This article reports research on cross-national collaboration through Information and Communications Technology (ICT) within the statutory curricula of 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 teachers in the full population of special schools 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 became aware of similarities as well as differences. Those with sufficient keyboard ability benefited from computer conferencing and ICT competence improved, but the preferred medium for collaborative, inter-school work was videoconferencing. All but the most dependent could participate and valuable, transferable social and communication skills were acquired.
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- special schools