A cascade of e-guides might conjure up an image of a pow-wow of slightly high brownies, but in fact it is an economical way of training adult education teachers in IT. So pay attention and pass the word around your pack.
The e-guides training programme is the latest attempt to spread the knowledge of technology across post-16 education. It is funded by the National Learning Network and developed by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education in partnership with the NLN. It comes in the footsteps of a British Educational Communications and Technology Agency programme called information and learning technology champions, set up in 1999, which was specifically aimed at the further education sector.
Champions - selected by FE colleges - were sent off to be IT trainers, bringing back with them e-learning knowledge that they imparted to their colleagues. That programme was piloted, the results assessed, and it was found to be just what the doctor ordered. So it continues today and it is now the turn of adult education to be given the IT knowledge treatment, with the use of e-guides replacing the use of champions.
Organisations employing adult education teachers can select an e-guide candidate from their midst who will be given three days of technology training. These e-guides then return to their fold to set up cascade training - internal courses for improving their colleagues' use of IT in the classroom. Under a pilot scheme set up in nine different locations across Britain between January and March this year, 98 e-guides were trained.
So what type of e-guide candidate is considered suitable and what areas of technology are of most use to those who they will be training? Staff development managers, curriculum leaders, centre managers, outreach workers, volunteers, adult education organisers and tutors are listed as being ideal candidates - although Niace points out that the programme is aimed at all staff. The most common areas of need have been identified as awareness of the technology available, the range of e-learning material that can be used in an adult learning environment, its application to specific subjects and enhancing internet skills to locate it.
Angela Wood, development officer for Niace, says the results are positive.
Self-help is often empowering and it seems that e-guiding is no different.
Those involved say it has increased their confidence and enthusiasm for including technology in learning. Some e-guides have even put their own names down as e-guide trainers.
But will greater numbers of trainers be needed? If the second round of e-guide training now being carried out is anything to go by, then the answer is yes. So far Niace has trained another 300 and they are even now starting to spread the word to their colleagues.
Ann Featherstone (pictured above) works for North Yorkshire County Council. As assistant education officer responsible for staff development, she was chosen last February - with Linda Burgon - to be trained as an e-guide.
"I am already a part-time IT tutor," she says. "Linda is non-IT but is good at putting information across - so together we made a good team.
"Our cascade action plan focused on reaching the council's 700 adult education teachers because they were spread over such a wide area. As it was impossible for them to come to us, we had to go to them. " "Linda and I trained 150 teachers in eight courses between May and July. It was amazing how little some tutors knew about IT."