October 2006


We are inviting people in ACL, colleges, schools, the voluntary sector and elsewhere to debate the 3rd set of recommendations below from Digital Nations in the making and the wider issues raised by the QIA’s Pursuing Excellence Consultation Report over the next 5 days using the comments section of this blog. The background to this debate is set out in the Invitation to Debate written on this blog on 2nd October.

LOOKING to the FUTURE to PURSUE EXCELLENCE (14th-18th October)

Recommendations:

No 1. Create toolkits and guidance for ACL providers to show how new technologies could be introduced to improve and transform a range of existing functions like tutor training, course plannning and marketing.

No 9. Develop a kitemark quality system for those UK online and neighbourhood centres and Community Grids for Learning, which offer community learning opportunities. Once assured these bodies could receive LSC and other funding against agreed widening participation outputs and be subject to lighter monitoring.

No 11. Seek funding for a three year VCS ‘think tank’ for promoting next generation content creation, organisational transformation and the application of ICT for Community Learning and Community Development in support of key Government policies for skills development, digital inclusion and active citizenship.

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This is the second of the three online debates, linked to the QIA report Pursuing Excellence and the recommendations in Digital Nations in the making.

SUPPORTING PUBLIC VALUE POLICIES (Monday 9th-Thursday 12th October)

Recommendations:

No 3. Explore mechanisms for creating regional and sub-regional agencies and e-repositories focusing on support for content development and delivery, pesonalisation and repurposing by ACL in pursuit of skills and regeneration policies.

No 6. Provide seed money for pilot projects into how VCS bodies and Community Grids for Learning could act as trusted intermediaries in promoting take up of DirectGov services in assocation with local councils.

We are now inviting people in ACL, Colleges, schools, the voluntary sector and elsewhere to debate the recommendations below from Digital Nations in the making and the wider issues raised by the QIA’s Pursuing Excellence Consultation Report over the next 12 days using the comments section of this blog. The background to this debate is set out in the Invitation to Debate written on this blog by Ian Harford and Fred Garnett from Becta.

This is the first of the three separate, though linked, online debates.

CAPACITY BUILDING in LOCAL COMMUNITIES (Tuesday 3rd-Friday 6th October)

Recommendations:

No 10. Explore the potential for a volunteer Information Society gap or fellowship year akin to the US VISTA scheme for graduates and others to support UK Online and other centres – to be supported by a combination of Government, Foundation and corporate funding.

No 13. Promote more active deployment of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for community development activities (eg for disabled access, community safety, environmental support) drawing upon North American experience; and fund some Community Grid for Learning or Voluntary and Community sector (VCS) led pilot schemes.

No 14.  Examine with the corporate sector, including IT companies, how they can work with ACL and the VCS  to develop community capacity and more advanced IT skills acquisition for the Information Society; and help sustain local ICT and UK Online centres.

As a key part of its new remit, the Quality Improvement Agency (QIA) has published an important consultation report, Pursuing Excellence: An Outline Improvement Strategy.

Its focus is on the Further Education system which includes colleges, workplace providers, schools and adult education services. It emphasises that the system has unrealised potential and that providers must be “responsive to the needs of learners, employers and local communities” (Para 12) to enable the transformation of learning.

Technology must play an important part in pushing forward this agenda for self-improvement and Becta, the Government’s agency charged with promoting technology for learning is working closely with the QIA on this front.

I’ve been discussing the report with Fred Garnett, Becta’s policy advisor for community education and some of his other colleagues and am keen to open up a debate on the issues raised. Should there be a response based upon the views of people working in ACL?

There is substantial potential for transformation, particularly in the light of the investment in community based ICT infrastructure in the years 2000-2005, which reflected the importance attached to “mastering technology” by both the Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Chancellor Gordon Brown.

But the task of incorporating technology into people’s lives – essential for updating our skills base and for an inclusive knowledge economy – is far from done. Especially this is so with those now excluded, most of whom are deterred from learning.

They will participate in community based and informal provision, but much of this is threatened by the plans for Personal and Community Development Learning, where fees will be higher, programme weightings will disappear and the total pot shrink.

Isn’t this bad news for local communities, to whose needs the QIA says providers must be responsive? Yes, but isn’t it bad news too for all those ‘public value’ Government policies concerned with citizenship, equality and diversity, social inclusion and e-government. ACL and Capacity Building provide both skills & competencies and bonding for individuals and local communities to embrace and extend these public values.

Are there ICT success stories to illustrate this? Is there a new Digital Divide 2.0, where more complex skills are required for mastering technology than just word processing and sending emails?

In my book Digital Nations in the making, just published by NIACE, there are a number of recommendations about how we can take forward and enhance the work taking place in community based informatics.

Eight of these recommendations have been selected and people in ACL, colleges, schools, the voluntary sector and elsewhere are invited to debate these and the wider issues raised by the Pursuing Excellence Report over the next 12 days using the comments section of this blog. There will be three separate debates with the following themes:

    1. Capacity building in local communities  (Oct 3rd-6th)
    2. Supporting Public Value Government policies (Oct 9th-12th)
    3. Looking to the future to pursue excellence (Oct 14th-18th)

Each theme will have a separate posting and will be in the main section of the blog & under the Categories section on the side bar – eg .1 Communities and Excellence.