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Workshop on ICT for Community Empowerment

Demonstrating knowledge gained through non-formal education/

Demonstrating the Benefits of ICT for Literacy and Community-Based Learning

A recent UNESCO workshop on ICT for Community Empowerment, demonstrated innovative techniques using ICT in teaching-learning of literacy skills and in community-based education.

Held in Chennai, India, from 3 to 7 October 2005, the workshop brought together around 40 representatives from Community Multimedia Centres (CMCs) and Community Learning Centres (CLCs) from fourteen countries in Central, East, South and Southeast Asia.

A highlight of the workshop was a slide show presentation which showed literacy learners at a CLC in a small dalit (so-called “low-caste”) village near Madurai in Tamil Nadu, participating in an innovative programme which utilizes ICT as a tool for teaching-learning of literacy skills.

The programme involves literacy learners creating their own study materials using digital cameras and computers. Learning is based around images from the learners’ daily lives – their homes, family members, surroundings and general items – which in turn are linked to letters and numbers. For example, the letter 'a' might be paired with a photograph of a learner's amma (mother). Associated images and letters are then compiled in digital slide-presentations, which are stored on the CLCs’ computers, on the learners' own CDs and in print formats; all of which the learners then use to practice and build their basic literacy skills.

It had been found that the use of digital cameras and computers personalized learning and thereby facilitated the learning process, with students going from being unable to spell even their own names to being able read and write simple sentences in a short period of time.

One of the workshop coordinators, Mr. Hameed A. Hakeem, Chief of the Asia-Pacific Programme of Education for All (APPEAL) at UNESCO Bangkok, remarked that he was struck by the intensity with which community members watched as their peers demonstrated their new literacy on the slide show. He noticed that some community members were even mouthing the words on the screen. “It is a very good example of how ICT and multimedia can attract and empower learners and enhance non-formal education”, Mr Hakeem remarked.

The workshop, jointly organized by UNESCO Bangkok and UNESCO New Delhi, was an inter-sectoral collaboration effort between two of UNESCO’s sectors: “Education” and “Communication and Information”. The joint CMC-CLC workshop focused on sharing experiences between community multimedia and learning centres, and strategising means for collaboration – particularly in areas related to local content. Participants were able to learn about how ICT can be used creatively and how ICT can link media and learning centres. Participants also had a chance to see concrete examples of how ICT can help fight poverty and how community-based ICT approaches offer the potential to accommodate diversity.

UNESCO’s CLC programme promotes learning through grassroots facilities and activities, with some CLCs in the region piloting the integration of ICT facilities and multimedia applications to support non-formal education. UNESCO’s CMC programme combines traditional and new technologies – for example radio and television with internet and CD-ROMs – to enrich and extend the impact of information and communication at the local level. For many CMCs, supporting both formal and non-formal education using their multimedia facilities is both a priority and a challenge. Capacity building and closer integration with the community are critical issues for the future of these programmes.

UNESCO plans to continue sharing experiences following the workshop and to increase collaboration between community-based learning and multimedia facilities, particularly in the area of content development and sharing.