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Unique Cross-border Digital Link Unites 150 Schools

A unique, digital link-up between 150 schools in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has taken place, to celebrate the work achieved in the Dissolving Boundaries programme.

Based in the School of Education at the University of Ulster’s Coleraine campus and the Department of Education at the National University of Ireland (NUI) in Maynooth, Co Kildare, the programme uses Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to facilitate cross-cultural, educational linkages.

During the link-up today (Thursday May 26), pupils in primary, special and secondary schools joined in video conferences and discussion forums with their counterparts across the border for the ‘Crossing the Frontier’ event.

There were also live video links between The University of Ulster’s Jordanstown campus and NUI, when students and teachers presented their work to an invited audience of civil servants, academics and advisors.

Among the presentations were a number of projects from schools which chose to focus on the theme of ‘enterprise’.

Their efforts have been supported by the Joint Business Council, representing the Confederation of British Industry and the Irish Business and Employers Confederation.

Throughout the school year, teachers and pupils involved in Dissolving Boundaries have worked together in cross-border pairs, using digital technology to study different aspects of the curriculum and also to get to know each other.

Ian McMorris, chairman of the Joint Business Council Education Committee said: “This event showcases the collaborative work on enterprise by students and teachers north and south.

“The longer term benefit associated with this initiative is the positioning of enterprise in the broader schools’ curriculum.

“The mainstreaming of enterprise education at primary and secondary level, the need for the development of programme resources and teacher training as well as accreditation of such programmes within the curriculum will be critical in building the entrepreneurial capacity of the all-island economy.”

Programme co-directors, Professor Roger Austin from the University of Ulster and Angela Rickard from NUI, praised the Dissolving Boundaries team, teachers, ICT advisors, staff in C2K and the Department of Education for their tireless work, since the programme began in 1999 supporting around 36,000 pupils.

Said Professor Austin said: “We know for sure now that working together online sustains the contacts made face to face and helps to build trust and respect between young people from different backgrounds and cultures.

“This is not only important for their lives as future citizens but will help them take their place in the global knowledge-based economy.

“Crossing the Frontier was chosen as the title for the day to underline that teachers and students have crossed frontiers of knowledge as well as the border.” 

Participating schools also posted messages into a special forum, along with others from around the world who have been using the same approach as Dissolving Boundaries, including teachers and pupils from Arab and Jewish schools in Israel.

Members of the public are invited to read and comment on the messages by visiting http://www.dissolvingboundaries.org/discussion.html

Today’s event coincides with the release of the results of a study carried out for the Department of Education in England by the influential National Foundation for Education Research (NFER).

They looked at projects from around the UK which were likely to increase social cohesion and Dissolving Boundaries, which is funded by the Departments of Education in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, was chosen as an outstanding example of partnership in action.

Top picture:  Ballygawley Primary School teachers Damien Cullen and Brian Gormley with pupils, Conor Devlin and Megan McGlone and (third left), Ian McMorris, and Kirsty McManus, CBI Northern Ireland.

Professor Roger Austin centre, with pupils and staff involved in the Dissolving Boundaries video link at the University of Ulster's Jordanstown campus