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Tuesday 4 December 2012, 15:36
Guest blogger, Carol Taylor from the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, explains why the NIACE collaboration with the BBC for their forthcoming conference is a perfect fit.
The BBC is hosting the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education’s (NIACE) Innovating Learning conference. It’s a collaboration we are excited about as we’ve worked with the BBC on many issues over the years, but the increasing potential of technology to support adult learning gives us more reasons than ever to work together.
NIACE has championed adult learning since 1921. We have faced different challenges under different governments, in different economic conditions, with different priorities and issues. So we’ve a lot in common with the BBC: We were both founded in the early 1920s, and we both have a belief in the value of adult learning.
The one constant over the history of both organisations is the ongoing technology revolution. From those original wireless signals 90 years ago to the fast-paced social media revolution of today, technology has influenced how we live, communicate and learn.
Technology has long been used in education - slide rules gave way to calculators, the BBC Micro gave way to ICT and file transfer protocol gave way to the world-wide-web. But the current speed of technological advances mean that learners and educationalists alike have to constantly adapt and change. People who once considered themselves adept computer users, can be left flummoxed by online forms, tablets, twitter streams and video chat.
Almost every television programme now ends with ‘for more information go to www.’, but digitally disengaged adults recently told us that this was one of their most hated sentences, as they had no idea how to make that next step. Often, in a world where technology is everywhere, assumptions are made about who is engaged. We need to remember that many millions of people are not online, and even those that are may not make the best use of the technology available. The challenge for educators is to harness technology to make learning relevant, motivational and exciting – a similar challenge faced by the BBC, as the Web 2.0 (social media) revolution changes the face of broadcasting forever.
That’s why this conference has so many mutual benefits. The BBC has been leading the way in developing online platforms, such as their Learning Zone website and iPlayer, supporting Skillswise for adult teachers and developing apps for the youngest BBC consumer. Meanwhile, NIACE has continued to focus on the needs of the adult learner, including the issues facing those who are digitally excluded, as online participation becomes a necessity rather than an option.
With this in mind, the Innovating Learning conference brings together experts, enthusiasts and practitioners to explore new ways of using technology to support adult learning, as well as new ways to help adults get the digital skills they need to fully participate in learning and society. Feedback from the event will inform us on issues such as how mobile apps can support numeracy learners, how low-literacy audiences might use social media to learn, and how families can use technology to learn together.
We will be looking at the literacy needed take part in online events safely, programme your own software and even set up your own radio station. We’re also going to look at the tools available to engage audiences, not only to grab their attention, but to bring about real, positive change.
It’s about exploring issues that NIACE and the BBC have been good at looking at for decades, and so it’s important that at this crucial time for learning, technology and broadcasting, we’re in the same place, working together.
And this is just the beginning. 2013 will again see NIACE and the BBC, alongside a range of other national partners, working together on a maths initiative, Action on Adult Maths. The issue of poor adult numeracy refuses to go away, but technology will once again play a vital role here too, to help engage and enthuse adults in seeing how relevant numbers are in their everyday lives.
We’ll report back after the conference to update on what happened, what we found out and what we will be doing in the future.
Carol Taylor is NIACE Director for Research and Development
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