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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Texting for beginners
Mobile phone sending text messaging
A taxpayer-funded texting course has been called a disgrace
A government-funded course is teaching adults how to send mobile text messages and download ringtones.

The two-hour course in Birmingham is run by the Learning and Skills Council. as part of its Bite Size Intros scheme.

The course organisers say it covers all aspects of using mobile phones, including sending text messages and creating an address book.

Critics have called it a waste of taxpayers' money, with the Campaign for Real Education branding it a "disgrace".

The Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Damian Green, said: "Anyone who can use a television remote control can send a text message.


"At a time when teachers are facing redundancy, this is an absurd use of the education budget."

But IT lecturer Maggie Fitzpatrick-Jordan, who launched the course, said it served a real purpose.

She told the BBC: "Lots of people are really scared of mobile phones, particularly the older generation.

Lots of people are really scared of mobile phones, particularly the older generation
Course lecturer Maggie Fitzpatrick-Jordan
"They're not happy with using it, they'll often prefer to call or something, and in order to save money quite often we can text.

"Our teenagers have been brought up on texting, but the 40, 50-pluses quite often won't.

"My husband won't. I'll text him, he'll ring me back. He's early 40s and just can't do it."

She said the course had more to it than it seemed.

"It's not about text messaging as such, it's about getting people back into learning, in a fun way.

"You know - let's have a look at what we can actually do with a mobile phone."

Terror alert texts

The course may turn out to be extremely popular, as texting takes over more and more aspects of our lives.

In the recent local elections, for instance, some local authorities ran pilot schemes for voting by text.

In Hong Kong, users can sign up to a get a text message if they are within a kilometre of a building where a Sars infection has occurred.

Teenager text messaging
The text message craze began among young people
And closer to home, Brighton and Hove council has signed up to a text messaging service which can be used to send out warnings of emergencies ranging from flooding and traffic problems to a full-blown terrorist attack.

A study published this week said mobile phones were becoming essential to the management of our private lives.

Among younger people, 46% of 25-34 year-olds said they "could not live" without their phone, with some saying losing their phone would be like suffering a bereavement.

About 1.7 billion messages a month are currently sent in the UK.

This represents a daily average of 56 million messages - the equivalent of one message a day for every man, woman and child.

Do you think this course is a waste of public money? Or is it a useful exercise which could lure adults back to learning?

Your reaction

Initially it seems a stupid waste of money. But if it's aimed at older folk, then they should be the ones to decide. If they find it useful, then it's a good idea. Its easy to criticise a scheme that sets out to help those that don't have a skill we all take for granted. Like it or loathe it, texting is revolution in people's lives. Those that can't hack it shouldn't be ostracised.
Carl, England

What's next, tax funded courses on how to use a DVD player? I hear that the older generation struggles with those as well. This course is madness, taking scarce funds from worthy causes and wasting it instructing people how to work non-essential consumer goods.
Glenn, London, UK

Why didn't they just run a course called 'How to read an instruction manual'?
Ian, UK

It's less of a waste of money than spending billions on a war that no one wants, and which has failed so badly to combat terrorism. Perhaps the phone companies should finance the course - since they will benefit from the extra income.
Peter Taylor, UK

The money should go into teaching adults real and useful skills (ones that are transferable such as being able to read and write, problem solve and basic computing) - when they have these they can work out texting for themselves.
Wendy, UK

With massive increases in council tax, local government can afford to waste money on courses like this.
Andrew Todd, England

Peter Barnes, England

Why don't they just get their kids to show them how to do it?
Chris, UK

There's a lot of courses run which teach older people to use computers and e-mail so why not one which teaches them how to use mobile phones and send text messages? It seems apparent that they are going to be teaching a number of different aspects of using a mobile phone so it seems silly that people are getting so worked up about the text messaging part.
Michelle Steel, England

So the taxpayer can stump up money for a course in sending text messages but is said to be unprepared to pay for a talented and gifted student from a working class background to go to university to gain skills which will aid the UK economy.
Kerry, Loughborough University

If it teaches more people not to use mobile phones in places like theatres and cinemas then it's a great thing, although I am concerned about encouraging people to get RSI through prolonged use of the thumb for texting. I can't wait for the lawsuits against mobile phone manufacturers to start.
Silas, London, UK

Text messaging is one of the biggest forms of communication in this country now so it's important that everyone has at least a rudimentary grasp of using it.
Chaz Bocock, UK

The BBC's James Westhead
"It has left critics outraged"

Click here to go to BBC Birmingham Online

Mobile phones seen as 'essential'
12 May 03  |  Technology
Text messages target truants
11 May 03  |  Education
Texting goes interactive
30 Apr 03  |  Technology
Text alerts offer Sars updates
22 Apr 03  |  Technology
Neighbours use texts to cut crime
22 Apr 03  |  Leicestershire
City first for text news alerts
07 Apr 03  |  Southern Counties

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