USING ICT TO CROSS BOUNDARIES BETWEEN SCHOOLS; EVIDENCE FROM NORTHERN IRELAND and THE REPUBLIC OF IR...
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USING ICT TO CROSS BOUNDARIES BETWEEN SCHOOLS; EVIDENCE FROM NORTHERN IRELAND and THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND. Professor Roger Austin University of Ulster, Northern Ireland. ‘THE DISSOLVING BOUNDARIES PROGRAMME’. Running since 1999 and funded by Departments of Education in Belfast and Dublin

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Professor Roger Austin University of Ulster, Northern Ireland

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Professor roger austin university of ulster northern ireland

USING ICT TO CROSS BOUNDARIES BETWEEN SCHOOLS; EVIDENCE FROM NORTHERN IRELAND and THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

Professor Roger Austin

University of Ulster, Northern Ireland


The dissolving boundaries programme

‘THE DISSOLVING BOUNDARIES PROGRAMME’

  • Running since 1999 and funded by Departments of Education in Belfast and Dublin

  • Involves 180 schools, 90 on each side of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

  • Includes primary, special and secondary schools

  • Schools choose any aspect of the curriculum to work on for a year with their partner


Key aims

Key Aims

  • To use ICT in the curriculum for sustainable links between schools

  • To promote cross-border understanding between pupils

  • To provide professional development for teachers


Why link schools across the border

WHY LINK SCHOOLS ACROSS THE BORDER?

  • Promoting ‘normal’ cross-border links seen as part of the 1997 Good Friday Agreement

  • An opportunity to use ICT for broad citizenship and enterprise work

  • A way of challenging stereotypes…


Professor roger austin university of ulster northern ireland

Paddy was waiting at the bus stop with his mate when a lorry went by loaded up with rolls of turf.Paddy said, 'I gonna do that when I win lottery'.'What's dat', says his mate.'Send me lawn away to be cut', says Paddy.


Challenges

CHALLENGES

  • Not accepted by all sections of the Protestant population in Northern Ireland; continuing political violence from IRA splinter groups

  • 50% of schools in Northern Ireland are ‘controlled’, ie predominantly protestant in management and ethos

  • Different curricula, ICT infrastructure, school cultures between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland


The programme in action

THE PROGRAMME IN ACTION

  • Partnership between the programme team (2.5 staff at the University of Ulster and 2.5 at National University of Ireland, Maynooth)

  • Recruit schools with help of advisors (the importance of partnership)

  • Invite teachers to September review and planning conference and coordinate one to one links between schools

  • Introduce teachers to moodle and video-conferencing

  • Conclude year with an event, eg ‘Crossing the Frontier’, 26 May 2011


Why moodle and elluminate

WHY MOODLE AND ELLUMINATE?

  • Moodle offers secure forum and shared ‘wiki’ space for joint collaborative work + blogs, pods etc; courses set up for each partnership

  • Marratech/Elluminate is supported in every school in Northern Ireland by ICT infrastructure team; easy to use and free on both sides of the border

  • Together these ICT tools offer immediacy of contact- ‘real lives, strange accents’ + a more reflective space for joint work


Blended contact

BLENDED CONTACT

  • Schools given grant for face to face meeting of students, often at midway geographical point… an activity centre, a museum, a zoo... a neutral venue at first

  • But the face to face work is sustained by long term ICT links before and after


Special schools get together

Special Schools get together

http://www.castletowerschool.com/1/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=118&Itemid=110


Working in cross border teams

Working in CROSS-BORDER TEAMS

  • Each class in the two linked schools is split up into 4-6 mixed cross-border teams

  • Pupils are encouraged to develop a sense of group identity by naming their group and writing as a group

  • In moodle each partnership has their own courses and ‘spaces’ which belong to each group for both social interaction as well as the curricular work.


What aspects of the curriculum

What aspects of the curriculum?

  • Most schools start with non-contentious issues, such as ‘Our schools’, or ‘our environment’

  • Many schools stay with the programme after their initial induction year and explore other, more challenging work

  • Contested history

  • Working together on joint business ventures, such as mini-companies


Joint curricular work wikis

JOINT CURRICULAR WORK - WIKIS


Forum use

FORUM USE


Merging theory and practice

MERGING THEORY AND PRACTICE

  • The contact hypothesis… the conditions for making contact successful (Allport, G. 1954, Gaertner, S & Dovidio, J. 2000)

  • Sustained, cooperative contact over a year

  • Links between those of ‘equal status’

  • Face to face contact and extended digital contact

  • Institutional support, eg from Principal

  • One class to one class but joint cross-border teams


Managing the programme

Managing the programme

  • Critical role of team monitoring school activity in moodle

  • Google docs record evidence of activity in all partnerships; selective follow-up and regular team meetings

  • Recruiting new schools each year


Impact on teachers evidence from nfer forthcoming 2011

Impact on teachers; evidence from NFER (forthcoming 2011)

  • Teachers commented that with this approach, cultural and social issues came up ‘naturally’ during the course of the project and, because the young people had got to know each other, they didn’t shy away from these issues. This was contrasted with the more didactic form of learning (e.g. in traditional delivery of citizenship education)

  • Teachers are trained in the use of ICT when they start to work on the programme, and develop new teaching approaches as they collaborate with the partner school. These benefits mean that teachers have often stayed with the programme because they feel they are developing their professional career


Impact children

Impact; children

  • Evidence from NFER; “Before we sort of judged them like because they were from a different place and they liked different things ... we thought ‘oh goodness, what will we do, they’re going to be so different’ but in reality they really weren’t” (year 8 pupil).

  • “It’s just different accents. They’re the same people who live in the same land as us. I don’t think they’re much different from us” (Y9 pupil)

  • ..the project helped participants to work cooperatively and to think of ‘we’ (as opposed to ‘them’ and ‘us’).NFER 2011


Reflections 1

Reflections 1

  • Distance lessens anxiety (and builds confidence for closer links within NI?)

  • Developing a super-ordinate identity… can T shirts help?

  • Are the ‘boundaries’ just political ones?

  • Building on previous work where being part of Europe gave common ground


Reflections 2

Reflections 2

  • The role of partnerships in sustainability

  • With ICT agencies (‘exchange’ now required aspect of ICT work for schools in NI, see CCEA)

  • Between University and educational advisory agencies in selecting and monitoring schools

  • With Departments of Education

  • Within Universities


Reflections 3

Reflections 3

  • The value of linking one class to another between schools

  • The importance of connecting all 180 schools on a single day ( look out for 26 May, ‘Crossing the Frontier’

  • Can the Dissolving Boundaries ‘model’ be adapted elsewhere?

  • The importance of political will

  • 36000 pupils involved since 1999; but what about the others?


Questions and follow up

Questions and follow-up?

www.dissolvingboundaries.org

[email protected]


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