The Creative Learning Centres forward the agenda of creativity and engagement within the schools and youth sector in Northern Ireland. Operating across three sites in Belfast, Derry~Londonderry and Armagh (Nerve Belfast, the Nerve Centre and AmmA Centre) they have been driving skills development in digital creative media among teachers and young people and building curriculum attainment for almost a decade.
The ability to write a song or compose a soundtrack; take a digital photograph or shoot a video; design a logo or build a web page; edit together a video sequence or animate a story – these are the forms of creativity and self-expression that fire the imagination of young people. These skills amount to a new form of 21st century digital literacy. By providing teachers and pupils with access to high level ICT skills, CLC aims to empower young people to become active, creative learners.
The Creative Learning Centres (CLCs) have also developed specific expertise in the use of digital media as an engagement tool for learners impacted by issues of social exclusion (through learning difficulty, rural isolation, poor communication skills etc). The CLCs have also focused areas of operation around indicators of poverty including Extended Schools and School Meal Provision.
The real impact and success of the work of the CLCs can be measured by the level of demand across Northern Ireland for their training and support. At present much of this demand is led by the rapid uptake and adoption of iPads and mobile devices by schools and youth organisations across Northern Ireland. Educators are excited and attracted by the engagement potential of these devices and the instant buy-in that they foster in learners. Schools across Northern Ireland have purchased these devices in bulk, often with no real strategy for their use and roll out and no real understanding of the reality of deploying them in bulk, or of maximising their role within the curriculum. Faced with the reality of such issues, schools are approaching the CLCs in unprecedented numbers to seek advice, training and solutions on how best to deploy mobile devices and focus their creative educational potential within the curriculum.
The role of the CLCs has become crucial – they are seen as independent arbiters of advice and training (with no vested commercial or sectoral interests) with a unique role around the curriculum, which has seen them contribute to the development of the ICT Accreditation Levels with CCEA. Schools, community groups and other public service organisations trust the CLCs and seek them out.
As a response to the change in demand of technology in recent years, much of the work provides support and structure to schools through mobile devices, in doing so demystifying that technology to young people and heightening their engagement with learning. Creative Learning Centres also serve to provide practical advice on how schools can best implement mobile devices within their own infrastructures.
One of the keys to the success of the CLC model is its regional reach with Belfast, Derry~Londonderry and Armagh locations. They work strategically with school management to ensure the guidance and support provided is tailor made for each school.
The Creative Learning Centres are funded by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL), and this funding is managed by Northern Ireland Screen.