TCD Assistant Professor announced as new Academic Director at research and innovation centre Learnovate

The Learnovate Centre – one of Europe’s leading research centres in learning technologies – has announced Dr. Ann Devitt as its new Academic Director.

The appointment comes after The Learnovate Centre recently announced Nessa McEniff as its new Centre Director.

Based at Trinity College Dublin, The Learnovate Centre is an industry-led technology centre, funded by Enterprise Ireland. It is made up of expert researchers using learning technologies to help transform the lives of learners in the workplace, schools, at third level and in the home.

Dr. Devitt is Assistant Professor of Language Education and Director of Research at the School of Education at Trinity College Dublin. She is a language graduate with a doctorate in computer science and her research areas focus on language and literacy teaching and learning as well as technology enhanced learning.

In her new role as Academic Director of The Learnovate Centre, Dr. Devitt will guide research and technology priorities in the centre and champion initiatives to develop new research and innovation activities.

On the announcement of her appointment, Dr. Ann Devitt said:

“The Academic Director role is a perfect position for me as my interests lie in education and learning but I am also a technologist. My role in Learnovate will be more on the education side of things but I have the background in technology to understand and appreciate the great technologies out there that can aid in learning.”

 In an interview conducted for The Learnovate Centre website, Dr. Devitt also spoke about the difficult position teachers are in during the current remote learning situation caused by Covid-19. She said that the biggest challenge faced by teachers at both primary and post-primary was maintaining relationships with their students.

“While the work can move online, it is very difficult to move your relationship with the student online. The teacher has to maintain this relationship, sustain it and build it. The longer you are teaching online, the harder it is for the teacher to keep the personal touch and the humanity in their teaching. It is the relationship that fosters learner engagement and so it is critical online.

Teachers are in such a difficult position, especially if the students are not engaging with them. It can be hard to know if students are enjoying the school work, are doing OK and just working away or if the entire family is struggling. The best piece of advice I can give teachers is to focus on maintaining engagement with learning in a general way rather than on “delivering” the curriculum. An important part of this is to keep the student-teacher and the student-student relationships alive.”

She also added that teachers needed to look after their own mental health during this difficult time.

“There are lots of pressures on all of us at this time and teachers can also have the added concerns for their students. In some situations, students rely on schools not only for their education but for their breakfast and lunches and it can be a real worry for the teacher if they cannot get in touch with these families. The main focus should be to ensure that there is still an open connection with students, even if the student isn’t doing the schoolwork.”

(To read the full interview, see here:  https://www.learnovatecentre.org/the-new-reality-of-online-learning/ )

Learnovate supported over 300 companies last year – companies that have created hundreds of new jobs in the Irish economy. Based in Trinity College Dublin, Learnovate is funded by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland to help companies with learning, technology, user experience, and innovation to ensure business success.

Nessa McEniff, Director of The Learnovate Centre, said:

“We are delighted Ann has taken up the role of Academic Director at The Learnovate Centre. Ann’s combined experience in both education and in learning technologies is an ideal fit for our industry-led research agenda in learning, technology and innovation.”

About Dr. Ann Devitt: Dr. Ann Devitt is Assistant Professor of Language Education and Director of Research at the School of Education and Chair of the Research Ethics Committee for the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. She is the Academic Director of The Learnovate Centre and has extensive research experience in both academia and industry. Having worked in the language and speech technology industries for a number of years in Europe, she returned to academia to complete a PhD in computational linguistics. After this she worked as research fellow in the telecoms industry where she has a number of patents and publications. In 2008, she joined the School of Education at Trinity College Dublin. She was a recipient of a Fulbright TechImpact Award in 2016 and has twice received commendations in the Provost’s Teaching Award.

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