The development of young people as global citizens, able to play an active part in an increasingly interconnected world is a fundamental aspect of Scottish education, and global citizenship is identified as a key theme across learning. But while most pupils will involve themselves enthusiastically in the various global citizenship activities on offer, it is important that all of them - including those with additional support needs (ASN), such as dyslexia - are given the same opportunities.
The creation of suitable approaches for pupils with learning barriers was the focus of a recent research project I undertook with a small group of S4 pupils. It centred on a partnership with a school in Spain, via the British Council-run eTwinning website. Each pupil corresponded with a young partner in Spain, comparing their lives and learning about Spanish traditions, while researching and informing their Spanish partners about Scottish culture.
Their learning went deeper, however, and the pupils demonstrated an awareness of the pitfalls of cultural stereotyping and the portrayal of Scotland as "all kilts and shortbread". They were keen to give their partners a true picture of modern Scotland and its youth culture.
The direct communication with teenagers in another country was a great motivator for the youngsters. On the days when emails appeared in their inboxes, you could hear the proverbial pin drop as they read them and immediately set to writing their responses, requesting support as required. Similarly, when any cultural information was received, it was read with interest - and without prompting, they would start researching and producing information about Scotland in return.
The ICT-based nature of eTwinning is a major advantage for pupils with ASN, in particular dyslexic pupils who can draft and re-draft their responses, access spellcheckers and obtain language support from the teacher prior to sending their emails with confidence.
Further approaches and supports were also important, such as structured templates outlining possible aspects of their personal lives and cultural topics for discussion and exchange. Co-operative learning tasks allowed them to deepen their understanding of the information gathered and share ideas with their classmates.
A partnership such as this can be a successful means of developing international awareness among learners with ASN. With the right support and freedom, the real connection with peers from a different culture can increase their understanding of themselves as young Scots and their place in the world, and lead to lasting friendships.
John Barbour is a learning support teacher in Renfrewshire.