Archive for 2009

Adult Literacy Blogs

November 11, 2009

Where can you find blogs for and by adult literacy practitioners? Here’s a short list, some of the annotations for which appeared in a Web Scan column I wrote for the Adult Basic Education and Literacy Journal .

Adult Literacy Practitioner Blogs

1) Adult Literacy Education (this blog) A compilation of posts that David J. Rosen has made, over the years, to electronic discussion lists and wikis as well as new posts. The topics all have to do with adult literacy education,  and often focus on technology, primarily in the U.S. David J. Rosen has been working in adult literacy education as a teacher, program administrator, education professional developer, trainer, curriculum developer, researcher and consultant since 1982. You will find his resume at

2) National Coalition for Literacy advocacy The National Coalition for Literacy has an online blog forum to engage NCL members in cultivating and supporting public policy advocates, assisting advocates with questions asked by the press and the public, and expanding the number of active advocates in support of adult and family literacy. The NCL posts frequent public policy updates, as well as key information and resources pertinent to the current federal public policy landscape. Additionally, they plan to host  2-4 blog discussions with NCL members who are federal advocacy experts ( during critical times for advocacy.

adultedmatters 3) Adult Education Matters Martha Rankin, the author of this blog, is the assistant principal at the Newport-Mesa Adult School in California. Since the fall of 2007 she has been writing a  “professional-learning-community blog focused on the matters of adult education” such as (from the blog): * Increasing student motivation, retention, and persistence * Identifying and meeting student goals * Guiding students to the appropriate programs, courses, and levels * Sharing best practices * Collaborating to increase student achievement * Providing literacy and job-skills training * Helping working-age adults get high school equivalency and  enroll in postsecondary programs * Using innovative delivery systems like distance learning * Sustaining professional learning communities * Delivering professional development for adult education and others.  The blog is tailored to the professional development needs of the Newport-Mesa adult school staff, but many of the blog articles will be of interest to a broader audience.  These include: designing site-based professional development; resources for family literacy, ESOL; GED prep; nutrition education; formative and summative assessments; integrating technology in the classroom; how to create your own (free) blog; Paolo Freire’s vision of education, and others. This is a great example, for other program professional development leaders, of a blog designed for an adult school or program that provides leadership in professional development.

Adult Education and Technology blog 4) Adult Education and Technology Marian Thacher was the Director of OTAN in California, the Sacramento County Office of Education project that is responsible for adult education technology professional development across California, and is now with CALPRO, California’s adult education professional development oprganization. According to one of the articles on Marian Thacher’s blog, the secret to getting good help in learning technology is cookies, not the kind you turn on our off in your browser, the kind you bake for the tech support person at your school or program. Marian looks at new technology applications with the eye of an adult ed teacher or administrator: would this be useful in the classroom or program, and how could it be best used? Marian’s blog introduced me to a.viary, for example, a free web site that allows you to edit images. I recommend this to all adult ed practitioners who what to use technology better.

Alphaplus blog 5) AlphaPlus Blog (Canada) The AlphaPlus Centre is an organization in Toronto, in Canada that focuses on adult literacy in the province of Ontario. They have been “providing information, research, and print and electronic resources to the Adult Literacy field in Ontario for over 15 years” and have done many wonderful projects with distance learning. The AlphaPlus Blog might be of interest to U.S. Educators, as well as other North Americans. It includes short articles, for example, resources for International Womens’ Day, the Adult Literacy Education Wiki, the New Zealand Literacy Portal, Google Calendar and Google Notebook, Learners’ Perspectives on progress, and more.

6) Tech4ESL and These two blogs are by California adult ESOL practitioner, Barry Bakin, who teaches at the  Pacoima Skills Center, part of the Division of Adult and Career Education of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The first is for teachers, the second for students in an ESOL low intermediate class.

7) Farrell Ink Meagen Farrell’s high school equivalency blog focuses on the GED(r) exam and preparation for it.

8) Tech Tips for Teachers by Steve Quann and Leah Peterson (Updated  11.26.14) Steve Quann and Leah Peterson from World Education write this blog for the LINCS Region 1 Professional Development Center. Their goal is to provide a resource to adult education teachers and tutors who are interested in integrating technology into instruction, but are not sure where to start. They offer practical ideas and hope to inspire teachers to try new things.  Their first group of tech tips focuses on reading. Each month they plan to  select a different theme.

9) Distance Education Skill Share by Jason Guard (added 1.17.13)

10) Working in Adult Literacy by Kate Nonesuch (added 11.26.14)

11) Teacher to Teacher — Activities for Teaching Adult ESOL by Sarah Lynn. (Added 2.1.15)

Student Blogs

Here are two examples of adult learner blog sites. Both have interesting articles by students. I am sure the students who wrote these articles would love to have other students read and comment on them. Maybe that activity would spark some interest in your students writing their own blog! 1) The first is a blog for ESOL students, developed in Sydney, Australia It is rich in text, images, slide shows and other media. 2) The second is from Ontario, Canada. I especially like the Hemingway-inspired 6-word memoirs.

Adult Literacy Education (ALE) Wiki

November 10, 2009

The Adult Literacy Education Wiki, created in November of 2004, now
has over 1300 web pages, and over 1300 registered users. You’ll find
it at:

It’s a free, web-based information resource by and for the adult
literacy education community in North America. Practitioners
help to make it useful, engaging and up-to-date. The ALE Wiki is an
entirely volunteer effort. Some of the topic areas are very well
developed and updated regularly; others need someone to mind and
improve them.

For a list of available topics to lead, go to .

To find out more about what is involved in being a topic leader, look at
and then email me at to let me know of your

Here’s a list of ALE topics:

Adult Literacy Education Wiki Topics

Adult Literacy Education Wiki Topics


Five burning technology questions

November 10, 2009

Here are five of my burning technology questions for which we have little or no evidence from research:

1. What are effective models for teacher training/professional development that help adult education teachers to effectively integrate the use of technology in their classrooms? Anyone know of any research that answers this question?

2. Does integrating technology in the classroom provide improved learning gains?
We do have some pre-post evaluation research that using supplementary videos outside class (videotapes, dvds and/or online) enables adult ESL students, at least in California, to make better progress than students who only attend class. For more information see: However, we need a lot more research in order to answer this question with confidence.

3. Specifically, is there good evidence that using CAI or CALL with adults results in improved learning gains?
This is the only evidence-based study I am aware of that shows gains for adults who used supplemental CALL software. Computer-Supported ESL Instruction For Adults: A Quasi-Experimental Study Of Usability, Listening Skill Gains And Technological Literacy, a study by Dawn Hannah, Ricardo Diaz, Lynda Ginsburg, and Christine Hollister, NCAL (2004) “was conducted with a group of adult English language learners at the intermediate level (although a ‘relatively well-educated sample,’ based on years of schooling, who valued independent learning and technological literacy skills), nearly half of whom had never used a computer to learn English before. A quasi-experimental design was used, and though substantial data were collected, the sample size was small enough to limit this to what would be termed an exploratory study.”
The findings from the study by Hannah et. al show that those ESOL students who used any of the three listening software programs (whose costs ranged from high-end to free) made greater gains than those who only went to class.)

4. With what groups of learners, under what conditions, is adult basic education/ESOL distance learning effective?
A study I conducted with Paul Porter in Massachusetts showed that adult learners in a blended model, with lots of face-to-face and telephone support was as effective or more effective (measured by retention and learning gains as reported by standardized pre-post tests) than classroom learning. However, the cost of providing these services as distance learning was greater than providing classroom learning. We didn’t have the opportunity to study what the minimum level of support might be to make these gains.

5. What are effective strategies for introducing adult learners to assistive technology that result in their using the technology on their own, and their making progress toward reaching their goals such as h.s. completion or attaining work related certificates?
VALUE, the national adult learner organization is advocating for funding for demonstration projects in which adult learners learn how to use assistive technology such as text to speech to help them get meaning from text (what researcher, Tom Sticht, calls “auding” text, listening to text (from hard copy documents and/or electronic text) read out loud.

Study shows online instruction Offers Advantages

November 10, 2009

From the July 9, 2009 OVAE Thursday Notes online publication of the U.S. department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education:

Online Instruction Offers Advantages; Blended Approaches Appear Best

Online instruction can offer key benefits, a new ED statistical meta-analysis shows. The analysis discovered that the best strategy appeared to be “blended” instruction─ combining elements of online and face-to-face instruction ─because it offered a larger advantage over either strategy used alone. Blended conditions often included additional learning time and instructional elements not received by students in control conditions, according to the study. The study indicated that instruction conducted wholly online was more effective in improving student achievement than was face-to-face instruction for adults in medical, career, and military training, and postsecondary education.

I wonder if this finding about blended learning would also be true for adult literacy, ESOL, adult basic and adult secondary learners  (and for teachers as learners). It’s too bad we don’t have much research on this in our field. Would that we had enough for a meta-analysis! Here’s a case where I think our field would eagerly use evidence-based practices —  if we had good evidence. It’s another reason why we need a national center for adult literacy research.

The New Literacy

November 10, 2009

This Wired Magazine article on The New Literacy got me thinking.

What if a generation of people (in the U.S., and in other countries, people who otherwise would not have read or written much) doubles, triples, or quadruples their literacy activity because they text message from their mobile phone? Could that make a positive difference on the use and quality of reading and writing?

What if “tweeting” causes people who are normally verbose in speaking or writing to learn to write concisely? Would that be a reason to “tweet” in class?

What if writing teachers (aware of the linguistic concept of register, the idea that there are different forms of a language used for a particular purpose or social setting) valued texting, writing personal letters, writing business letters, writing essays, and other forms of writing, and taught and valued them all, and helped students appreciate and distinguish them. Would we have students who were more facile in using different forms or kinds of language?

What if teachers introduced their students to Grammar Girl or other appealing grammar web sites when the learners had a purpose for writing, a specific audience, and when they cared about getting the writing clear and succinct and attractive? Would that produce better writing?

Is it time to integrate, not denigrate these new technologies?

What’s your experience?

Professional Development Through Video

November 3, 2009
Media Library of Teaching Skills Web page

Media Library of Teaching Skills


Until recently, when adult educators talked about professional development, everyone understood they meant face-to-face groupings such as workshops, courses, study circles, and sharing groups. Now, thanks to the new technologies, educators no longer have to be in the same room to learn together. Exchanges are taking place through online courses, discussion groups or lists, “wikis” (web pages that visitors can add to as well as read), “webinars” (online meetings in real time, often with two-way video and audio), podcasts (audio files that can be downloaded to individual computers and mobile phones), “blogs” (Web logs), and video teleconferencing. California, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, have all developed their own programs using some of these formats. Other states have adopted joint initiatives, such as Project IDEAL and AE Pro Online.

Face-to-face interaction is hardly in danger of extinction, but online professional development has several advantages. The asynchronous online orientations offered in many states give new adult education teachers opportunities to learn the ropes quickly, instead of having to wait for scheduled face-to-face orientations. A broad menu of Internet offerings can greatly expand the professional development opportunities available to part-time teachers who must meet other part-time or full-time commitments. Adult educators who can only squeeze in a few hours of a face-to-face course could expand their participation to a full course by blending face-to-face and online learning. Online formats such as the National Institute for Literacy discussion lists give educators unprecedented access to eminent researchers and professional developers.

Like television or the telephone, the Internet is only as good as its content. In professional development, online formats require at least as much planning and skilled facilitation as their face-to-face analogs. Unless an “online page-turner” provides essential information available nowhere else, educators are apt to avoid it or drop it. On the other hand, online courses in which an engaging and skilled course leader combines stimulating materials, a good mix of educator-to-educator discussion and teacher projects, and regular email communication win high ratings from participants. In a 2007 study for the National Institute for Literacy, Noreen Lopez found that teachers who participated in an online course reported that it had more impact on what they did in the classroom than the face-to-face professional development courses they had attended. A video of her presentation at the Association of Adult Literacy Professional Developers 2007 COABE pre-conference in Philadelphia can be found at

I found out how much effort and imagination successful online programming takes several years ago, when I became involved in developing Internet courses. We started with workshop materials, tried-and-true objectives, and handouts. All of them had been very effective in face-to-face sessions. Online, it was another story. We discovered that when teachers use the Internet for professional development, they had different expectations. They wanted dialog. Yes, they appreciated high quality print materials, but they also wanted digital videos, especially short videos showing excellent teachers in their classroom. This posed a problem: We found very few videos that were both high in quality and readily available. Our field, I realized, would have to start making more.

Some years ago, I had taken a different approach. When I was Director of the Adult Literacy Resource Institute (ALRI) in Boston in the 1980’s and 1990’s, I frequently asked adult education teachers what kind of professional development would be most meaningful to them. Almost invariably, they said they wanted to see what other teachers do in their classrooms. ALRI responded by assigning an experienced staff member to help teachers develop a plan for visiting other classrooms, conferencing with peers about lesson objectives and activities, and sharing post-lesson observations. To facilitate the observations, the ALRI staff member often served as a substitute when teachers visited a colleague’s classroom. This approach was certainly effective. It was also very expensive—a major issue in a field where financial resources are modest at best.

Micro-teaching, another professional development technique, has used video, but in a similarly labor-intensive manner: A teacher prepares and delivers a short lesson, which is then videotaped. Afterward, a master teacher, the students, and the teacher review the video together and offer feedback on what happened in the classroom, and how well the students understood the lesson’s objectives and main ideas.

My colleague, Owen Hartford, and I had both seen the virtues of micro-teaching early in our adult education careers. We thought that it could be adapted to meet the widely expressed need for video learning at far less cost per teacher. The cost of quality digital video recording equipment has dropped considerably in the past few years. Partly for this reason, amateur video-making and publishing has increased enormously, as evidenced by the growth of websites such as YouTube On another site, TeacherTube, educators – including some adult education teachers – are posting inexpensive videos showing their own classroom instruction techniques.

The missing piece, Owen and I thought, was an organization that encouraged direct teacher involvement in creating digital videos, and provided training, support, and professional editing to ensure professional or near-professional quality. Rather than send an expensive team of professionals around the country, the organization would assist teachers in producing short, digital videos of exemplary colleagues in the classroom, showing how they apply their skills and best practices to achieving specific state adult education content standards. Their work would be brought together in a searchable online library of digital videos of adult literacy teaching and learning on a broad range of topics, including English language lessons and classes on basic skills such as numeracy. We founded the Media Library of Teaching Skills (MLoTS) to fill this role.


Through the MLoTS Classroom Video Project a state, regional or urban literacy resource center selects teachers and matches them with partner teachers, as in a peer-mentoring model. We match groups of two (or three) teachers who can get to each others’ classroom easily, have particular skills related to adult literacy education best practices or content standards, and are motivated to work together. In two days of intensive training, teams learn how to design a lesson plan suitable for a video and how to use inexpensive, high quality digital video equipment to record the teacher and students engaged in the lesson in the classroom. After recording each lesson, the pair sends 15-30 minutes of raw video footage to MLoTS staff, which will work with both the team and the state education office or state or regional literacy resource center to create a clear video less than 10 minutes long that authentically reflects both the lesson and the standard or best practice that it illustrates.

Edited versions of the videos and links to background materials are posted on the MLoTS website, where teachers throughout the state have access to them, as well as to classroom videos from other states. The web site, already has several sample ABE and ESOL/ESL videos made by the MLoTS staff In Massachusetts and Vermont.

Adult Learner in math class at Notre Dame Education Center in South Boston

Our goal is to create hundreds of digital videos that professional developers can use in both face-to-face and online courses and workshops. Each will be designed to stimulate discussions on what the teacher and students do, what standards or research findings underlie the lesson, and what other ways a teacher might choose to achieve the same learning standards, objectives, or themes. Participants may also be able to email teachers featured in the videos to obtain answers to questions such as why they chose certain particular objectives or activities.

MLoTS is new. We invite you to visit our website, After you do, we would love to hear your response, and explore ways that we can work with your state’s adult education teachers.

David J. Rosen is President of Media Library of Teaching Skills.

He can be reached at