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PechaKucha Session 5: Educational Technology In The Margins -- 292

09:00 - 10:20 on Wednesday, 12 September 2012 in 2.220

The DAIN project is a £1.4 million European Social Fund 3 year action research project which is designed to challenge digital exclusion with the support of volunteers known as Digital Activists. It is part funded through the Innovation, Transnational and Mainstreaming Fund (ITM) led by the Workers’ Educational Association working in partnership with NIACE and CEFET.

The project has 7 geographical communities and 4 target communities of interest and identity. Digital Activists are recruited from local target communities and trained to go out into their communities and promote use of digital technology. Digital Activists record their activities, reflections and findings using a range of on and offline methods. key questions regarding ‘what works’ both in relation to the recruitment, training and coordination of volunteers and the engagement of community members by volunteers in use of technology have been considered throughout the project.

The project is now in dissemination phase and has produced a significant amount of data and learning in reference to models of working with activists, peers, or champions from within a target community in order to reach those most excluded within such communities.

The role of activists and champions have become central within government and educational policy and practice which seeks to widen participation in learning. The particular focus of this presentation is to highlight findings regarding the role of technology and VLE(s) in the engagement, training and coordination of volunteers within such roles.

An understanding and application of theories of ‘skholè’ and ‘habitus’ (Bourdieu, 1980) when analysing the attitudes and uses made of technology by volunteers within DAIN has much to offer in the quest to illuminate and understand the interplay between technology and involvement and incorporation of volunteers with experience of social exclusion into civil society. This will briefly be referenced during the presentation introduction.

Project data shows:

  1. Some NGOs and providers appear to be using platforms that are neither understood or utilised by particular learners or volunteers
  2. a distinction is made by project participants between private and public online space with an unwillingness to ‘speak’ in public spaces
  3. a need for joined up strategy within some organisations around use of digital technology and social media to engage with missing or existing learners

The presentation will include a brief 2 minute overview of scope of the DAIN project. It will focus on recommendations supported by brief case studies regarding key issues to be considered in order to develop effective virtual platforms in relation to the specific target audience and function.

'The key message is that the ‘person like me’ approach utilised in activist and champion type programmes and designed to engage with diverse and excluded learners is effective, but that digital literacy is a very broad church. For example, a volunteer who facebooks on their phone may have very few other digital skills, and a volunteer who feels confident with computers may feel much less confident with facebook or other social media. Meaning, for those of us working in education for adults there are no assumptions that can be made and while all things digital may widen participation, ‘digital by default’ will definitely be exclusive.

The most effective use of any VLE or online tool within DAIN has been when taking a learner or volunteer centred approach and supporting use of a tool of their choice where possible, alongside the need for ongoing support and encouragement to try new tools. There are clear parallels with good practice in the real world classroom and the need for differentiation and diversity in teaching and learning.

Therefore, ‘one size (online) fits all’ as often seen within learning providers, is no longer fit for purpose and will create additional barriers which may undermine the effectiveness of tools, platforms, projects and organisations in achieving their aims.


Really interesting conference and enjoying hearing about some of the projects being developed at the moment working with OER, NEETs, networks and creation of e-learning resources amongst many other subjects. Lots of food for thought and I look forward to future ALT-Cs!

Thursday, 13 September 2012, 20:21