Learning Inclusion in a Digital Age

Belonging and Finding a Voice with the Disadvantaged

This open access book considers how inclusive learning, wellbeing and active citizenship can be encouraged, taught, learnt, and supported in a digital world. The book poses and seeks to address three questions:

  • How can governments and intergovernmental organisations support learning inclusion and active citizenship?
  • How can the education sector and public/private enterprises support learning inclusion and active citizenship?
  • How can professionals and communities work with vulnerable adults who are disadvantaged in a participatory, empowering manner?

The Examples discussed in the book draw on the experiences of adult refugees and migrants, as well as people who may experience disadvantage and/or discrimination as a result of their social, economic, political, cultural, religious, physical, mental, age or gender-related status. One methodological pillar in this work is the development of skills in digital storytelling and digital stories creation for personal, community and professional purposes. Conceptually and of interest for researcher and policy makers at local, national and transnational levels, this book brings together a number of related concepts to generate innovative understanding and practices of applied relevance in the age of the pandemic and its aftermath.

The LIDA Model illustrating the relationship between

central concepts and themes in the book



Setting the agenda for learning inclusion

By Stephen Dobson and Brit Svoen


How can inclusive learning, wellbeing and active citizenship be taught, learnt, and supported with and not just for all kinds of vulnerable adult minorities in a participatory, empowering manner?  In this book, we address these questions and how learning inclusion in a digital age can lead to an enhanced voice and sense of belonging to all participants. We are also interested in how this entails the establishment of what we would call cultures of learning inclusion. A key premise is that the accumulated knowledge possessed by different experts, policy makers, education and related professionals, vulnerable adult minorities and disadvantaged groups, is distributed in multiple networks that are not always connected or shared. In the book, we make ‘learning inclusion’ and the accompanying phrase ‘the creation of cultures of learning inclusion’ central leitmotifs and goals. The emphasis is upon how, why and what the learning of inclusion is and might mean both in theory and in practice. We strongly advocate for the terms learning inclusion and cultures of learning inclusion, in which different kinds of disadvantaged minorities and the groups and communities to which they belong take control over the shaping and telling of their stories and their life opportunities.

Part I

How can governments and intergovernmental organisations support learning inclusion and active citizenship?  


Promoting social inclusion and mutual understanding. Intertwined efforts at local, national and international level.

By Gabriella Agrusti, João Caramelo and Andrea Ciasca Marra  


This chapter considers the European framework of policies for inclusion, illustrating how those are translated into practices a national and local level. It offers a rich and yet necessarily partial appreciation of some of the most highly respect projects funded by the Erasmus+ programme. They read as success stories and a possible path for further developments. Finally, the point of view of local administrators and educators on the possible impact of the policy and resulting project initiatives is presented, proposing a snapshot of lessons learned in the eyes of stakeholders.


Towards wellbeing-ness as an experience of inclusion, belonging and voice in a digital (post-Covid) world of global change.

By Stephen Dobson and Pip Hardy


This chapter considers what it means to learn and create personal and shared experiences of wellbeing-ness, where inclusion, belonging and finding a voice are defining moments. Only a few years ago this might have been understood in terms such as social and emotional learning (SEL), but now the buzz word globally and especially in New Zealand is ‘wellbeing’. The challenge is twofold: firstly, how to conceptualise and practice wellbeing-ness in a more digitally informed COVID world, such as through digital storytelling and, secondly, how to assess and put a value on it and, in so doing, show how a taxonomy of the emotions can support an understanding of inclusion.


Promoting learning inclusion through the Global Network of Learning Cities and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

By Konstantinos Pagkratis and Stephen Dobson


This chapter seeks to understand how global policies of learning are translated into initiatives that promote learning inclusion in local communities and their institutions; these, in turn, lead to increased social belonging and amplification of voice in the (digital) age in which we live, along with health and well-being that are pivotal in supporting and experiencing life as enjoyable and life- enhancing across the lifespan. The case explored is that of UNESCO’s Global Network of Learning Cities and how this contributes to a number of SDGs: no. 4 on Quality Education and no. 3 on Good Health and Well-being and how they both can be usefully conceived as a shared platform for the other SDGs, such as SDG 11 on Sustainable Cities and Communities, with the goal of making human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Part 2

How can the education sector and public/private enterprises support learning inclusion and active citizenship? 


Fostering social inclusion of people in situations of vulnerability: experiences from the Italian and Portuguese contexts.

By Valeria Damiani, Susana Coimbra and Ana Costa 


This chapter builds upon the findings of two multiplier events carried out in Italy and Portugal, which involved professionals of education and of enterprise sectors such as teachers, educators and other experts working with adults in situations of vulnerability (migrants, refugees and people at risk of poverty or social exclusion). The aim of the chapter is to analyse challenges and obstacles for professionals in promoting social inclusion for the selected target groups and to present best practices, with a focus on digital technologies. The last section explores teachers’ and professionals’ training needs and the supporting actions, at local and national level, for their continuing professional development.


Joining voices for social inclusion: Activism and resilience of professionals working with people in situations of vulnerability.

By Ana Costa and Susana Coimbra


Activism in educational, social, and community intervention is widespread in literature as an essential professional role in promoting inclusion and social justice for people in situations of vulnerability. Professionals who work with these populations are in a privileged position for informal and situated learning and engagement with professional activism. This contribution elaborates on many obstacles that may hinder its more prominent expression, but also on its prevalent outcomes in terms of learning inclusion, resilience process of overcoming the challenges, and (re)building of professional identities. Processes with a decisive role in the way people in situations of vulnerability are perceived, heard, supported, empowered, and included.


Voice, belonging, storytelling and transformation in digital storytelling workshop settings – some philosophical considerations.

By Pip Hardy and Stephen Dobson 


Stories are crucial to our understanding of ourselves and our world. Digital storytelling amplifies ordinary voices and draws on a combination of learned and unlearned skills such as ethical, self and aesthetic knowledge, to express, represent and, through a process of distillation that is not unlike the phenomenological reduction, create a connection between storyteller and viewer that can cross boundaries of time and space. This chapter considers digital storytelling, through a philosophical lens, with a particular focus on the existential and phenomenological aspects of the process and consideration of the types of knowledge that both inform and emerge from the process.

Part 3

How is the methodology of digital storytelling used and experienced by different ‘user’ groups?


We belong and connect when we have a voice. Towards a learning design for inclusive learning.

By Marta Pinto and Brit Svoen


When people have their voice heard and are willing to share their stories, they become empowered by the sense of belonging and social inclusion. This chapter proposes a learning design for online and face-to-face learning, aiming to undertake social inclusion for adult migrants and refugees, through digital literacy, supporting the design based on the participation of a community involving students, teachers and technologists. Developing online learning resources entailed being culturally and gender sensitive, through stories in every step of the learning journey, focusing on the learners needs and sense of connectedness.


Bridging the gaps - promoting competences for democratic culture and the wellbeing of girls through digital storytelling.

By Elsa Guedes Teixeira and Angélica Monteiro 


This chapter presents a thematic analysis of videos created by girls during a digital storytelling workshop and discusses how this process can contribute to promoting competences for democratic culture and wellbeing. Empathy, especially for victims of bullying, was a highly relevant competence throughout the narratives. The analysis focused on wellbeing and the need to recognize differences and to be accepted and respected. The workshops enabled the space for girls to express their concerns and views on wellbeing, a fundamental condition for promoting and sustaining conditions for democratic participation.


Multilingual stories for immigrants and refugees: A language-as-resource approach.

By Espen Stranger-Johannessen and Valeria Damiani


A major challenge for many immigrants and refugees, particularly those with little or no formal schooling, is learning the language of the host country. Open educational resources (OER), including courses and websites with multilingual stories, are ways to address this challenge. This chapter will present and analyse the OER developed in three projects funded by the Erasmus+ Programme: Advenus and Regap, which integrated language and content learning in courses, and LIDA Stories (https://lidastories.net), a collection of country-specific websites with multilingual stories for youth and adult immigrants and refugees who are learning the language of the host country. The chapter concludes by highlighting the key role of stories for the acquisition of the host country language by migrants and refugees.


Including the marginalised: engaging people with dementia and the elderly in technology-based participatory citizen storytelling.

By Tony Sumner


In a prescriptive, top-down approach to healthcare development and configuration the narrative of the system can dominate the stories of the marginalised that could inform and enable improvement. Digital storytelling is a methodology used in health and social care, education and quality improvement in which the creation and ownership of stories moves from the system to the marginalised (by age, dementia, etc) service users. The digital storytelling process has inherent benefits to the storyteller beyond the creation of that product, as the verbs of engagement change from harvesting or capturing the stories of the excluded to facilitating and empowering them.


The critique of Learning Inclusion in a Digital World – a conversation.

By Stephen Dobson, Brit Svoen, Gabriella Agrusti and Pip Hardy


In this chapter the editors respond to questions raised by Arjen Wals (SDG4 subseries advisor of the Springer SDG series) and his reading of this book: Is it possible to envisage a counter-movement to the digital age? Are we the editors too distracted by the digital and how it might colonise our minds, creating new forms of exclusion - despite the importance of digital story telling? What of those who prioritise the digital before other basic human needs, such as food, water and housing? How does this book’s focus upon SDG 3,4 and 11 relate to other SDG’s?


By Gabriella Agrusti and Pip Hardy