ICT for Learning
At the moment funding
opportunities for ICT in regeneration fall mostly in the field of
"education, education, education", as someone famously put
it. Many current projects focus on education, training and skills
ICT can be used to support
education activities by providing:
Access to ICT for
A key issues to tackle,
however, is how people from socially excluded groups can gain access
to ICT training and connectivity.
There are numerous
projects where specialised facilities have been developed which focus
on training and enabling people to become comfortable with using
technology. These facilities may also have a community
Alternatively, as some
people are hesitant about going into a new facility with lots of
unfamiliar technology, the technology can be taken into places where
they do feel at home. Outreach activities involving taking laptops
into mother and toddler groups, senior citizens' clubs and homes, or
meeting places of ethnic minority groups have proved very successful
in taking the terror out of technology.
Access to learning
for access to employment, there is a distinction between linking to information sources on the one hand,
and actually delivering it in a targeted way to communities on the
Online information about
learning opportunities is surprisingly thin on the ground, given all
the Grids for Learning that are being funded around the country. It is
still quite rare to find comprehensive sources of local learning
opportunities, with up-to-date information about courses at all
This is partly because the
organisation of community education tends to be rather ramshackle and
run on a shoe-string. Often the first time information is brought
together is at the printers - and as courses are started up or
cancelled at extremely short notice, printed lists are almost
instantly out of date.
In addition, there is a
plethora of organisations involved in delivering courses.
So one of the most useful
things a learning-focused ICT project can do is bring all course
information together in a web-enabled database. This should in
principle make life easier for all involved in running or delivering
courses, as well as being of benefit to the public.
Delivering learning online
is far more of a challenge. But there is probably not a college in the
country which has not put together a proposal to do this.
The benefits to
disadvantaged communities are potentially very great, bringing
learning closer to home. Part of the challenge is to make learning
materials genuinely relevant, and not just repackage offline
Support for existing
Perhaps one of the key
first uses of ICT in the regeneration field should be using it to
enhance existing activities. A good example of this is the "Read
On, Write Away" literacy project in Derbyshire.
Already a dynamic project,
use of computers and the internet has added an extra dimension to their
activities. This not only adds new ways of encouraging people (of all
ages) to read and write, but also attracts newcomers who might
otherwise not have become involved.
The ICT-based learning
centre is becoming quite a common phenomenon. They may focus on a
specific target group, such as disaffected young people, or they may
be open to all. Often these facilities have a community-building
function as well.
Key factors in success
would appear to be
location - a good
location is vital to get people through the door
establishing an open
and friendly atmosphere
not being too
restrictive about use of PCs
dynamic and flexible
staff - and enough of them.
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| Learning | Community-building