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

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

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22 | Adult Literacy and New Technologies: Tools for a Lifetime Telecommunications technologies can be used to expand adult literacy services and programs. sive workplace literacy programs. Social services counselors and ESL instructors might also benefit from joint training, as they learn more about the multiple needs and concerns of their clients. Collaborative professional development efforts could help to break down walls that exist between service providers funded from different sources, possibly creating a broader base for the profession. Distance learning technologies could greatly facilitate multistate and multiagency training efforts by serving teachers and trainers in different locations and small programs. Federal Star Schools legislation now authorizes adult literacy instruction, and the telecommunications partnerships formed to serve adult learners could also provide training to literacy staff and volunteers. The most highly skilled teacher trainers, whether in community colleges, universities, or workplace programs, could train literacy instructors, counselors, and volunteers over interactive networks. Materials, strategies, and lesson plans could be created and shared over computer networks. Support Adult Literacy Curricula and Graduate- Level Programs. Most adult literacy teachers and staff have received very limited specialized training in their field, and few universities offer advanced degree programs in adult literacy edu- cation. Yet the challenges of adult literacy demand expertise in a range of areas: diagnosing and teaching adults with learning disabilities, creating curricula to meet the needs of culturally diverse populations, applying adult learning theory, and using technology-all in addition to acquiring the substantive knowledge to teach reading, writing, mathematics, GED subjects, and so forth. Developing master’s level programs and curricula is an essential step for producing a cadre of professional staff. Through the National Institute for Literacy (NIL), the National Center for Adult Literacy (NCAL), or the State resource centers, the Department of Education could work with universities to develop graduate programs. Another approach is to use distance learning technologies to pull together the resources and expertise of universities or regional consortia. One interesting prototype is the National Technological University-a consortium of engineering colleges and universities that provides advanced training and courses to engineers. This consortium was supported by the Department of Commerce’s Public Telecommunications Facilities Program-a resource that could be tapped by the literacy community to bring together the necessary mix of faculty and programs. Additional Federal support can be channeled through the Department of Education’s Fund for Improvement in Post Secondary Education, NIL grants, or new specialized grant competitions. These programs could also target the development and distribution of innovative educational materials that bring instructional research, strategies, and resources to prospective and current teachers. Materials developed with this support should be made available in a range of technological formats, from tapes that can be taken home for review to state-of-the-art multimedia materials that can be distributed over networks. Assist States With Their Professional Standards and Certification Guidelines. Almost one-half of the States have no special certification require-

ments for adult literacy teachers, and this has contributed to the low professional status of adult literacy education. If program quality is to be improved, more rigorous standards must be established for all adult literacy educators. Certification is traditionally a State responsibility, but the Department of Education could assist by disseminating model standards. States such as New York, Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts are leaders in this area, and their experience could guide others. The Federal Government might also support efforts to develop regional or national teacher certification guidelines, or ask the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to include a special assessment for adult education instructors. Similar approaches at the State level could be developed for increasing the professional standards for volunteer tutors. Working from the models developed for tutor training by Literacy Volunteers of America or Laubach Literacy Action, States could develop certificate programs for volunteer training that would enhance the status, confidence, and effectiveness of volunteers. States could support volunteer agencies in their efforts to systematize standards for volunteer recruitment, training, and supervision. Recruit More Teachers. If adult literacy programs hope to serve more than 10 percent of the target population, they will surely need more teachers. One potential source of new staff is military trainers being released as bases are closed and force levels are cut. Trainers from military basic skills education programs already have expertise in teaching adults, and many have extensive experience in technology-based instruction. To the extent that Congress establishes programs and provides funding to speed the conversion from military to civilian employment, it could capitalize on these trainers’ skills by providing incentives for work in adult basic education, workplace literacy, and family literacy programs. Increased funding for additional literacy teachers could also be provided in other Chapter l-Summary and Policy Options | 23 Federal literacy-related programs such as VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). If enacted, the new proposal for a Volunteer Service Corps for college students could be structured to include training of volunteers for adult literacy. Encourage Coordination, Integrated Services, and Partnerships Although some argue that the multitude of service providers and funding sources offers a rich variety of options and approaches, most agree that this disparate system creates problems for learners and diminishes program efficiency. There is often a mismatch between learner needs and program offerings; services are further restricted by a program’s source of tiding, target population requirements, location, and other factors. Many small programs are unable to aggregate the kinds of resources needed for planning, staffing, training, technology, and comprehensive services. Better coordination would leverage resources more effectively and improve services to clients. Coordination must begin at the Federal level; mandates for State and local coordination are undercut when the Federal house is not in order. Expand Federal Interagency Coordination. The National Literacy Act provisions for interagency coordination are a starting point for bringing coherence to the adult literacy field. The act mandates that NIL enlist cooperation among the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services. If it is to reduce the fragmentation of literacy efforts, this interagency group should be expanded to involve the Department of Agriculture (Food Stamp program), ACTION (VISTA literacy volunteers), the Department of the Interior (Indian adult education), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (programs for public housing residents and the homeless), the Department of Justice (correctional education), the Department of Defense (basic skills training), and NSF (educational technology R&D and teacher training). All have

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    s ince the mid- 1960s, the Federal

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    War on Poverty program overseen by

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    somewhat contemporaneously, so it c

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    Educational gains Support services

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    ecorders (VCRS), 27 and61 percent h

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    specialized personnel to evaluate h

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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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    munications capabilities. Ultimatel

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    Issues of Access and Equity These t

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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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