Posts Tagged ‘adult literacy education’

Integrating Technology into Adult Literacy Education

September 17, 2012

What does it mean, in 2012, to Integrate Technology into Adult Education?

In February 1998 I wrote on the National Institute for Literacy (now the U.S. Department of Education) LINCS Technology discussion list that I saw three major ways in which adult literacy education teachers were integrating technology:

1. Integrating computer-assisted instruction. A teacher looks at her curriculum, looks at what software s/he has or could buy, then tries to fit the software (usually computer-assisted instruction) into the curriculum objectives or topics or skills. The reasons for using software are: appeal of computers to some students, variety of instructional methods, especially useful where skill practice is needed, and in a few cases because the software is very well designed and is actually an admirable means of instruction.

2. Using computers as tools in a learning process. A teacher looks at how computers can be used as tools for accomplishing project-based learning. Students:

a) word process their writings,

b) publish online cookbooks or school or program newsletters,

c) carry out research using CD-ROM encyclopedias or the Internet,

d) learn science for example by dissecting frogs online, or by following actual scientific expeditions and posing questions to the scientists, or

e) practice writing skills with key-pals, using email.

Anyone Following me on Twitter already knows what I did this past summer.

3. Distance education. (Broadcast T.V., interactive T.V., videotapes, email courses, Web-based courses) joined with direct instruction, (with face-to-face, real-time instruction or as they say in chat rooms, IRL that is, in real life) Some times this is pure distance learning, sometimes blended with face-to-face instruction, and sometime supplementary to classroom learning, as homework or enrichment.

Fourteen years later these are still important ways that teacher integrate technology, but there are some new ways as well:

4. Blended learning. Increasingly, teachers and programs are trying to fit online learning what happens in their face-to-face classes and tutorials. This may mean more careful choice of a commercial online learning product or of individual (usually free) online learning materials, including videos, and linking them to existing curriculum or state content standards. One of the first comprehensive examples of this was Pima College Adult Education’s Splendid ESOL Web that indexes free learning resources with the Arizona ESOL content standards. Another model is the Learner Web, which has a wide range of online curricula (Learning Plans) that use primarily free, online learning resources. often built on top of an existing structure of face-to-face classes or tutorials.



5. New Digital hardware. In 1998 tech hardware meant computers and peripherals. Today it also includes netbooks, smart phones, electronic tablets, smart boards, and digital multimedia projectors. In 1998, if students wanted to access the web, their choices were a computer lab at their adult literacy education program, a public library, or possibly a community computing center. The hardware didn’t belong to them. Now the hardware is just as likely to a web-accessible computer at home, a smart phone and increasingly a tablet, hardware that is theirs. In some cases now, students who cannot afford these devices can borrow them from their local library, from their adult literacy education program, or buy them on time or at a considerable discount. Low-income families in many states can get Internet access, for as little as $10 a month. Will BYOD (bring your own device) be the next hardware technology phenomenon in adult literacy education?

6. Teaching Digital Facility. Increasingly high stakes tests are offered primarily or only on computer. Beginning in January 2014 the GED® high school equivalency exam will be available only on computer in an approved testing center. Digital facility (what some call digital literacy), i.e. competence and comfort in using computers and other web-accessible devices, is now essential for: job applications, almost all now online; searching for basic information such as health information; completing government forms; communicating with children’s teachers, communicating with family and friends who are far away; and for an ever-increasing number of other essential tasks.  Many teachers and administrators are concluding that fast and accurate keyboarding (typing) and basic word processing; efficient web site navigation; effective information searching and evaluating; email; retrieving, sending and managing attachments; and other digital facility skills need to be taught in adult literacy education programs along with other basic skills such as reading, writing, and math.

In our near future may be some other features that are becoming popular in higher education and K-12 education. These include:

7. Digital textbooks. Some Higher education institutions and K-12 schools have given up on (expensive) print textbooks. They provide Pads to all their students. Will adult literacy education move in that direction, too?

8. Live streaming classrooms. At least one workplace ESL program, English Under the Arches, sponsored by the McDonalds Corporation, is co-taught as online classes. Students, often in pairs, access their class from the computer in the back of their restaurant in the afternoon. This is an effective workplace ESL/ESOL model especially for learners who, because they often have two or more jobs, can only attend class online from work. Will it become more popular in the workplace? In the public sector?

Do you think these are fair characterizations of how we are using integrating technology in adult literacy education? Are there other ways this phrase is being used? Do you have good examples to add? If so, please comment.