very specific goals which have been set. In his address to our 'ECDL Graduates' in October 2002 the then Minister for Education – Mr. Noel Dempsey, referred to the way in which the ECDL would enhance the employment and promotional aspects of the participants, in addition to increasing their educational and social skills.

I hope, that in the spirit of Catherine McAuley I am – in a small way - responding to the expressed needs of those who come to study Computer Applications in our Small Adult Education Centre.

Sr. Monica Ryan

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