TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: School Children Shrug Off Enmities in Cyberspace

School Children Shrug Off Enmities in Cyberspace

Kevin Smith (
Tue, 12 Sep 2006 20:34:08 -0500

By Kevin Smith

Cyberspace get-togethers between schoolchildren in British-ruled
Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic are helping break down decades
of mistrust and could provide a model for young people in conflict
zones elsewhere.

These are the conclusions of research by education experts on both
sides of the Irish border, to be published on Wednesday, which shows
how virtual links using low-cost communications technology can change
entrenched attitudes among young people.

The research is based on findings from the "Dissolving Boundaries"
project, which has set up broadband computer collaborations between
pupils at more than 170 schools in the north and south of religiously
and politically divided Ireland.

Pupils communicate with each other through computer and
video-conferencing to produce projects on topics such as "Norman
Castles in Ireland," "The Irish Famine," and "Myths and Legends" and
also have the chance to meet face-to-face during the year.

"We know that the right kind of contact between young people reduces
prejudice," said Roger Austin from the University of Ulster in
Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland suffered more than 30 years of sectarian conflict up
until a peace pact in 1998. Some 95 percent of pupils in the province
attend schools that are predominantly Roman Catholic or Protestant.

Experts say the success of the Irish project could pave the way for
educators in the Middle East and elsewhere who are struggling to break
down barriers between young people.

Closer to home, they say, the project could be applied in England to
link young British-Asians to white students in some of the country's
more segregated areas.

The report, "Dissolving Boundaries: Building Communities of Practice,"
will be unveiled at an international conference on "The role of ICT in
Bridge-building" at the University of Ulster.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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