Empowering Language Minorities through Technology: Which Way to Go?
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The term ‘Information Age’ has been applied to the current era we now live in, based on the fact that technology and Internet are continuously changing the way people work, learn, spend their leisure time and interact with one another. At the same time, access to these means of interaction is not always equal, whether due to lack of experience, knowledge or economic resources.
The rate of these transformations –and a feeling of uncertain consequences- can create a sense of uncontrollably rapid social changes, and possible social fragmentation. In the face of this, education stake-holders must seriously consider how schooling can confront these challenges.
This article will first provide a brief overview about how the notion of social cohesion has been used historically, focusing especially on two central points that emerge: equality and education as a nexus for social cohesion. Next, the text looks at how education can undertake the challenge of eliminating inequality and promoting social cohesion, followed by an analysis of one potentially disadvantaged group: speakers of minority languages. Perceptions of minority language groups in the EU are discussed, and a general outline of potential educational disadvantages and social exclusion they may face is broached.
Next, we advance ways in which Technologically Enhanced Learning (TEL) can be applied in order to rectify these possible risks. This section includes an interrogation of the ‘digital divide’, and what it can mean for minority language groups, and the importance of using technologies to bring ‘mainstream’ public awareness to the issues associated with minority language education (including the promotion of the many benefits of multilingual practices for society). Some examples of TEL practices which have been undertaken to ameliorate educational inequality with minority language groups are provided. Finally, the article considers the role of TEL in teaching practices, teacher education and continued resources for teacher development.