Five burning technology questions

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.


2 Responses to “Five burning technology questions”

  1. Marian Thacher Says:

    In response to question #1, in California we have had the Technology Integration Mentor Academy (TIMAC) for adult educators for five years now. On the Web site ( you can see lots of examples of participant technology projects, some with video of their presentation about their project.

    We also have a report on the 2007-08 year ( with the data I showed at the Adult Education Summit on student outcomes for TIMAC participants on pp. 51-54. Not at all definitive, as we haven’t been able to isolate technology as a factor in instruction, but it’s a place to start.

  2. New Adult Literacy Education Blog Says:

    […] tap into his experience and knowledge on the blog.  For example check out what David describes as Five Burning Technology Questions – a thought-provoking piece on the need for more research, more learning about the effectiveness of […]

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