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The Global Classroom: Advancing Cultural Awareness in Special Schools through Collaborative Work Using ICT

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European Journal of Special Needs Education Volume 19, Number 2, ISSN 0885-6257


This paper reports research on cross-national collaboration through Information and Communications Technology (ICT) within the statutory curricula of 10 special schools in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Working in north-south paired classes, the pupils carried out joint tasks using asynchronous computer conferencing and videoconferencing. The full spectrum of learning difficulty and disability was represented amongst the participating pupils. Interviews were conducted to elicit the views and experiences of the teachers in the 2002/03 cohort. The main aims were to discover whether cultural awareness developed through joint tasks using the two technologies, if computer conferencing improved literacy and ICT skills, and if videoconferencing enhanced oral communication. The results showed that cultural awareness developed as far as cognition allowed, when pupils in partner schools became aware of similarities as well as differences. Those with sufficient keyboard ability benefited from computer conferencing and ICT competence improved, but the much preferred medium for collaborative, inter-school work was videoconferencing. All but the most dependent pupils could participate, and valuable, transferable social and communication skills were acquired.


Abbott, L., Austin, R., Mulkeen, A. & Metcalfe, N. (2004). The Global Classroom: Advancing Cultural Awareness in Special Schools through Collaborative Work Using ICT. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 19(2), 225-240. Retrieved June 24, 2019 from .

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