General
28 Jun 2012

Information and learning at immigrants’ fingertips

SMARTPHONES will form the basis of a three-year social inclusion project to promote cultural diversity in Europe, particularly among women. This is possible thanks to a £368,000 research grant from the European Commission to The Open University, which is a partner in the project led by Lucas Paletta of Joanneum Research in Austria. The project aims to improve integration, skills and local knowledge for immigrants living in European cities by literally placing crucial information at their fingertips.

As part of Mobile Assistance for Social Inclusion and Empowerment of Immigrants with Persuasive Technologies and Social Network Services (MASELTOV), a novel app-style program is being researched and developed, which will provide immigrants with quick and easy mobile assistance to answer their needs. Service users will be able to access important information about essential topics such as the healthcare system or transport services in the country they have moved to. The Open University team is contributing to services that will support migrants as they develop their knowledge and skills through everyday living and use of the mobile app.

A ‘social radar’ will offer exclusive enabling technology to help immigrants to locate people who speak their language, or people who are nearby who can assist them with their problems, while a navigation service will help people to find their way around unfamiliar surroundings. The app-style facility will assist with informal language learning via busuu.com, a free online community for learning languages, allowing people to network with other learners and access helpful materials. One of the project teams is also developing a game to encourage cultural learning in a fun way.

The project will focus largely on migrants who are at risk of being excluded from participating with society. It will involve trials in London with immigrants from a range of countries, Vienna with Turkish immigrants and Madrid with African immigrants.

Professor Agnes Kukulska-Hulme from the Institute of Educational Technology is leading The Open University’s contribution. She said: “There is a technical and a social dimension to this project. The idea is to facilitate and foster local community building, raising consciousness and knowledge to help bridge cultural differences. We want to promote social inclusion and help people to integrate better in the community in which they are living. Through technology-mediated persuasion and social networking, we will offer support and help change attitudes and behaviours of migrant people living in Europe.

“The project will facilitate a massive social impact by increasing the cooperation and successful integration of millions of migrants living together with hundreds of millions of European citizens in the future.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

The Open University
The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.720 million students and has more than 250,000 current students, including 18,475 overseas.
The OU has been one of the top three UK universities for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey every year since the survey began in 2005. In 2010/11 it had a 93 per cent satisfaction rating. Over 71% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.
In the UK’s latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) the Open University was ranked in the top third of UK higher education institutions. More than 50% of OU research was assessed in the RAE as internationally excellent, with 14% as world leading.
Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which has had more than 21 million visits, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded over 50 million downloads. The OU has a 41 year partnership with the BBC which has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to prime-time programmes such as Life, Coast, James May’s Big Ideas and The Money Programme.


Mobile Assistance for Social Inclusion and Empowerment of Immigrants with Persuasive Technologies and Social Network Services (MASELTOV)
MASELTOV researches and develops novel ICT instruments with the key objective to facilitate and foster local community building, raising consciousness and knowledge for the bridging of cultural differences.
Find out more at http://www.maseltov.eu

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