From education to employment

Success deserves better recognition and rewards

Maren Deepwell is chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology

Maren Deepwell, chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), wants to hear from colleges with award-winning ideas for using ICT to improve teaching and learning.

Prospective students with learning difficulties and disabilities, with their families, can have a guided tour of National Star College’s campus in Cheltenham anytime without leaving their home or classroom.

For the severely disabled the online virtual campus tour is a learning lifeline and was developed by a staff working group who, after consulting current students, worked with a team from Cheltenham Film & Photographic Studios. They created the virtual tour complete with interactive map, allowing “visitors” to pick their route and hold a “dialogue” with students who act as tour guides.

The National Star College has a knack of picking good ICT solutions to problems – and winning awards. Two years ago, it won the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Award 2011 – in partnership with JISC Techdis, The Rix Centre, The National College for Young People with Epilepsy and Portland College –  for the creation of Infolio.

Infolio is an accessible e-portfolio system that enables learners, particularly those with disabilities or learning difficulties, to record and present their achievements and abilities through an interface that allows them to store, arrange and organise multimedia content in simple online pages.

If you are at a college or training provider with innovative approaches using ICT we want to hear from you. In a learning landscape dominated by funding cuts, policy changes and increasing competition there is often little time to recognise what we do well. Emphasis is placed on what to achieve next, which targets to meet and how to improve. This is necessary to keep pace with, or indeed a step ahead of, the changing demands of Further Education and effective use of technology in learning and teaching is a cornerstone of this endeavour.

Yet while there may be internal evaluation and sharing of ideas within colleges, and external measures of performance, there are few opportunities that encourage us to celebrate and gain recognition for what we achieve on a national stage.

The Further Education sector is home to many individuals and teams  – like the two outfits coalescing around National Star College – who make an outstanding contribution to developing the use of technology in learning and teaching, small and large pockets of innovation and creativity that make a real impact on the learner experience and achievement.

Last year, Lambeth City Learning Centre won the team award in recognition of the centre’s commitment to developing a new business model, independent of government funding, using ICT to work with schools and other organisations locally and increasingly further afield, focusing on their clients’ diverse needs. Their work was described as “an inspirational showcase” and “innovative business model that has real impact on the learning experience”.

So, whether, you are an individual innovator, part of a team or wider partnership with something reckoned to be truly outstanding, contact us. Entering an individual or team for such an award may not be a priority in the midst of the busy daily running of a college but, as we have seen, the rewards of success in such a competition go beyond the individual or their institution.

Indeed representing the inspiring work of those who work in FE on a national level also highlights that pioneering, effective or engaging use of technology in learning and teaching is led not only by researchers, but by practitioners, technical staff and managers. It draws attention to the fact that such efforts are often motivated by a strong desire to give learners across different educational paths and subject areas the best possible chance to succeed, first in education and later in employment.

This year we are also inviting entries for a Special Award for Learners in recognition of the key roles students can play in projects aimed at improving the use of technology in partnership with staff.

Maren Deepwell is chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), an independent membership charity whose mission is to ensure that use of learning technology is effective and efficient, informed by research and practice, and grounded in an understanding of the underlying technologies and their capabilities, and the situations into which they are placed

Further information about the award and how to enter are available at http://www.alt.ac.uk/get-involved/awards. The closing date for entries is 27 May 2013.


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