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Regeneration and ICT - 4

Reaching the parts other policies and activities fail to reach

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 development.

ICT can be used to support education activities by providing:

  • Access to information & opportunities

  • Online learning 

  • Support for traditional learning

  • Specialised facilities 

  • Outreach

Access to ICT for Learning

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 building function.

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 opportunities

As 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 other.

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 levels.

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the printers - and as courses are started up or cancelled at extremely short notice, printed lists are almost instantly out of date.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.

Online learning

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 materials.

Support for existing learning activities

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.

Specialised facilities

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

  • user-friendly opening times

  • not being too restrictive about use of PCs

  • dynamic and flexible staff - and enough of them.

Continue

Intro | Employment | Business | Learning | Community-building | Conclusions

Part 4 of our guide summarises the ways ICT can contribute to education and training.


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