Internet for all – at Ringsted Public Library

Adult education in public libraries
The project ‘Internet for all’ running from October 2000 to July 2001 was launched by Ringsted municipality, which has about 30,000 citizens, out of which about 600 participated in the project. Apart from financial support from the municipality, the project was also subsidised by the Danish National Library Authority, the Directorate General for Employment Placement and Vocational Training, the Danish National Library for the Blind and the firm Kommunedata A/S.
The overall intention was to stimulate increased use of the Internet by a wider selection of the population, to identify barriers and to develop models for how to break down such barriers.

Pedagogical aspect
The librarians had experience of teaching, they taught in teams and had also prepared a syllabus, but on consultant’s advice the group chose to redesign their teaching, having realised that it included too much demonstration and not enough inspiration and hands-on. So instruction was replaced by learning, as focus was not to be centred on syllabus, but rather on the needs and problems of the participants. The role of teacher changed to one of guidance – computer and blackboard were left behind for the moment in favour of closer contact with the ‘students’ who were invited to choose between a number of different projects within interest areas such as cars, sport and literature. A home page was developed with links which matched the projects.

It was not a question of an Internet course as such, but of activities in an ‘Internet workshop’. A workshop is somehow less formal and more flexible than a ordinary course in a classroom at a school. Most likely the group at whom the project was aimed, had unhappy memories from their early days at school. The workshop was set up in the library itself, and although it is partly screened off, other visitors to the library were aware that something interesting was going on.A projector, a screen and 16 computers were arranged in a semi-horseshoe, ending in a small computer island. The librarians wanted to create an air of informality, with the emphasis on dialogue and cooperation. Often there would be 8-12 participants and two librarians, the workshop being divided into two part, each lasting about 2 1/2 hours.

The workshop was advertised in the local press as well as in the lib rary, and some intensive marketing was done in relation to potential target groups as for example associations and language schools.

The evaluation was done, partly through the librarians’ current preparation of logbooks and evaluation questionnaires partly by external evaluator conducting 13 interviews. All in all everybody was very satisfied with the workshop. Some participants said that the pedagogical aspect was a vast improvement on what they had previously experienced. Some had previously participated in IT courses, but had had to opt out. Either because the pace was too fast or the length of the course proved prohibitive. Everybody wanted another chance to visit the workshop.

The librarians had passed on the inspiration to continue working with the Internet – the net had been demystified. However, some had experienced some difficulties when working on the net alone, but a change of attitude had definitely taken place. Their ICT-competence was still not sufficiently developed, but they had benefited from the librarians’ enthusiasm and from the dialogue. The workshop as a place of no obligation and the change from instruction to learning was a model for breaking down barriers in relation to the use of the Internet by people who are not professional students,and this is a concept which should be used and further developed.

Translated by Vibeke Cranfield

Now owner of a small consultancy firm.