On Thursday I was in London to attend a workshop organised by Becta, the government agency leading the national drive to ensure the effective and innovative use of technology throughout learning. This ‘Informal Adult Learning Information Workshop’ unveiled the winners of the contract to build an informal adult learning online portal as part of the Government’s Learning Revolution programme. ‘School of Everything’ (www.schoolofeverything.com) is a small Internet start-up company launched in September 2008 that “connects people who can teach with people who want to learn”. To date its focus has been largely on individual private teachers offering lessons but the site will now expand to include information on courses, organisations and clubs – including voluntary arts groups. They also plan to include a venues database (allowing users to search for free and low-cost venues for informal adult learning activities) and an events calendar. We brought representatives of some of the national voluntary arts umbrella bodies to the workshop to look specifically at how the new portal will work for local voluntary arts groups. Marion Morley from the Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers asked whether barbershop groups would be eligible to be included in the portal even though they might not describe their rehearsals as ‘learning opportunities’: Paul Miller from School of Everything confirmed that barbershop groups are absolutely part of what the Government considers ‘informal adult learning’ and were exactly the sort of groups they wanted to include in the portal. Sarah Rogers from Making Music asked about how content from School of Everything might be syndicated on other websites: Paul Miller explained that there is already a School of Everything ‘widget’ which could be placed on the Making Music website, for example, to allow people to search the School of Everything database from the website they already visit regularly and this widget was to become more sophisticated. School of Everything has been contracted to deliver the ‘informal adult learning online portal’ by the end of March 2010. I was impressed by their approach and look forward to working with them to ensure voluntary arts groups take full advantage of this great opportunity to attract new members.
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