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

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

16 I

16 I Adult Literacy and New Technologies: Tools for a Lifetime In this Vanderbilt University multimedia project, researchers are exploring how video, graphics, audio, and text can support the acquisition of reading skills. ate software, staff training, and stable funding and continuing support. In addition, the literacy market is fragmented and underdeveloped; not particularly attractive to vendors and software developers. Even so, there are encouraging signs on the horizon as the technology infrastructure expands, investment in literacy education increases, and recognition of the importance of lifelong learning grows. POLICY ISSUES AND OPTIONS The Federal Government has attempted to attack the large, multifaceted problem of low adult literacy skills in a piecemeal fashion. The current array of modest to small programs provides something for almost every type of literacy need but not very much for any, with inefficiencies for all. Although existing literacy programs have helped millions of adults lead richer lives, there are many steps that would expand and improve services for adults with limited literacy skills and lead toward an integrated national strategy for adult literacy. These steps include both major initiatives and smaller, short-term strategies. The first approach is a dramatic refashioning of the Federal role into a new scale of effort with greatly increased funding and higher visibility. The new program would expand, subsume, or replace existing piecemeal efforts. If Congress wants to bring adult literacy up to the level of other Federal programs that offer equal educational opportunities for those most in need (e.g., Chapter 1 and special education at the K-12 level, and Pen grants for higher education), a more comprehensive service delivery system will be necessary. This option is discussed at the conclusion of this section. A more immediate strategy focuses on options for working within the existing system, while giving special attention to technology as a lever

for change and as a resource to benefit learners and programs. OTA has identified three major areas in which congressional action would make a real difference: ■ ■ ■ building the base of technology (hardware and software) for literacy, improving the system of literacy programs and services, and experimenting with new alternatives, both within and outside of the current system to reach more learners. Building a Base of Technology for Literacy To accomplish this goal, two broad strategies are considered: increasing access to technologies and stimulating development of literacy software and programming. Increase Access to Technologles Having access to hardware is the first, most obvious gateway to using technology. If there is to be more technology use in adult literacy programs, the Federal Government must take legislative and regulatory steps that will stimulate and legitimize the use of technology in adult literacy programs and eliminate provisions that inhibit it. This can be done deliberately as Federal program reauthorizations come up, by taking special care to eliminate impediments to use of technology in existing laws and regulations, adding new provisions explicitly encouraging technology, and enacting directives for interagency cooperation on technology in literacyrelated programs. The sooner this is done, the sooner the benefits will appear. Remove Legislative and Administratlve Barriers. OTA’s analysis suggests that while there are few if any direct prohibitions against technology in literacy programs (e.g., legislative language prohibiting use of funds to acquire technology), there are several “indirect” but real impediments. Among them are antisupplanting and eligibility requirements that restrict the use of Chapter l-Summary and Policy Options | 17 equipment to a single target group, such as legalized aliens, even though a program might be providing instruction to a mix of clients including displaced workers, recent immigrants, welfare recipients, or high school dropouts. In addition, separate funding streams and accountability requirements discourage integrated planning, purchase, and use of technology. In some cases, technology is underutilized and certain learners are unable to benefit because courses of instruction or equipment purchases were funded by a program that will not or cannot share these resources with other programs (see box l-E). Other barriers include evaluation or performance standards that emphasize immediate learning gains or employment outcomes, subtly discouraging long-term equipment investments or experimentation with technology-based instruction. Investment in technology is further inhibited by the absence of multiyear contracts in some Federal programs, the small size of most Federal discretionary grants, and a general suspicion among Federal policymakers and program administrators about the use of Federal funds for capital expenditures. Although some States and local communities are finding ways around the maze of regulations, funding streams, and accountability requirements of multiple Federal programs, the Administration could lower the barriers and make it easier for literacy programs to acquire the technology they need. There are critical administrative actions the Federal Government could initiate now, including interagency efforts for planning, implementation, and regulatory revisions to allow costsharing for technology installation and applications. In addition, the Federal Government can improve interagency coordination and thus increase the effectiveness of its adult literacy programs by developing a consistent governmentwide policy on technology for adult literacy and by using the tools of technology-such as integrated databases or teleconferencing-to promote coordina-

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    e-reading the material, and their j

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    T he literacy service delivery ‘

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    Chapter 4-The Literacy System: A Pa

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    400 350 300 250 20O ‘ >“1 \ I [

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    Bell Atlantic Black and Decker Stan

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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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    Chapter &The Federal Role in Adult

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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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    Chapter &The Federal Role in Adult

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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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    Chapter 7-Technology Today: Practic

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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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    PBS PIC PLUS R&D SBIR SCANS SDA SEA

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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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