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?

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.

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.

Apps for Education

Smart phones are becoming increasingly popular. Now that they are becoming more affordable, it is not that uncommon to see people in every economic bracket with one.  The PEW Research Center has completed surveys about the demographics of smart phone users.

I heard about using cell phones as a tool during tutor training at the Adult Literacy League. But after the trainer explained how she came to it, it made complete sense. Her student wanted to practice the new words he was learning, but didn’t want to be embarrassed as a grown man using flash cards.  After many trail and error experiments, they found an application that would work well for both of them.  I decided to compile a list of 4-5 applications for the most popular smart phones.  I suggest that you try out a couple and see what works for your student. The gFlash allows you as the tutor to upload a list of words for your student to use, or you can download a list already made by someone else.   All of the Dictionary.com applications include audio so users can see how the word is spelled and hear how it is pronounced.  Is there anything else you would add?

IPHONE

Flash cards + $0.99 English Voice download- FREE
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/flashcards/id408490162?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D2

Dictionary.com (includes pronunciation button) – FREE
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dictionary.com-flashcards/id446342262?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D2

Math games- FREE
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/my-math-flash-cards-app/id412496588?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D2

World Lens (Translates street signs) – FREE
http://www.eschoolnews.com/2011/01/07/10-of-the-best-apps-for-education/2/?

Top 50 iPhone apps for Educators
http://oedb.org/library/features/top_50_iphones_for_educators

ANDROID

Spanish-English Dictionary ColorDict Dictionary- FREE
http://tech4world.net/the-best-android-applications-for-education.html

Math Wizard- FREE
http://www.appsnews.org/2010/06/mathwizard-android-app-review/

gFlash (create your own flashcards)- FREE
http://www.androidapp101.com/gflash-android-app-1381.html

Dictionary.com(includes pronunciation button)- FREE
http://www.androidapp101.com/dictionary-com-flashcards-android-app-2161.html

BLACKBERRY

gFlash PRO flashcards (create your own or download someone elses)- $4.99
http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/content/134?lang=en

Math Flash- FREE
http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/content/28944?lang=en

Student Notes (good for those studying for the GED)- FREE
http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/content/37789?lang=en

Learn to Write- FREE
http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/content/27646?lang=en

Dictionary and Thesaurus.com- FREE
http://appworld.blackberry.com/webstore/content/3626?lang=en