Taking learning home in Birmingham
16th January 2009
For a number of years, I was involved in taking coach loads of Birmingham teachers down to the BETT show in London so that they could view the latest educational technology products, resources and best practice. The potential of technology in transforming the way children learn and interact was just starting to be unveiled.
Technology has moved on at a pace since those early days and in Jim Knight’s opening address on Wednesday at this year’s BETT show, it is all too clear the reliance and acceptance that we place on technology as the norm for enhancing the learning experience for students both in and out of school. As Jim Knight said: “Schools that use technology well across the curriculum and across wider school life have reduced absence rates and achieved a higher percentage of higher level grades at GCSE”. He goes on to point out though that: “There are still significant gaps between the advantaged and disadvantaged”.
The reality is that many pupils do not have a computer at home and are suffering from a digital divide meaning that the learning for those children is confined within the school gates. Given that children only spend around 15% of their time in school and that 90% of all jobs require ICT skills, it is imperative that we ensure that our young learners have equal access to these opportunities irrespective of their background or where they live.
It is pleasing to see that Birmingham is leading the country in working to close the digital divide. The Aston Pride ‘Computers in the Home’ project (a finalist in the e-Government Awards to be announced on Tuesday) powerfully demonstrates the opportunities not just to learners but also to the wider community in delivering economic and social benefits. Following in its footsteps the ‘Student Access at Home Project’ has provided to date over 18,000 pupils across 62 secondary schools in Birmingham area with a portable learning device to use wherever and whenever they like. A key strand of this is to do with sustainability through strong partnership working. Thousands of parents have been encouraged to support the scheme by making voluntary charitable contributions that will in turn along with additional funding from the National E-Learning Foundation and Birmingham City Council be used to invest further in ICT. Digital Birmingham is linking to the Government’s Universal Home Access agenda with the aim for every learner across the city to have as an entitlement the opportunity to access a connected computer at home and ensure that every learner is a part of the digital world.