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.