"Stepping Stones" was a project of the Digital Opportunities Foundation in 2006 - 2008.
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Stepping Stones into the Digital World

Pacemaker of the Information Society - Berlin Meeting Report

by Jutta Croll, Stiftung Digitale Chancen

Steps into the digital world can be very different. While young people conquer the virtual space with self-confidence and carefreeness, older people are much more cautious when exploring new grounds. Women apply other strategies than men when surfing on the waves of the Internet, and also the framework conditions such as general knowledge and language abilities or the technical devices used for access influence the process of acquirement.

The partners of the international project 'Stepping Stones into the Digital World' see themselves as the pacemakers into the digital world. With various support offers, the participating organisations help Internet novices, but also users with first experiences, to benefit from the chances of the Internet.

The visit to Berlin was the opportunity for the learning partners from Denmark, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Portugal and Sweden to learn to know German projects. For the 4-day visit early in June, the Digital Opportunities Foundation prepared a comprehensive programme. On Thursday evening, the participants could get their first impression of the city from the roof terrace of the Reichstag; on Friday, visits to Internet access and learning points were planned.

The tour started at 9:30 in the center of Berlin in the e-Lernbar of the Central State Library which provides their visitors with multi-faceted e-learning programmes. The comfortable working environment invites people interested in further training to learn with or without help. The visually impaired are offered special computer workplaces and courses. In future, offers for people interested in multimedia will be made; they will find the hardware and software required for getting to know computer games in peace. The offer is nearly for free, only a user card of the library (10 EUR per year, reduced rate 5 EUR) has to be presented. Afterwards we visited Käpt'n Browser, the Internet café of the tjbv Berlin. Here, the group could see how people with impairments can use assistive technologies and look into the design of accessible Internet offers.

In the afternoon, the tour went on to the Frauen Computer Zentrum Berlin where the focus was not so much on technology, but on the learning methods used to introduce women and girls to using computer and Internet. The Zentrum regularly offers courses to women and girls following the method of self-organized learning. In the self-learning center, women and girls can broaden their computer knowledge and exchange their experiences.

Then the tour went on from Kreuzberg to Neukölln. The smallest institution visited in the afternoon was the Computertreff Rollberg. The computer room supported by the Arabian Culture Institute in a housing estate regularly offers courses for the neighbourhood. ((Under the leadership of Mohamed Wendland the visitors with mostly migrant background can learn to use the digital media.)) The visitors are mostly migrants who want to learn to use the digital media with Mohamed Wendland. Besides specific issues such as the online contact with the local government, the focus is on the cultural exchange in the neighbourhood. Finally, on Friday evening, the group landed on Planet Düppel, a youth institution in the district of Steglitz-Zehlendorf. Media pedagogue Tanya d'Agostino explained to the guests how important it is to offer the young people a combination of sports and computer use. The boys who were ardently playing a car race at the computer beforehand had to play basket ball in the gym for an hour as. In the evening, the exchange of experience between learning partners and staff of the visited institutions was continued in the garden of the van Delden House, where the group was accommodated, drinking Berliner Weiße and eating tasty refreshments.

After the practical experiences of the day before, the mutual presentation of the different teaching methods and training concepts was on the agenda on Saturday. By means of video productions and learning programmes, the partners gave an insight in their own practice of teaching media literacy. This task as a pacemaker of the information society is perceived very differently in the institutions which take part in the learning partnership. All learning partners have made the experience that supporting the first steps into the digital world has to be tailored to the demands of the respective target group in order to be successful.

The learning partnership will continue their work for further twelve months. During this time, among other tasks, the different concepts of teaching media literacy will be collected and published on the project website, so that the staff of institutions in other countries can benefit from the experiences of the learning partners.

Retrospection on the programme of the shared three days and pleasant anticipation and planning for the excursions to Latvia (November 2007) and Portugal (spring 2008) were the main topics on Saturday evening. With a boat tour on the city waterways, the Digital Opportunities Foundation said goodbye to its international guests after a stay full of intensive work.

A German version of this article can be found here.

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Available on the website since July 24, 2007