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Neighbours tackling e-illiteracy together

The residents of a housing estate in Lambeth, south London, are to design their own computer literacy course, alongside academics from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and tutors from adult education services.

The Penceil project (How People Encounter E-Illiteracy) starts from the belief that people's IT needs have, for too long, been defined from above: by government, by IT suppliers, by training providers, by exam boards and so on.

The project will be based around the St Martin's estate in Lambeth, south London, and has the support of the High Trees Community Development Trust, the local community association, Lambeth College, and Lambeth Adult Learning Service.

Penceil is being undertaken by the Department of Information Systems at LSE with the National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education (NIACE). The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council under their e-society programme and runs for two years from October 2004.

Mike Cushman, research fellow at LSE, said: 'The basic questions of how people experience any lack of skills in their daily lives are often not asked. What is happening to people left outside this electronic loop? What barriers does e-illiteracy present to them? What do they want to do with the skills they learn? This will be an action research project, so it will not only try to understand the issues but will work with residents to design and implement programmes to meet their needs.'

Angela Hall, director of High Trees CDT, said: 'We welcome the chance to be involved in this project. We think it is a brilliant idea to get the residents involved in this new venture. It is important people are involved in planning their own education and training.

Alan Tuckett, director of NIACE said: 'This is an important project for NIACE. It will contribute to our discussions with the government on three important policy agendas: firstly the debates on the curricula for ICT as a basic skill; secondly the area of media literacy and the very real risks of people being further excluded by the digital switch over; and finally the recurrent and sustained marginalisation of people who benefited least form initial education. Initiatives, like this project, are essential. This is our first collaboration with LSE and we welcome the chance to work with researchers from such leading centres, for our mutual benefit.'


Mike Cushman, research fellow, LSE: Tel: +44 (0)20 7955 7426 or m.cushman@lse.ac.uk| 


Who's Who in Penceil

From LSE's Department of Information Systems
Lecturer Ela Klecun is the principal investigator. She has previously undertaken research in the provision of e-health service in south London.
Research fellow Mike Cushman is the main person undertaking the research. He worked in adult education before joining LSE, in adult literacy and numeracy and community based programmes. He is a former head of the Lambeth Adult Education Service and has undertaken research in organisational learning and knowledge management in the construction industry.
See http://is.lse.ac.uk/| 


Alan Clarke is the associate director for ICT and Learning at NIACE. He has been involved with Computer-Based Learning for twenty years and has written extensively on the use of ICT and learning.
Ewa Rawicka is a project officer in ICT and Learning at NIACE. She has investigated the UK on-line project and how socially excluded people access technology.
See http://www.niace.org.uk/| 

From High Trees Community Development Trust

Angela Hall is director of High Trees CDT. There will also be an advisory committee drawn from members and staff of the local community association, local education providers; and other interested researchers.

1 October 2004