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University of Ulster education expert Professor Roger Austin was in New York this week to attend the US launch of his new book “Online Learning and Community Cohesion: Linking Schools”.

Co-authored with Bill Hunter of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and published by leading academic imprint Routledge, the book examines the ways ICT has been used to promote citizenship and community cohesion in projects that link together schools in different parts of the world.

The book explores the theoretical framework behind these initiatives, showing the impact of projects in the Middle East, Canada, the USA, England, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and elsewhere in the European Union.

Said Professor Austin: “National governments and multi-national institutions are spending unprecedented amounts of money on ICT on improving the overall quality of school learning, and schools are increasingly expected to prepare young people for a global economy in which inter-cultural understanding will be a priority.

“This is a critical examination of the technologies that have been deployed, the professional development that has been provided and an evaluation of what constitutes good practice, particularly in terms of what collaborative learning really means for young people.

“Many of these initiatives have enabled young people to develop more positive relations with culturally and religiously different neighbours, but this work has just begun. Continuing international tensions over matters of identity and faith require that we better understand the political context for such work so that we might shape future directions more deliberately and more clearly.”

An impressive 76 people attended the launch event, organised by the Northern Ireland Bureau and hosted by the Irish Consul General.