Learning to Achieve: Help for those working with students with learning disabilities

Roberta Reiss

Learning to Achieve (L2A) is an interactive series of professional development modules focusing on meeting the needs of adults with learning disabilities (LD) seeking instruction in literacy programs.  The three on-line “prep” modules and the eight “face-to-face” modules are research-based instruction provided by the Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS).  Whether on-line or in-person, each module is designed for approximately 90 minutes of interactive learning to inform and train adult tutors or service providers.

L2A Online Modules:

  • LD and Neuroscience: The science and research supporting neurologically based LDs
  • LD and English Language Learners: The unique needs of special populations learning English
  • LD and Accommodations:  Reasonable and appropriate accommodations to improve learning

L2A “Face-to-Face” Modules:

  1. Definition of LD: Providing six basic consensus statements that define and identify LD
  2. Self-Determination: Enhancing self-advocacy to empower adult learners
  3. Legal Issues, Self-Disclosure, and Confidentiality:  Protecting the rights of the adult learner
  4. Explicit Instruction for Strategy Learning:  Research-based strategies to augment adult learning
  5. Reading Disabilities: Providing a clear picture of reading preferences, difficulties, and disabilities
  6. Written Expression Disabilities:  Identifying and improving transcription and generation challenges
  7. Content Learning:  Learning with a purpose and sequence for a degree, credential, employment, citizenship, or life goal
  8. Workforce Preparation Strategies:  Preparing adult learners with basic and applied skills for employment success

Dr. Betsy Stoutmorrill

During October and November, L2A trainers Betsy Stoutmorrill and Roberta Reiss provided five full-days to train 174 literacy volunteers, adult education instructors, service providers, and program administrations.  Trainings were held in Lady Lake, Marianna, Lake City, Palm City, and Port Charlotte. The training session provided an amazing opportunity for professionals and volunteers from a variety of literacy programs to work together and gain knowledge of not only specific learning disabilities but also of research-based strategies and teaching tools.

“Providing the L2A modules to four different groups was an amazing and enlightening opportunity for me,” says Betsy Stoutmorrill.  “I was inspired by all the dedicated volunteers and professionals who asked tough questions and invested their time to attend this training to improve their teaching and understanding of learning disabilities.”

The hope is that additional training days can be offered throughout Florida to introduce more people to L2A or for those who attended a training to complete the online modules.  Thanks to the partnerships between LINCS, the Florida Literacy Coalition, and the individual sponsoring regions, this training will make a difference in the educational and personal success of many adult learners and support the growth and development of the professionals and volunteers who dedicate themselves to adult literacy.    Funding for these trainings were provided through grants, but more funding is needed to continue these important trainings.

“I talk to so many literacy program directors and coordinators who fear that volunteer tutors feel inadequate to the task of working with adult learners with learning disabilities.  This training has allowed us to demystify the topic and to share the best practices based on the most current research.  Judging from the feedback so far, I think we have gone a long way in addressing the challenges,” states Roberta Reiss.

Top Stories in Literacy November 28

The Latino Digital Divide
Latinos are widely recognized as leading technology adopters – from mobile phones and devices to tablet computers, Latinos lead Americans in purchasing, and using this technology for some reasons we understand, and others we are just beginning to. Despite these facts, the digital divide yet to be addressed is in two areas: internet at home and digital literacy.

Microsoft launches “Elevate America,” a program to help veterans attain job skills
Microsoft, with assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor in a liaison role, and local workforce areas, is proud to offer U.S. military veterans and their eligible spouses, vouchers for no-cost IT skills training and certification designed to help build the technology skills employers are looking for. Could you use this in your program?

Building Financial Literacy through benefits research and education
A new series of research-based educational materials from Unum offers personal stories, compelling statistics and clear explanations of the role employee benefits play in protecting the financial foundations of individuals, families, businesses and the government.

Fewer Patients Researching Personal Health Issues
In 2007, 56% of American adults reported seeking health information from sources other than their physician, including the Internet, books, magazines, and newspapers; friends or relatives; and radio or television. This number has since declined. Where are people getting this information? Where else can this be addressed?

Degrees of Literacy: It’s not just about reading and writing anymore
While some people have graduated high school with functional reading skills, this is not enough to meet the demands of American society. Financial, health, digital, and interpersonal literacy are all large components to be truly functional.

Brent Stubbs: Career Pathway to Nowhere- Why technology matters

Recently in Adult Education, the “shot heard round the world” was that the GED test was going the way of the computer. Many held their breath, wringing their hands and pondering how and why it made sense. (Note: Corrections programs have a real legitimate concern as to the logistics of how this is going to work) For decades the test had been paper-based, and we all know that a lot of people don’t know how to use computers or do not type proficiently…

…or so the thought process went.

Recently, my friend pointed out on this blog that more people are on computers than we think. I will set aside my judgment on whether or not everyone is computer savvy for a moment and even grant you that many are not. In fact, this post assumes that too many are computer illiterate. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they don’t know how to use a computer, just like someone who is illiterate can probably still hold a decent conversation. However, the question we should all be asking ourselves is, “What can someone do, today, without computer literacy?” Let’s get a little closer to home:

How good is our literacy program if it does not include digital literacy? If someone learns English but not the ability to navigate the web using that language, what have we given them? How good is our Career Pathways system if we are not empowering every student to gain digital competency that will translate to any career path?

“It’s the Economy, Stupid” -Bill Clinton

I know one thing. Employers (the ones with jobs) are not, on average, behind the times. They understand that technology = speed = efficiency = competitive advantage. Competitive advantage means you survive, thrive, and become a fixture, not a novelty in a community. There was a time that to get work meant you had to have air in your lungs and a pulse. Those days are long gone, especially in the Sunshine State. As we progress deeper into the 21st century, digital competency is the new basic skill. Just like businesses need a competitive advantage that starts with an even playing field, today’s prospective employee needs an even playing field so that their career path is not aborted prematurely.

That means skills: digital skills.

Is this your program?

What’s the Career Pathway’s connection? It’s quite simple. A Career Pathways model–be it via family literacy, GED classes or ESOL at it’s genesis–that leaves out technology is a “pathway to nowhere”.  A pathway to nowhere means a student getting a credential that means nothing. It means a student learning something that does not translate into a feeling of “making it” in life. Why? Because in their case, there is literally a digital divide between what they know and what they can do. Digital literacy (technology) is about closing that gap by giving our students a leg up in the 21st century jobs marketplace. 

Why Change?

What’s at stake is twofold. For one, we are playing catch up with the rest of the world. While we are wringing our hands about computer-based GED tests, somebody is doing this:

Instead of lamenting what we can’t do, we must start preparing for what we will have to do.

Second, it’s about what is best for our students. They come to us, many times, because they want a new chance at life. Because they lack certain basic skills, life is always lived somewhere between understanding and confusion. They come to us to gain those skills, and we ask them to dream again and create a plan for their career path–a path to their success. However, if digital literacy gained through engaging relevant technology is not a part of our process, we do them a great disservice.

We set them up for failure and frustration, again.

I think that answers the “why” question. What do you think?

Top Stories in Literacy Nov 20

Studies show that people who are generous are in better health
Whether people are donating for tax purposes, or because they are genuinely empathetic, research shows that they are happier and live longer. You might want to include some of these statistics in your next fundraising letter.

How to create a social media marketing schedule
In the nonprofit world, there are a million things going on at once and only time to give attention to half of them. While you might feel like you don’t have time to devote to social media, here are some tips to make the process easier.

Medicare Plan to be shut down
Quality Health Plans, a Medicare HMO with 10,000 Florida members, has been ordered into liquidation after failing to come up with the cash reserves the state says were needed. While the members will be moved to a new plan, this information could be useful to your students.

Nationwide Financial Literacy Campaign Empowers Citizens to Share Personal Financial Lessons
The National Financial Educators Council is starting a campaign called Financial EduNation that will provide organizations and communities with solid resources for combating financial illiteracy at the local level. This program will start at the New Year and provide resources for students, parents and the rest of the community.

Kim Gates: What’s new and exciting in the world of online technologies?

The Internet is home to millions & millions of sites: some with educational value and some without it.  Some sites purport to have everything from ways to connect to old friends and colleagues, to ways to find the secret of youth!  How do you know what’s valuable & what’s not?  How do you stay up-to-date with emerging sites, and is ‘newer’ always ‘better?’

While not necessarily “new,” Twitter is a great way to stay connected to reputable organizations like Florida Literacy Coalition, ACE of Florida, FL TechNet, GED Testing Service, and more!  (Not quite sure what Twitter is or what a “tweet” means?  Check out this short Common Craft video explanation!)  While you don’t need to be a member to view various tweats, membership is free & allows you to select who you want to “follow” (which means those organizations’ messages come directly to you & you don’t need to go searching for them).  Twitter is also a great way to connect to your colleagues (both in & out of the state), your current students, and even potential students!  Think of it as allowing you to see & be seen all within 140 characters at a pop!

What would you (or your students) prefer: reading about how to do something or seeing & hearing about how to do it via video?  Khan Academy is amazing!  Their website boasts “With a library of over 2,700 videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and 238 practice exercises, we’re on a mission to help you learn what you want, when you want, at your own pace.”  My favorite part is the math!  Everything from arithmetic to developmental math to  pre-algebra and more can be found there for free!  (In case you’re wondering, Khan Academy has received donations from The Gates Foundation and won Google’s Project 10100 of ideas to change the world.)

Do you ever wish you could participate in professional development without actually having to go somewhere to do it?  To borrow part of the Florida Virtual School’s motto, what if professional development could be “any time, any place?”  The good news is that it can be!  Florida TechNet’s Moodle site has free one hour modules.  There’s something for everyone: administrators and instructors!  Topics include ABE, GED, ESOL, LD, Learning Technologies, Corrections, Literacy, and more!

While these sites may not be ‘new’ to the Internet, hopefully they are ‘new’ to you!  Explore them and enjoy them!!

English Language Learners and Technology

Technology has significantly aided in the advancement of English language learners. From interfaces and tools to help in the learning process, to resources for teachers, to communication, technology has made it easier for language learners to better integrate into their new country. In today’s world, technology is instrumental in teaching and learning English, and adapting to the demands of the culture.

Translation sites and tools have made it easier for learners to understand words or phrases found on the internet. In Google translate, users can input any text and get a fairly accurate translation for what it means. Although at times it might be off in the meaning, since its assuming context, the definition provided is fairly close to the translation. Several websites also have the option to translate the page. While this doesn’t exactly help with learning, it helps those not familiar with the language to find locations for ESL classes or other places in the case of an emergency.

The internet is also filled with resources for ESL teachers and activities for students. Interactive games help students learn English because it is using a different method of learning. Students can find activities to practice in their spare time and the computer is able to correct things they got wrong (instead of memorizing the wrong thing). Teachers are also able to find lesson plans, brainstorm with other teachers, and download additional resources with the wide assortment of ESL websites. It is one of the best tools teachers can use when trying to find additional curriculum since learning English is a very popular subject. Here are some good websites for teacher/student resources:

FLC ESOL Tutor Help Center

Center for Adult Education Language Acquisition

English Page.com

Thirteen EdOnline

Using technology has become increasingly necessary to advance in economically in the United States. The GED will be computer based in a couple of years, most jobs only seek applicants online or through a computer, and several jobs require basic computer skills. Technology is also becoming the dominant mode of communication. Hundreds of millions of people use social media to find jobs, keep in touch with friends, and stay up to date with current events. If you are working with someone who is new to the country, incorporating digital literacy in your curriculum will help your student on multiple levels. Try different word activities using the computer. Teach your student how they can hear how words sound using a computer. There are many ways you can do this and it is becoming increasingly important that you try.

Top stories in Literacy Nov 14

Hello! We’re starting a new thing where every Monday (and sometimes every other Monday), we’ll provide top stories in literacy news. These stories will include non-profit updates, adult basic education, ESL/ELL/ESOL, family literacy, health literacy, financial literacy, career pathways, digital literacy, and important updates for Florida literacy organizations. Here are this week’s top articles:

Nonprofits and charities can now have a page on Google plus

The Nation’s Report Card: Better reading scores start at home

Education Secretary Appeals for Financial Literacy, Planning Instruction in Schools

National  Digital Literacy Corps

Why you should stay at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront, site for the 2012 FLC Conference

Welcome to the St. Petersburg Hilton Bayfront! Steps from our front door your attendees will enjoy a vibrant pedestrian friendly waterfront district.

Enjoy sailing and fishing charters, dolphin tours, and amazing local dining and night life. No cars needed, you can walk, use the local trolley with a stop in front of the hotel or our hotel shuttle. For the second year in row American Style Magazine has named St.Petersburg the TOP Arts Destination City in the Country. This is the tenth year we have been recognized for our vibrant arts community and many of our offerings are located just steps from the hotel in including the New Salvador Dali Museum and the Dale Chilhuly Collection.

Every guest room & suite offers spectacular views or partial views of Tampa Bay, The Sunshine Skyway Bridge or Downtown St. Petersburg and The St. Petersburg Sailboat Harbor. Our Hilton Honors Lounge located on the 15th floor has panoramic views and the perfect spot forVIP’s to be located.

Our spacious and elegant lobby with marble and crystal accents leads to 333 over sized guestrooms which feature the Hilton Serenity Bed Collection, Crabtree & Evelyn Amenities, an mp3 player dock and wireless internet availability. 28 Alcove Suites and 3 Parlor Suites. Our newly remodeled Executive Lounge on the 15th Floor features panoramic views of the Tampa Bay and offers complimentary continental breakfast and happy hour events for VIP guests. The hotel boasts over 30,000 square feet of unobstructed meeting space located on one floor with state-of the-art meeting room furniture

Our award winning Tangerine restaurant, offers upscale dining in a trendy atmosphere. On-Site Starbucks offers complimentary wireless internet access. New remodeled upscale Lobby Bar with backdrop that ties in the new Dali Museum.

Complimentary wireless Internet Access in public Foyers Spa Olimpia at the Hilton pampers our guests with massages, body treatments, facials, manicures and hair styling.BusinessCenteris open 24-hours and can meet many of your administrative needs when away from the office. Stay active in our heated pool, oversized Jacuzzi and full-service Fitness Center.

This is the location for the 2012 Florida Literacy Coalition Conference. For more information about registration or presenting at conference, please check out our website. 

Creating a Safe Space in the Adult Ed Classroom

In the adult education classroom, where people come from a variety of ethnic, economic and social backgrounds, it is important to create an environment where all students have the opportunity to learn. In order to do this, one must create a safe space.

According to advocates for youth, a safe space is “A place where anyone can relax and be fully self-expressed, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability; a place where the rules guard each person’s self-respect and dignity and strongly encourage everyone to respect others.” If a student feels as if they cannot be themselves or that they are at risk of being hurt, their learning experience will be hindered since their focus will be elsewhere. It goes back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, if someone feels that they are in danger, their concern isn’t going to be learning math.

Several organizations, such as System for Adult Basic Education Support, have chosen to be a resource when teachers ask questions such as “What do I say when a slur comes up in my class?” or “When and how do I introduce anti-oppression, or “teaching tolerance,” materials into my curriculum?” Teachers feel that they need more dialogue and discussion to better understand and respond to controversial and uncomfortable topics. So why is it that we are focused on silence?

Remaining silent about issues might ease the class by preventing confrontation, but it does not lead to a safe environment for students. As a teacher, you should use inclusive language and challenge any slur you hear in the classroom. Use it as an opportunity for learning. Be open to all sorts of differences amongst your students and make sure everyone has the opportunity to learn. Other things you can do include diversifying your curriculum, provide appropriate health care education that applies to different genders, races and sexual orientation, and be a role model by condemning discrimination.

Erika Greene and FLC’s Online Tutor Training Course

Erika Greene

Erika Greene

How did you get involved with this project?

I was very pleased to be invited by Greg Smith, Director, FLC, to join an Online Study Committee established to explore the viability of developing and offering on-line training for potential tutors and teachers.  The team worked together and launched the pilot online training in July 2010.  As the Literacy Coordinator for the Lake County Library System Adult Literacy Program I am constantly recruiting and training volunteer tutors and I was immediately sold on the opportunity to incorporate an online tutor training component into our program.

Why were you interested in facilitating the course?

Being part of the study committee, a program coordinator, and volunteer tutor trainer it was a natural transition to facilitate the pilot course!  I was extremely excited to be able to participate in the online training – not only would I be able to see how it worked but I would be able to provide feedback, input, and guide the new volunteer tutors from Lake County as they traversed this new territory!

What was your interaction with course participants?

I was involved with the new volunteer tutors from the very beginning – recruiting, preparing and educating them on the online training program, providing support and guidance as they worked through the course content, participating in the discussion board topics, and transitioning them to our required face-to-face follow up meeting.

What would you suggest for other facilitators?

It is so very important to be engaged with the volunteer tutors throughout the process.  For some individuals the ‘technology’ can be overwhelming and, at times, discouraging for them.  If you are planning on facilitating your own online training be prepared to be busy!  But the rewards far outweigh the work.  You learn so much about your new potential volunteer tutors and they develop a strong relationship with you as they learn they can trust and depend on you to offer them assistance and support throughout the process.

How do you recruit course participants?

Recruiting volunteer tutors for the online training is similar to the traditional way I recruited tutors.  The only difference is that I stress the need for new volunteers to be comfortable with technology – or at least willing to try and learn!  As the LCLS Adult Literacy Program moves further into the 21st Century we, as a program, need tutors who use and/or are willing to be trained to use technology – hardware, software, the cloud, mobile aps, web-based learning, etc...  The FLC online training is the first step in this process.

For more information on how you can be involved with FLC’s free online training course, please contact schmidta@floridaliteracy.org.