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Digital ignorance in powerful circles September 24, 2008

Posted by Stuart Parker in goverment, Informal learning, social media.
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The Government’s response to tackling the digital divide has them coming up with a new scheme offering “vouchers” to low-income families enabling them to get online at home. This scheme is costing £300 million. Providing these vouchers will not address the problem, let alone overcome it. We’ve said it before and we’ll keep on saying it until somebody with ears in the appropriate places, gets the message.

It’s not about the access….

The ongoing evolution of the Internet..and it will be all about the Internet, means that people who are still to use the technology or have limited experience, are being left behind at an unacceptable rate. There are some small movements to address the real issues here but it’s all too slow and lacking in volume to make a difference.

I chatted with Nick Booth last night about the situation and we drew similar conclusions about what should actually be happening with that money. It should be providing training, guidance, communication, advice etc delivered by the people with the right skills and attitude and in a manner that recognises that the way we learn will need to change to make the most of what the internet is becoming. These “digital mentors” can be the answer to an as yet fully realised situation.

Our project is in the throws of equipping these mentors with the kind of knowledge and skills that will benefit those excluded from the digital community. Hopefully before too long, those who make the decisions will be aware of what’s actually going on and who knows, maybe do something about it.

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Consulting on revised standards for IT User skills August 28, 2008

Posted by Stuart Parker in goverment.
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E-Skills UK, the sector skills council for IT and Telecoms (!) have recently revised their standards and consultation is currently open until 26th Sept. Here’s a paragraph which came with the email:

Why is this so important?  Well, put simply, these Standards define the levels of IT skills relevant both for the workforce and those seeking employment. They underpin the majority of IT user qualifications and government funded IT User training.  Making them sufficiently comprehensive and ensuring they address the right skills means better IT skills for all and a better workforce for businesses.

Which is well and good….but…. My personal take on these standards and qualifications differ slightly to the direction E-skills are taking. I think there are problems with these approaches to such standards. The traditional approaches cannot keep up to date with the rapidly evolving world of IT. I think a different approach is required. An approach which doesn’t see progression getting bogged down with fussing over whether a user is competent at “planning and reviewing their use of predefined or commonly used IT tools for work activities most of which are complex and non-routine.” (taken from the IPU Improving productivity using IT, level 3). When the outcomes are so restricted and rarely allow for flexibility, users invariably see the task simply as that.. a task. They don’t question why or look at other options, and most importantly, they don’t follow their own routes and start using IT for their own goals. Such standards and qualifications restrict, they don’t allow freedom.. and they way the whole IT thing is changing so quickly, that freedom is essential to make the most out what’s going on today and in the future.

IT, and more specifically, the Internet, is fast evolving into a tool that seems to be transcending the shackles for standardisation and qualification, or perhaps it needs a different approach, possibly a more holistic approach, to recognise the skills gained.

There’s a lot of chat about the “digital divide” and so long as users continue to be assessed for being competent by demonstrating they can: ” Use correct procedures to start and shutdown an IT system” [UIS1:1.1] will only help deepen that divide.

Sector backs Government plans for a streamlined skills and education system July 31, 2008

Posted by Stuart Parker in goverment.
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Plans to give local authorities more say over the education of young people and to streamline the adult skills system have received broad support, Bill Rammell and Jim Knight announced today.