“The ‘E’ in e-learning really can stand for exciting!”
Alastair Clark is Senior Programme Director at the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) in the United Kingdom, winner of the 2010 UNESCO King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa Prize for the Use of ICTs in Education.
NIACE is the leading non-government organization promoting adult learning in England and Wales and exists to encourage more adults to engage in better-quality learning of all kinds. It works for and celebrates the achievements of all adult learners. EduInfo spoke to him at the prizegiving ceremony.
What is the vision behind NIACE?
Our vision is of empowering citizens and learners. Nowadays we need digital skills in all aspects of our lives and all through our lives. Educators need to take a positive stand in ensuring that citizens can have the skills and understanding to make the technology work to meet their needs and to deliver individual and collective dreams.
“Working for more and different adult learners” is your slogan. What do you mean by “different” learners?
By different we mean marginalized learners: migrants, prisoners, the homeless, the “people with learning difficulty“, the unemployed, those on low incomes, people with the lowest level of initial education and of course older people. Women in certain groups have even more disadvantages.
How has technology changed the way NIACE approaches adult education?
It has allowed us to re-think teaching – making it more learner-centred, more active, more creative and more inspirational. Our 3,000 E-Guides have been trained as tutors to work with adults supported by national and regional networks, and our 194 projects provide internet access and training to older people in sheltered housing. It is inspiring to see how teachers have devised imaginative ways of using technologies to liven up their teaching. ‘E’ really can stand for exciting!
Are such learners greatly affected by the digital divide?
Yes. Digital technology has become an essential element of our lives. The digital divide represents a threat to both social cohesion and economic development. People on the wrong side of the divide tend to be the most marginalized groups. The picture is not identical across all countries, but we at NIACE believe that we all have a common interest in seeking to share practices in widening digital inclusion.
What does winning this award mean to NIACE?
Our work goes on, and through this award we hope to build new and stronger alliances with others who share our vision. One of its great features is that it gives all of those who enter a chance to learn from each other. I would very much like to sit around a table with current and former winners for an intensive exchange of innovations and good practice.
Of course, we could not have won this award without our funders and many partners.