by Jutta Croll, Stiftung Digitale Chancen
The project partners of Stepping Stones from Denmark, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Germany met in the city library of Tampere in Finland from 15 to 18 February 2007.
Tampere is the third largest city of Finland. In the 19th century, the city was the centre of the early textile industry while it is now mainly influenced by the university which employs and educates a great number of people. Regarding the level of education, the Finnish population is heading the countries of the European Union; more than one third of the people aged 25 to 64 years have a university education. Also concerning the number of computers in households (70 %) and Internet access (65 %, 58 % thereof broadband), Finland comes off best in Europe. 86 % of the women aged 25 to 54 years are employed. To evaluate such facts with a view to their impact on the digital integration and to relate them to the conditions in the respective countries is part of the work of the learning partners.
For the learning partners from Portugal and Italy as well as for the German delegation from the Digital Opportunities Foundation, the visit to Finland was also an excursion into the winter which can hardly be experienced in these countries. In view of the low temperatures one can't help thinking that the people prefer sitting at the computer or reading a book at home instead of getting a cold nose and red ears outside. The high level of education as well as the impressive book stock and lending statistics of the library seems to support this assumption.
In Finland, the members of the learning partnership first got to know the different measures and activities for imparting media competence in the facilities of the city library of Tampere. This includes the NetSquares in the branches which allow adults, youths and children to use computers, Internet and peripherals for free during the opening hours of the libraries. Trained staff are available for questions and support. Moreover, computer and Internet courses are held, especially addressing beginners.
The offers of the library are supplemented by the Internet bus Nettinysse which is a mobile Internet access driving through the city and region of Tampere; it visits neighbourhoods and groups on demand. In the Nettinysse, several staff members train the visitors to use the Internet and teach them media competence.
Besides these library programmmes, the city operates a small municipal Internet café. Moreover, despite the high rate of Internet use, there are numerous independent initiatives addressing those who have not yet found access. The learning partners visited Mukanetti, an organisation addressing the elderly. They are offered courses, but also support with the installation of computers and Internet access at home. Most people in Finland speak English nearly as well as their mother tongue, therefore the language barrier does not play such a big role as in Germany, where it is a serious hindrance for the elderly to use computers. Uncertainties when using the new and unfamiliar technology as well as concerns relating to data protection, violation of privacy, misuse and fraud are also relevant issues in Finland.
The members of the learning partnership could therefore discover many common aspects which play a role when designing the contents of the media competence courses. However, there are interesting differences between the various approaches and didactic concepts. The next meeting of the learning partners, held from 14 to 17 June 2007 in Berlin, is therefore dedicated to learning to know the methods and approaches of the participating institutions. There, examples of best practice will be identified and - if possible - transferred to the different organisations crossing national borders.
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Available on the website since April 05, 2007