September 29

Supporting community cohesion through ICT: The e-partners programme in Northern Ireland.

The article discusses the positive use of ICT to promote community cohesion within the education system. Historically, education in Northern Ireland has always been divided in to religious denominations and this has caused an isolation and conflict between between Protestants and Catholics. However, interventions have been made to resolve this although it has not been quite successful as planned. For example, plans had been made by the Department of Education to build 10 new schools of different denominations who would share facilities. So although there are clear efforts being made to build community cohesion, it is proving to be quite difficult amongst different communities.

As a result, ICT has been used to link schools together in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The ePartners ICT programme set up by Ulster University aimed to integrate 16 school together through the VLE, Fronter. The results showed that although some found it difficult to use the programme and other teething problems such as limited internet connectivity, overall it proved to be fairly successful. Overall, students worked collaboratively on a task through Fronter, they also built upon their ICT skills and developed good working relationships between other schools and students.

Based upon this investigation, it is evident to see that ICT does support community cohesion. Firstly, VLE’s allow teachers and pupils to work alongside each other in a relaxed and non-judgemental environment. This makes students feel more comfortable to approach teachers and share their ideas with them. In terms of collaboration, ICT allows pupils to work with individuals they would not otherwise do so in realty. For example, collaborating with people from other countries or regions. Creating links with other partnering educational institutions is important and ICT allows these links to develop and strengthen. Lastly, e-partnering programmes also allows schools to make the most of the materials they have. A lot of the  time, IT equipment is not used to it’s full advantage because there is likely to be a weak programme ICT leader to push its use or there is a lack of training. However, e-partnering means that schools can benefit from other partnering institutions experience and they can share tips and learning material.

Overall, ICT and e-partnering programmes are highly beneficial, specifically for when social cohesion and community integration needs to be improved.

September 29

A reflection of my experience of the Web…

As a child the web was primarily used as a search engine. A place I would go to search for answers quickly and something which was easily accessible. However, as Berners-Lee highlighted in his article, the web is a strong tool for communicating. In relation to this, there has been an increased use in educational social networking platforms where students could share and read users’ resources and comment on them. I used several sites during exam seasons that contributed to my learning journey. For example, the student room was the most commonly social learning platform I used. It enabled me to ask students doing the same subject for advice on particular topic areas, past paper model answers, helpful resources etc.

Additionally, online tutorials and learning exercises played a central role to learning. Websites such as BBC bitesize and MyMaths allowed me to consolidate and build upon the lessons which had been delivered in the classroom and online tasks were assigned onto MyMaths so teachers could assess our understanding. This was a positive learning aid as it was made interesting and engaging. Various teaching models such as videos and diagrams made the topics more fun. Both of the above reflections demonstrate formal learning experiences influenced by the web however, I also used the web to access learning in an informal manner.

For example, I used games to shape my learning. This started from a young age as I would play the CD games on my home computer. However, the development of online gaming resulted to me learning online more frequently. A personal favourite was a website called Digger and the Gang. Although it is no longer active and has been archived, it interested me due to the story line children could follow of the different characters.  The resource covered all the foundation topics and broke areas up in to age phases making the website appropriate and interactive for a specified age targeted audience. Online gaming has grown in popularity and so has been embraced by educational communities.