A partnership between Birmingham City Council, Birmingham e-Learning Foundation, the National e-Learning Foundation and education ICT suppliers, including RM, has equipped more than 18,000 students at 62 secondary schools around the city with mobile computers for anytime, anywhere learning. Around 5,000 of them, who don't have internet access at home, are being provided with wireless connections. (Picture shows Kings Norton High School students with their new HP netbooks purchased through Digital Birmingham)
Th e scheme is part of Birmingham's attempt to bridge the "digital divide" and ensure that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are not held back in their learning. It's part of a wider initiative called Digital Birmingham which links to the government's Universal Home Access scheme and is the result of three years of preparation.
“We are trying to bridge the 'digital divide' and foster in all our key stage 3 learners the skills that will make them valuable members of a highly skilled workforce of the future," said Patrick Horner, assistant head for teaching and learning at Kings Norton High. "Parents of our pupils have been overwhelmingly in support of the project, recognising the potential impact that the use of a personal laptop computer will have on their children's learning, progress and life chances. It is an exciting time for learners.”
Imaginative fundraising brought in cash from a range of sources, including the government, Birmingham City Council, E-Learning Foundation supporters and and thousands of Birmingham parents from a range of backgrounds. Sustainability has been a priority. Teachers have supported too and adapted learning to take advantage of the new mobility.
Birmingham City Ccouncil cabinet member for education Les Lawrence said: “In the 21st century we need to provide young people with the best possible opportunities to learn, and the tools and environments that result in the highest success rates. Gaining access to ICT equipment is a crucial part of this process. We need to look into the extent to which some communities are facing a challenge in terms of their youngsters' opportunities for learning given the lack of technology available at home. They are facing a learning disadvantage because of that."
“We’d like to be seen as enabling a way forward in closing the digital divide," said Ian McCall, head of e-learning with the Birmingham e-Learning Foundation. The combination of a very supportive local council, access to funding streams, and the enthusiasm of Birmingham’s parents and teachers, has enabled us to concentrate on making sure that our project delivers an inclusive, sustainable benefit to Birmingham’s young learners. This is a model that can be replicated elsewhere across the country.”
Birmingham E-Learning Foundation