In an increasingly digital world, to be able to function in our work, public, leisure and personal lives, we must be digitally literate. However those adults in EU countries who find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide are at the greatest risk of becoming more economically and socially excluded. Bridging this digital divide can help disadvantaged groups become more socially integrated, able to participate on a more equal footing within the digital society (elearning, eGovernment, eHealth) and to tackle their disadvantage through increased employability. In 2016, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the UK came together in an Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership called Skills Innovation Training, or Skills IT, to enhance access, participation and performance of disadvantaged learners through an innovative and inclusive integrated approach.
Skills Innovation Training
We aimed to reconnect groups at risk of exclusion to learning, the labour market and public services, and encourage them to become active citizens within their communities. Our target groups included: women, unemployed adults, older learners and migrants - those with low skills or qualifications who found themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide and facing multiple forms of inequalities, such as low educational achievement, poverty, social and economic exclusion.
Initially we established Local Action Groups (LAG) within our partner countries made up of at least seven interested stakeholders - adult learners, local stakeholders, tutors, teachers and project staff. Six LAG meetings were held in each partner country over the project lifetime. These LAGs were integral to all aspects of our project including completing the needs analysis, providing feedback on the development of the ICT model and Peer Mentoring module, identification of peer mentors, dissemination and monitoring and evaluation.
We then undertook research of current ICT training provision within our countries and pedagogical approaches used with adult learners. In total, 210 adult learners were surveyed across the seven partner countries and a comprehensive analysis of the digital needs of the target groups were completed. Results found that there were high digital activity rates among all target groups, but a lack of informal and formal training in how to use digital devices, apart from the use of PC / laptop and the need for inclusive strategies to address accessibility issues. We developed and designed an ICT model to enhance digital literacy and competencies to meet these digital needs. Modules developed included: Managing Information, Communicating, Transacting, Problem Solving and Creating Online.
We held two transnational training events during the partnership. The first was in Trani, Italy, where 14 ICT tutors completed workshops on the ICT competencies, session plans and learning materials relating to the ICT modules. Staff had the opportunity to exchange best practice, tools and strategies in order to maximise the implementation phase. When asked what they found most valuable about the training, staff comments included:
- Clear structure to training and how the model fits into the overall aims of the project
- Learning to harness the use of Google tools for the implementation of the ICT model
- The sharing of ideas and knowledge with other adult educators
At the second event 19 adult learners came to Belfast, Northern Ireland and completed NOCN training in Peer Mentoring Skills. This training included introducing the concept of peer mentoring and identifying training needs, communication skills, facilitation, research and evaluation, opportunities for personal development and access to formal knowledge. Feedback from the learners at the end of the training was very positive and in particular they appreciated:
- Establishing relationships with new people and learning about their values and objectives
- The exchange of experiences with classmates
- Encountering different ways of thinking and the diversity of the group
- The group work and discussions
- Learning how to transfer experiences
When it came to the implementation of the ICT model, we used inclusive and participatory learning approaches. We ensured that the implementation was community based within each national setting and developed an individual Methodology and Principles of Delivery, which identified and addressed the key personal barriers to ensure that individuals from our target groups fully engaged in the training. Some 87 adult learners undertook the ICT training across the partner countries and we found that the Peer Mentors were instrumental in enhancing the overall experience of learning new ICT skills for our target groups. As well as gaining and improving their digital skills, these adult learners grew in self-confidence in their capabilities, with many expressing that they wanted to progress and participate in further ICT training and other learning.
For further information on the project please visit: http://www.skillinnovationtraining.com
Amanda Marshall has been the Education and Training Coordinator at Ballybeen Women’s Centre for 23 years. Ballybeen Women’s Centre has been involved in EU funded programmes for over 15 years.
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