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Adult Literacy and New Technologies - Federation of American ...

Adult Literacy and New Technologies - Federation of American ...

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14 I Adult Literacy and New Technologies: Tools for a Lifetime In North Carolina at the Carver Family Literacy Program, an intergenerational approach to literacy seeks to provide the parent with literacy and parenting skills, and enhance the child’s learning opportunities. icy directives include efforts to improve the quality of services for learners through better coordination across programs, requirements for training and professional development of educational staff and volunteers, and moving toward learning assessments that are outcome-based. It is too soon to know how these “new requirements’ for literacy programs will affect what is offered and who participates, but these are areas that should be followed closely. The limited but promising use of technology is not surprising given the fact that the major Federal adult literacy laws 12 contain no provisions explicitly authorizing the use of technology; the exception is the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) and its authorization of the use of ‘ ‘advanced learning technologies.” However, no programs contain capital budgets for equipment purchase or explicit funding for teacher training in technology. Most statutory and regulatory provisions regarding use of technology are op- tions, not mandates. 13 The Department of Labor, the Department of Education, and the Small Business Innovation Research program have supported a handful of literacy-related technology demonstrations with discretionary money. The newly created National Institute for Literacy funded only three technology projects in its first round of awards. Taken together, the message about use of technology in adult literacy and basic skills programs from the Federal establishment, with the exception of the Department of Defense, has been “go slowly, if at all.” HOW COULD TECHNOLOGY MAKE A DIFFERENCE? Today’s technology offers enormous potential for substantially changing the field of adult literacy. It could provide an alternative to the labor-intensive, tutorial-based teaching that makes up the bulk of today’s literacy training. For instance, multimedia technologies with speech, video, and graphics could offer a new hope for those who have experienced repeated failures in paper-and-pencil-based educational activities. Computer-assisted instruction could enable learners to proceed at their own sped with materials relevant to their lives, tailored to their personal interests, and compatible with their individual 1earning styles. Hand-held electronics, such as pocket language translators, could allow adults to learn on the bus or during coffee breakswhenever they are able to study. Electronic networks could remove the isolation and stigma of low literacy by enabling adults to share experiences in small group discussions. With closed captioning as a standard feature, learners will be able to see and hear the words on broadcast or cable television to reinforce language and 12 For example, the Adult Education Act basic grant prograq Even St@ State Legalization rm~ Ask- -, ~~ Rescttlcmcng ad Adult Education for the Homeless. 13 m *- that do cxisq relating to the National Institute for Literacy ~ b ~~ t of Labor National Workforcc Literacy Collaborative, gcmmlly affect decisions at the Federal level, not programs in the field

eading development. 14 Interactive telecommunications networks could bring the best teachers from around the country to the most remote learners (see box l-D). All this is possible in technologies available today; much more will be possible in the next decade. Yet the full range of capabilities has hardly been touched, OTA finds that technology is not a central consideration for most 1iteracy programs. By the same token, adult literacy applications are not high priorities for most vendors and developers in the technology industry. Computers are the most prevalent technology for literacy, but no more than 15 percent of 1iteracy providers use them regularly for instruction, and many do not use them at all. Much of the av a il able software provides drill and practice, not problem solving: many choices are geared for children. not adults. Advanced capabilities, such as speech recognition, speech generation, or interactive multimedia, are only beginning to be tested. Few literacy providers have sufficient technology for broad usage, or awareness of available software. More serious is the limited knowledge and training among staff and volunteers in the use of technology as a teaching tool. Despite an explosion in cable, public, and commercial television channels and widespread ownership of television sets, there are only a handful of instructional television programs targeted to adult literacy that harness the power of the media. In fact, video technologies are surprisingly underused given their familiarity and availability. A significant amount of hardware and software in businesses, homes, schools, and colleges is underutilized for literacy education. For example, common electronic devices, such as home video game machines, are largely ignored as technologies for literacy. Chapter l-Summary and Policy Options I 15 Box l-D-Distance Learning in Vermont In Vermont, where icy roads can cancel classes and long distances can keep others away, learners from across the State have been working toward their general equivalency diploma (GED) through a series of courses held over Vermont Interactive Television (VIT). The Lou & Dave Show, a 10-week GED mathematics course, enrolled 30 learners gathered at local sites throughout the State. They had a great time learning mathematics, thanks to a blend of show business and team teaching from two of the best adult education instructors in the State, Lou Dorwaldt at one site and Dave Shapiro at another. They use video and on-the-air high jinks to bring mathematics to life, using real-life Vermont situations and people the students know as subjects for mathematics problems, playing custom-made videos that present problemsolving activities in entertainingg ways, and even having ‘‘the spirit of Pythagoras’ make an appearance to talk about his renowned mathematical theories. Learners in remote locations who feel isolated by their low literacy skills found interacting with other adult learners across the State an important psychological boost. The program coordinator suggests some of the other benefits of doing courses over VIT: “It cuts down on the tutors’ regular work time and also frees up more money, not only from the tutors’ workload but by creating our own texts. Students found themselves working in large groups, becoming more self-reliant, while learning how to work and help each other. These are important skills for all adults hoping to function in today’s world. ” l 1 ~ c~~t Basic MuCation: fiPilXld@ Ho~ons ‘“a w“ OnZine, The Newsletter of Vermont Interactive ‘Iklevisio% vol. 2, No. 1, August 1991. Why is there such a wide gap between practice and promise? While the barriers to more effective use of technology are similar to those faced in other arenas (most specifically elementary and secondary education), they are more severe in adult literacy programs. These barriers include needs for an expanded technology base, appropri- 14 me Television Dmoder Circuitry Act of 1990 re@res that all television sets with screen sizes 13 inches or larger, whether manufactured or imported for use in the United States after June 30, 1993, will have captioning capability built directly into the television receiver.

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    e-reading the material, and their j

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    400 350 300 250 20O ‘ >“1 \ I [

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    s ince the mid- 1960s, the Federal

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    Although promising, these efforts c

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    War on Poverty program overseen by

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    somewhat contemporaneously, so it c

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    there is overlap. Both ED and the D

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    to 70 percent) or Head Start childr

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    Chapter 5-The Federal Role in Adult

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    Highly defined subcategories of new

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    set of service delivery issues: how

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    esponding to public concerns about

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    Chapter 5-The Federal Role in Adult

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    experimental funds to promote use o

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    must coordinate or consult; most fr

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    eral agencies to undertake joint ve

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    in Federal law by providing some in

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    Educational gains Support services

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    Advances in technology have “uppe

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    Computer-Based Technologies Chapter

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    Chapter 7-Technology Today: Practic

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    ecorders (VCRS), 27 and61 percent h

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    Many adults use computers in the LA

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    specialized personnel to evaluate h

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    — that provides information criti

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    notes, sounds, graphics, movies, an

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    T oday’s literacy programs are un

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    verify the owner’s request, relay

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    charge, Dave’s mother refused to

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    Guatemala to marry Eduardo when she

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    Through her ESL, parenting, job pre

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    Chapter 8-Looking Ahead to a Future

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    Chapter 8-Looking Ahead to a Future

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    munications capabilities. Ultimatel

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    Issues of Access and Equity These t

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    Chapter 8-Looking Ahead to a Future

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    Boxes Appendix A: List of Boxes, Fi

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    Appendix A-List of Boxes, Figures,

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    Appendix B-Major Federal Adult Lite

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    R = required; E = encouraged; O = o

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    Appendix C-Key Coordination Provisi

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    only discs, new data cannot be stor

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    Tablet or graphics tablet: A comput

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    Appendix F—Workshop Participants,

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    Rob Foshay TRO barring, Inc. Michae

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    Dennis Poe U.S. Department of Healt

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    Appendix G: Contributing Sites Thro

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    Northwest Tri-County Intermediate U

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    ABE. See Adult basic education ACCE

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    technological applications, 120-121

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    National Workplace Literacy Partner

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    workplace literacy, 102, 117-119 Te

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