Family Literacy and Technology - Discussion with Dr. Jeri Levesque - Transcript - 2001

Family Literacy and Technology - Discussion with Dr. Jeri Levesque - Transcript

Full Transcript of the Discussion

A. List Moderator's introduction of this Guest Moderator Session, and of Jeri Levesque.

Hi all. Beginning next Wednesday, January 24, Jeri Levesque will be our guest discussion leader on the NIFL-Family list. The discussion will focus on, "Can family literacy programs prepare families for a technology-driven society?" Jeri just recently addressed this very question in the last issue of "Focus on Basics." Following this message, I will post another message that has this article from the "Focus on Basics" quarterly publication. Please read this article and be prepared to ask questions, make comments, agree/disagree, and join in a great time of sharing with Jeri. I asked her to give us some personal information about herself so you would be able to identify with her more closely. I know many of you know her already from all the work she has done, so this will feel like "chatting" with a good friend. So, here is her introduction:

I'm a reading specialist via a long ago high school social studies teacher from NE Connecticut. I've got a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. I'm an Associate Professor at Webster University where I've taught since 1989, I'm an early bird to family literacy dating back to my first funded (ABE Special Demonstration 353) project in 1989 called The PAPER Project (Parents and Preschoolers: Emerging Readers) an intergenerational emerging literacy curriculum based on children's literature. What followed was one of the country's first Student Literacy Corps where we recruited, trained, and supervised university tutors in community settings. Nearly 12 years later, I opened a new semester today and placed one student in a family literacy program. We did a 3 year Corporation for National Service grant to have a family literacy, school based, teen parents, high school and university tutors and community agencies project in urban St. Louis. (there's a nice article on this in the Reading Teacher) Later, we (LIFT/Webster/ UMO) were funded for Missouri READS, under the America Reads Challenge. We were cited by the Fed for promising and innovative practices by using reading teachers as online mentors to model and support reflective practice for our university tutors. (we're in the guide So Every Child Can Read...) We've used the same model successfully for the past two summers with our Americorps*VISTA summer associates program with university tutors and community based settings. I founded a graduate family literacy course and then received NCFL Basic and Advanced Training. Then Webster formed a partnership with LIFT-Missouri and I was loaned for 2 years to develop, direct and/or evaluate family literacy, adult literacy and LD, health literacy and workplace literacy projects. In addition to this. in early 2000 I worked with the Children's Librarian at the St. Louis Public Library where we completed a two year US Department of Education project with OERI to establish a family literacy program. I served as a project evaluator.

The President of Webster, Dr. Richard Meyers has just announced his plan to establish a new Center for Literacy Study and Advancement in a 150 year old massive building affectionately called the Old Post Office in an urban renewal center of metropolitan St. Louis. I am within hours past accepting a full time administrative appointment to lead this effort to establish a midAmerican center for literacy studies. Meanwhile, will continue to act as Project Director for the Missouri Statewide Even Start Family Literacy Initiative, present PACT workshops statewide for practitioners concerned with technology and its use with parents and their young children, and continue to promote and support continuous local program improvement through collaborative action research and evaluation. I'm also developing a Workplace Literacy curriculum for unemployed youth (17-22) centered on substance abuse issues. I am currently conducting an action research study with 2 Even Start projects to apply the findings from the National Reading Panel's Preventing Reading Difficulties study to family literacy. I am mother to a 24 year old med student, a graduating college senior with a pile of law school applications, a 15 year old daughter with a driver's permit, a great husband who has managed for 29 1/2 years to support a very busy academic, scholar, practitioner, evaluator etc. ...

So, everyone, be sure to join in this discussion. Later, in the next few months, we will also have some other "greats" in the field of family literacy, adult education, and parenting education: Laura Bercovitz, Doug Powell, Jennifer Cromley, Meta Potts, and Diane D'Angelo, so stay tuned. This list is getting ready to really take off in some neat discussions with our guests.

Nancy Sledd, Training Specialist
NIFL-Family List Moderator
National Center for Family Literacy
Louisville, KY
Committed to Excellence in Family Literacy Services

Now, tomorrow, Jeri will join us on the list to discuss this article. So, begin posting questions tomorrow for Jeri. The discussion will focus on, "Can family literacy programs prepare families for a technology-driven society?" Jeri just recently addressed this very question in the last issue of "Focus on Basics."

Please read this article and be prepared to ask questions, make comments, agree/disagree, and join in a great time of sharing with Jeri. If you missed her article last week, go to - these archives are no longer available - and read message number 3353. If you would like to read Jeri's "bio," read message 3351 at the same site.

So, please begin posting your questions for Jeri.

[Note: In this Summary of our Guest Question and Answer Session, our Guest's words will be in italics.]

B. Focus article for this discussion: "Across The Great Divide" by Jeri Levesque.

"Across the Great Divide: Can family literacy programs prepare families for a technology-driven society? The potential is there."

by Jeri Levesque

Family literacy programs strive to promote school success in children and economic self- sufficiency in parents by integrating intergenerational literacy activities with parents' life-centered demands. How do family literacy projects integrate educational technologies and prepare families for success in a society increasingly dependent upon, even driven by, technology?

I explored this question as a statewide evaluation consultant for a Midwestern state's Even Start family literacy programs. Over the course of one year, I visited nine program sites to observe and interview family literacy staff. I also taught five Internet and three distance-learning workshops for practitioners, e-mailed an Internet technology survey to 12 project directors (only four of whom responded), and reviewed local programs' annual evaluation reports.

During my site visits I never once observed an adult learner using the Internet. Few computers were wired to the Internet, since much of the equipment I saw was from the Apple IIe era. I frequently observed adults practicing keyboard skills such as typing, making personal greeting cards using the Print Shop(tm) program, and practicing basic study skills using a software program. These observations are in line with a recent federal report (NTIA, 1999a), which concluded that there is a gap between those who have access to new technologies and those who do not. My observations confirm the NTIA conclusion that adults with less education, especially low-income parents in family literacy programs, who could perhaps benefit most from the Internet's educational value, are being left behind in terms of their skills and familiarity with technology.

The Reality

The nine program directors I visited identified use of computers and the Internet as a strong interest of many parents in their programs. For example, one adult educator reported that women in her program significantly increased their attendance when they were given e-mail addresses and daily access to the Internet. However, she later abolished Internet access when she discovered that all of the women were signing into chat rooms to find men to date. Three women dropped out of the program when their computer access was eliminated. Conversely, another director stated that she encouraged her learners' use of e-mail pen pals, journal writing, parenting research, and writing development on the computers. She reported higher retention and attention rates as a direct consequence of her center's increased access to educational technology.

I toured each program's computer lab to determine how adult learners use technology on a daily basis. Every site had a battery of computers reserved for the PLATO software program, which provides practice exercises and computer-assisted preparation for taking the tests of General Educational Development (GED). It was often loaded on the newest and most powerful desktop computers. However, a licensing agreement between the software manufacturer and the division of Adult Basic Education forbade any access to the Internet or use of other software on these computers. How will these adults learn to use the Internet if access is forbidden in a publicly funded educational program?

Most of the nine programs reported some degree of technical support for their computer systems, especially in-service training, from their local school districts. The existence of computers does not, however, mean that they are used. The gap between practitioners willing to integrate technology into their teaching and those who shun computers still exists. One program director expressed regret for not "pushing" her staff enough and making them comfortable with computers or adequately preparing them to meet adult learners' increasing technology needs. Three program directors from well-established family literacy programs credited the lack of computer instructional creativity and usage to their adult educators' limited formal training in teaching methodologies, minimal computer literacy, and a high degree of reluctance to use the Internet in any capacity.

The program directors were consistent in their view that regardless of age or literacy abilities, many parents perceive computer literacy as a key skill for getting "good jobs" and ensuring their children's school success. Parents appear to understand that their children need computers to access information, do homework, and develop job skills. Many parents believe that their families' economic plight further disadvantages their children in school because they could not afford a home computer or Internet access. This is the "Matthew Effect" (Stanovich, 1986): the technologically rich get richer, and the technologically poor get poorer. The two cases that follow are examples of this phenomenon.

Recycled Technology

One rural site I visited was based in a renovated home with two bedrooms designated as computer labs. All of the computers were donated by local businesses. The first lab housed three long worktables holding a conglomerate of hardware. There were two color monitors among the older amber- or green-on-black screens. Most computers were in need of serious repair. Each computer was dedicated to a particular learning software package and only one was connected to a printer. The only computer connected to the Internet was in the teacher's office. When asked about his views on the educational applications of the Internet, he replied that he did not see any particular usefulness of "cyberspace" for teaching adults or passing the GED.

This program's second computer lab was reserved for post-GED adult education students who continued to receive support while writing term papers for their courses at the local community college. This lab had a dot matrix printer and older desk jet printer connected to four computers. On the middle table sat three lap top computers. The screens of two laptops were propped up with sand-filled coffee cans. Surely, I thought, this is the far side of the digital divide.

This case may seem extreme, yet I found similar attitudes and arrangements in suburban, urban, and other rural sites. Much of the technology used in the programs was acquired secondhand from local schools and businesses. Of most concern, however, was the lack of any reference to computer-assisted instruction or the Internet in seven of the 12 evaluation reports I reviewed. The scenario seemed odd to me, since I have had a technologically enriched K-12 and university teaching background, yet it was familiar to many family literacy practitioners.

Navigating Obstacles

I visited a rural family literacy program in its fourth year of operation. The program director, a strong advocate of educational technology, included a computer lab in her first funding proposal and her staff regularly attended in-service computer sessions. She cited two barriers to fully integrating technology with her family literacy program components. The first was the refusal of her adult basic education instructor to use computer-aided instruction software or allow her students to use a word processor to prepare for the GED. The teacher's position remained steadfast, despite attending annual computer and educational technology workshops sponsored by the state's literacy resource center. The site director responded to this problem by recruiting two volunteer faculty members and one student volunteer from a nearby university to work with parents outside of the GED class. She also shifted the adult learners' use of computers and the Internet to the parenting component of the program, which was taught by other staff and supported by the volunteers. The parenting component of family literacy programs helps adult learners to explore important subjects related to parenting and family life. This center's philosophy supported Internet technology as a means for parents to address many topics while also identifying and solving problems associated with parenting and life skills. To achieve this goal, all staff and interested adults at this center were provided with free e-mail accounts. Several staff members attended training sessions in web site design and development, and helped set up a web site for the program. The staff and parents worked together to update the web site quarterly. Parents routinely researched parenting concerns, ranging from diagnosing and treating children's earaches to local employment opportunities. They regularly used search engines to locate information, write reports about their research, and then present their findings during weekly sessions of Parenting Time. Creative writing assignments became so popular that the program purchased a scanner for parents to use to illustrate books and add to family portfolios.

The second challenge was a directive by the Department of Health, Bureau of Licensure, which, in accordance with child safety policies, forced the removal of the computers from the infant/toddler rooms. Center-based family literacy programs encourage parents and their children to play in the preschool classroom, where everyone is comfortable with the setting, daily routines, and rules of behavior. The computers were previously used in this room during Parent and Child Together (PACT) time. The PACT component of a family literacy program is designed to provide parents with strategies to support children's learning in the home. During PACT time parents and their toddlers and preschool children played with interactive software games and other family-oriented learning activities. The director also noted that the colorful and animated screen savers provided babies with visual stimulation. Some parents were upset with the notion that the "authorities" declared the computers to be a "bad thing for little children."

The program had also been donated a variety of recycled computers and software including old Apple IIe computers with Title I software on floppy disks. These reading readiness programs were loaned to the parents for home use. Parents received additional coaching on the computer during regular home visits by staff. After four years, only one of these computers was lost or destroyed. The one in question succumbed to insect infestation, not a computer virus.

The computer home loan program, although highly valued by parents, also revealed a serious, unforeseen problem. All of the parents wanted to borrow the computers. Typically, parents became excited by the possibility of owning a home computer and wanted to go out and buy one. Several families became involved in scams concocted by disreputable firms that sold poor-quality equipment with overpriced financing schemes. However, observed the director, this financial horror led to group lessons on financing during parenting group sessions. Later, and as a direct result of this experience, two single parents set and attained goals that included getting jobs and buying home computers.

Spanning the Gap

If the nation expects to address its citizens' literacy challenges, funders must make family literacy programs' access to high-quality technology resources and appropriate professional development activities for program staff a high priority (National Literacy Summit, 2000). The digital divide - the gap between those who have access to new technologies and those who do not - is a significant civil rights, economics, and educational issue (NTIA, 1999a). The demographics of the technologically underserved population bears a strong resemblance to at-risk adults and their children served by family literacy programs. These adults are especially affected when they arrive at job interviews without computer skills. The problem also affects their children, who engage in schooling without the support of Internet information and word-processing capabilities. The divide is only increasing (NTIA, 1999a).

I observed digital learning environments that connected families with meaningful information and the motivation to learn how to become skilled readers. This motivation raised issues regarding appropriate use of an Internet service that is paid for by a literacy program but may be covertly accessed to advance an adult learner's personal agenda for learning. In two of the programs I visited, adult learners were encouraged to join their local libraries, which provided free Internet access. Recently, the state Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) division expanded its capacity for educational technology by contracting with an Internet-based study skills bank and providing each literacy site with more computers. One program director wrote a grant to have the library provide Internet search training and other technical assistance to her program's participants. According to The Children's Partnership (1999), much online content is designed for users with discretionary money to spend, and many Internet sites are written at reading levels too high for basic education learners. However, the desire to locate and understand information of choice is a powerful motivation. Whether an adult learner is motivated by a desktop publishing project involving family stories and personal greeting cards, or by practicing for a standardized achievement test, family literacy programs should and, with creativity, can match these personal learning goals with appropriate educational technology.

Family literacy programs use technology well when they use it to address learners' learning goals and interests. Family literacy practitioners and tutors need paid professional development opportunities in which to explore new instructional concepts about Internet learning, distance learning, and to develop creative methods of computer-assisted instruction. These staff development sessions should infuse technology with PACT, early childhood, adult and parenting content.

Family literacy practitioners understand that the education of children and their parents is interconnected. Connecting literacy learning with technology is a powerful means of breaking the intergenerational cycle of low educational levels and poverty. Family literacy programs have the programmatic structure to integrate educational technologies with play activities shared by parents and their preschool children. While many of the programs I evaluated are not yet doing so, they can help adults to use technology to achieve personal learning goals, develop communication skills, accommodate individual learning styles and disabilities, enhance self-esteem, and increase employability skills. Closing the digital divide is essential for age-appropriate educational success and economic self-sufficiency.


National Literacy Summit 2000 Steering Committee (2000). From the Margins to the Mainstream: An Action Agenda for Literacy. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.

NTIA. (1999a). "Falling Through the Net: Defining the Digital Divide. A Report on the Telecommunications and Information Technology Gap in America. July 1999." Washington, DC: National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.

NTIA (1999b). Fact Sheet: Boosting the Odds for Internet Use. Stanovich, K. (1986). "Matthew effects in reading: Some consequences of individual differences in the acquisition of literacy." Reading Research Quarterly, 21 (4),360-407.

The Children's Partnership (1999). "Online content for low-income and underserved Americans: The digital divide's new frontier." Santa Monica, CA: The Children's Partnership.

About the Author

Jeri A. Levesque is Associate Professor in the School of Education at Webster University in St. Louis. She evaluates numerous family literacy grant projects working closely with LIFT-Missouri, the state's literacy resource center. She serves as a statewide family literacy evaluation consultant for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Project Director for a Statewide Even Start Family Literacy Initiative.

C. Discussion: Subscribers' and Jeri's postings (includes helpful websites for programs).

Hi Jeri, and welcome to this list as the guest discussion leader. I enjoyed reading your article and the descriptions of the various conditions of computers in the family literacy programs. Like Jane Meyers, I was seeing many programs I have visited in your article.

I want to share with you about a program I was in yesterday in another state. There were four computers in this room with rather up-to-date equipment: color monitors, laser printer connected to two of the computers, GED programs on two of the computers, and Internet access on all four computers. Throughout the day, students were on the computers. From where I was sitting, I could see what they were doing on the computers. Although there was quite a bit of use of the word processor (they were preparing their notes for speeches they were to give later in the day), several were effectively using the Internet. Here are some of the tasks they were doing on the Internet: looking up employment opportunities in that community, using AskJeeves (search engine) to find answers to several questions about projects they were working on in class, downloading job descriptions, checking out costs of different cellular phones (several students had recently purchased cellular phones through plans offered in the local newspaper), and one search was to find out how the M&M candies got their name (we never did find out what M&M stands for!).

This was exciting for me, because most of my experiences in classrooms were similar to yours. The students in this classroom were very comfortable on the Internet and using the search engines. And yet, the instructor shared with me her own lack of confidence in using the computers as instructional tools and has signed up to take some classes this summer at the local community college on how to incorporate use of computers in the classroom. I applaud her for recognizing something in which she wants more professional development and going after it. By the way, this classroom also has about 45 minutes - one hour a day dedicated to using the KY Educational Television's Workplace Essential Skills program which utilizes videos, workbooks, and internet.

Jeri, could you give some examples of how teachers with little or no experience in using computer-assisted instruction could begin to wade into these new waters? Do you know of particular internet sites that have been particularly useful for parents? Are there any simple lesson plans you can share with us?

And, again, thanks for being with us on this list.

Nancy Sledd, NIFL-Family list moderator
National Center for Family Literacy
Louisville, KY

From: Tracy Marich Thank you for posting this wonderful article! It certainly puts our mission into perspective.

I saw my own Even Start program in Jeri's article on technology in family literacy. It was perfect timing because last week when I met with our coapplicant and our Even Start staff to talk about ideas for next year's grant application both suggested updating technology. Yesterday I made a plan to update our hardware and software. Thanks for printing the article - it made a difference to me and to my program. Sometimes I just need a jump start!

Jane Meyer Canton, Ohio Even Start

Hello Nancy, Computer/Internet "literacy" seems as age bound as phonics lessons. My younger undergraduate students are much more comfortable with the Internet than my MAT students who are all teachers. I'm not surprised to see learners in family literacy programs be more apt to risk an Internet search than their teachers. First of all, teachers tend to feel that they are morally bound to know something "inside out" before they are ready to teach. Only Al Gore dared to claim parentage of the Internet, and he never mentioned being in the garage with Steve Jobs putting Apples together.

Teachers should begin at a level of technology where they feel comfortable. Let's say, public television. Can we teach TV and use the Internet? Yes. One of the better "reading research driven" programs is PBS "Between the Lions". Go to

The show airs here in St. Louis at 3 pm. It's best viewed by taping the show and going back through a segment and a lesson at a time. Teachers can down load lesson plans and black line masters dealing with the alphabetic principles, phonemic awareness, comprehension, vocabulary, writing etc. The interesting thing about the program is that the use of humor puts many activities at the adult level while still concrete for children (remember the Muppets' movie where they had to turn left at the fork in the road - and sure enough there was the fork - flatware as well as two paths!) I am working with family lit teachers responsible for parenting, PACT, EC Ed, and Adult Ed. using this program and having them do the exercises on the Internet. The connection between "low tech" VCR's and "high tech" Internet content in a class room is an exciting way to provide professional development. I highly recommend signing up for Paw Prints, the weekly newsletter. It's a simple way to remind teachers, and parents, that the content changes every week. There is an archive of all 30 episodes.

As for lesson plans and a gentle introduction to online teaching and learning - visit the site Lightspan I just checked out preschool teachers. January's topic is what to do when you bring in a pet to the classroom and it dies. It has vignettes from other preschool teachers and other activities. It's a good place to explore as a newcomer to web teaching.

Next, is to select sites that help staff deal with Parenting. Imagine a virtual visit inside of your womb to visit your unborn baby while sitting in a family literacy class room! Students with email addresses can receive weekly updates about their baby's development. A warning here, most parenting sites are sponsored by corporations eager to sell lotions, potions, car seats, and diaper services. These are excellent opportunities for lessons on Consumer Law. At our LIFT-Missouri web site we posted links to all of the sites I use in my PACT workshops to introduce practitioners to Internet teaching. These sites deal with child development, specifically sites on brain development and learning, and then Parenting issues.

I start a new series tomorrow, Tim Ponder will be posting a new series of links for our workshops. We can also upload my hand outs. So, Nancy, these aren't training wheels for biking down the Internet Highway - they're 10 speed connections to using technology to advance family literacy instructional practices.

Jeri Levesque, Ed.D.
Associate Professor, Webster University
Program Consultant, LIFT-Missouri

I am an Even Start coordinator in rural Vermont with a passion for using quality, inexpensive computer software to foster learning. Vermont provides some unique challenges and opportunities. Here are a variety of ways I have begun to increase computer use:

  • I avoid high priced tutorial packages--so many of them are little more than workbooks on a computer screen. Because our 50 families are up to 25 miles in every direction from my office, we don't invest in our own computer lab. We use computers in their homes (theirs or ones we purchase) or at their children's schools. I use the internet for my own research but not much with students because phone costs and hookups can be expensive and tricky in Vermont.
  • Loaning children's software to those even start families who have computers. 25-50% of our families have a computer in the home with a CD ROM. I have one family living in a two room trailer without a kitchen table or a working stove that has a relatively new computer from "rent-a-center". The Dad mostly logs onto chat rooms. In home visits I've brought Millie's Math House and Millie & Bailey Kindergarten. Both are outstanding programs that I purchased home copies of from Edmark's internet site for $10.00 each . Both programs provide top quality education with the opportunity for learning from "mistakes" and also to "explore & discover". The two children (preschool and Kindergarten) love the software and I have observed Dad helping them learn in ways that are much more appropriate than what I see during PACT time in the classroom. I also brought a CD ROM guide to children's development that I picked up for $7.99 at a local children's toy store. Dad has never mentioned reading a book, but he is excited about viewing & reading the CD ROM guide. I left it with him--box unopened-- and asked him to preview it and introduce me to it at my next home visit. I plan on doing this with another 5-10 families, providing primarily edmark software--it's so experiential and adjusts automatically to the skill of the user, and is easy to understand and use--matched to the skills of the parents and children (ages 3 & up).
  • Teaching after school PACT for Even Start families with kids in grades k-2. We use the school's computer lab and parents meet their children after school and all come to the lab for fun and learning.
  • Teaching basic encoding and decoding along with keyboarding to a family in which Mom and two school age children all read below the 3rd grade level. I'm purchasing for this long term, steady Even Start family a computer with CD ROM and windows 95 or Mac 7.5 or better operating system and the home version of Read, Write Type !($79). This software is based on current reading research and brain research and funded in part by NICHD (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development). It's the most promising literacy software I have ever seen. View it at

Judith Lashof
Rutland Region Even Start Coordinator
Rutland, VT

Although I don't yet use the internet much for teaching, I want to recommend a website and book that I will use as I have opportunities to teach Even Start adults through the internet. It's by Don Leu who was a consultant on the National Workplace Literacy grant I administered before Even Start. Don is one of the most supportive and helpful professors I have ever met. His book is "Teaching with the Internet: Lessons from the Classroom" Each chapter of the book has an online page of internet sites of use for teaching that chapters topic. These sites can be found at

Judith Lashof
Rutland Region Even Start Coordinator
Rutland, VT

Judith, Your students and teachers are really taking advantage of educational technology. Your posting reminded me of an excellent on-line tool to help students learn expository writing - The Internet Public Library at In addition to many content focused web pages it also has a research and writing tutorial (A+ Research & Writing) by Kathryn Schwartz. It walks the reader through researching and writing papers, finding things in cyber space and linking to other online resources.

I will look up the book you recommended. I'm using Education on the Internet by Ertmer et al (Merrill, 2000) because it came free with another text.

Has anyone had success with web tv as a source of home computer access for families in your programs?

Jeri Levesque, Ed.D.
Associate Professor, Webster University
Program Consultant, LIFT-Missouri

Thanks for the suggestions - both in Friday's workshop and here on line. The Ertmer and Leu books sound interesting and maybe they will answer my question.

As you mentioned in your article - and since most of my experience is with the same programs you visited - I've also yet to see an adult learner on the internet in a Fam. Lit. program. Certainly, staff resistance and funding limitations are major hurdles but I've also found that many students are resistant to anything that they perceive might further delay their GED progress (ie, learning keyboarding skills). And, of course, low self-esteem can make tackling this new technology especially daunting for some students.

As we discussed on Friday, PACT may be overlooked as a "teachable moment" for adult student's computer skills. Many students who are unwilling to take on a new challenge for their own benefit will do so for the benefit of their child. There are a variety of fun learning programs for young children and access to such programs during PACT time may provide a "painless" means of introducing basic mouse and keyboard skills to adult students.

--Kate Northcott
Family Literacy Coordinator, Lemay Child and Family Center
Research Assistant, LIFT-Missouri

Jeri, Kate and others who are interested in the use of technology in family literacy,

I have put together a small collection of on-line PACT resources. I wonder if you would have a look and let me know if there are other online resources which might be included. I also wonder what you think of the resources I have listed. (Most people seem to like "Ants on a Bannana Bus" best.) You'll find these in the family center on E-Square (an electronic square for adult learners) at (Scroll down the page, click on Esquare2 to "turn the corner", then click on the family center.)

David J. Rosen

David and Kate, Esquare 2 <; is an outstanding resource to encourage parents to work with the Internet. Thank you David for sharing the site with the list. When the school bus popped up followed by the many links I was truly "had from the get-go". I am eager to use this with practitioners at our next PACT On-line workshop.

At our last workshop there was a strong interest in ESL sites for parents. Any suggestions?

Kate has also raised a key concern that spending time on a computer in some way delays an adult's progress toward GED achievement. Could we compile a collection of interactive tutorials for GED prep? These might include math, reading, science etc. We also need clear messages for adult learners regarding the critical importance of crossing the digital divide as related to family, work and communities.

One activity stuck with me from Friday's workshop. I introduced a children's book, Going Lobstering by Jerry Pallotta and Rob Bolster. I wanted a topic that the participants' would have less schema to build from than well known topics (remember we're in the confluence of the country's two biggest rivers but there's not a lobster to be found in them!). To build background knowledge I asked them to use a search engine to learn more about lobsters. Though I had a site selected, I sat back while they searched. The variety of resources was terrific. One search netted math trivia facts about lobsters, another puzzle games, there was the history of lobstering, a marine biology page. We were all reading aloud - quizzing each other - playing with riddles and figuring out how much an air freight meal from Maine would cost. Then we moved into a dozen ideas for PACT which grew from the search. I think a key to adults seeing the relevance of Internet use comes with a debriefing of "what we just learned - how it connects or disconnects to my educational goals (what skills did I practice) - and how I can build on this new learning experience as a parent, a worker and a member of my community.

Jeri Levesque Webster University LIFT-Missouri

At 01:03 PM 1/29/01 -0500, you wrote: >At our last workshop there was a strong interest in ESL sites for parents. >Any suggestions?


Here's a page of ESL sites to check through:

Music sites for ESL:

Eva Easton

Thank you Eva!

These are excellent resources for teaching ESL parents. I bookmarked it and will add it to our site resources.

Do you have any favorite strategies for working with ESL parents on the Internet?

Jeri Levesque
Associate Professor, Webster University

NIFL-Family Colleagues, On Mon, 29 Jan 2001, Jeri Levesque wrote:

> Kate has also raised a key concern that spending time on a computer in some > way delays an adult's progress toward GED achievement. Could we compile a > collection of interactive tutorials for GED prep? These might include math, > reading, science etc. We also need clear messages for adult learners > regarding the critical importance of crossing the digital divide as related > to family, work and communities.

I would like to recommend a Web site which integrates project-based learning and GED social studies learning in a virtual visit to a nineteenth century mill. It was made by Massachusetts GED teacher, Wendy Quinones and her students, and most of the writing -- and the Web page design -- was done by students. You will find it at

David J. Rosen

Here is a list of sites covering almost every aspect of learning English as a Second Language; Chat, grammar, quizzes, idioms and much more. Sites typically include in-depth resources for each of the areas included: Grammar, Listening, Communication and Teacher's Help. I am sorry for not including all of the direct links. However, a quick search should do the job.


Helmer A. Duverg
Family Literacy Training Specialist
National Center for Family Literacy
Louisville, KY is probably the most in-depth English learning site on the Internet. Emphasis in this site is on English as it is spoken in England. The site has well-designed exercises and excellent reading and grammar sections.
Englishtown is translated into 8 languages, and has learning games, bulliten boards where you can ask grammar and culture questions, a location for ESL/EFL teachers, a pen pal club, and a school where you can take classes online.
Site offering vocabulary, learning tips, grammar and games as well as a newsletter. The site is relatively new and limited, but I expect will grow rapidly.
A very trendy to place to learn English, English, baby! brings people around the world to America, and teaches them English based on an application model. Targeting a young audience, members have access to lessons that change daily and are based on American pop-culture such as today's hottest music and movies. Attention you will learn a lot of slang here!
This extensive commercial English site looks quite promising. There is a well-rounded selection of tasks, communication, reference, grammar and teacher resources.

English Made in Brazil
A helpful site for Portuguese speakers. Comprehensive resources provided with a special emphasis on helping Portuguese speakers with reference pages such as false cognates (Portuguese - English). Includes some interesting background on some of the most important linguists in the ESL field.
Excellent site for advanced learners of English and teachers. Resources include; grammar, reading, lessons, games, discussions and more. There is a lot of precise information about tense usage and a new lesson every week as well as a lesson archive.

The English Zone
A great non-commercial site with plenty of grammar, idiom, jokes, reading and writing and much more.

ESL Flow
ESL Flow is a brilliant site using a flowchart metaphor. Grammar concepts are cleverly organized into functional patterns for which an impressive array of linked resources from the Web are employed. Resources are organized both for students and teachers and include grammar, speaking, dialogues, readings handouts and lesson plans.

ESL Partyland
Fun site loaded with over 75 interactive quizzes, and 15 discussion forums for students. On the teachers side, loads of lessons and printable materials to use in class.

ESL Study Hall Maintained by Professor Christine Meloni at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. This is mainly a link page to other pages concerning the various areas of ESL/EFL.

To Learn
To Learn English offers a wide variety of information and resources for both teachers and students including: Courses, documents, exercises, tests, cliparts, forums, chat rooms. The exercises include some excellent word jumbles with feedback. Teachers can also build their own online tests at the site. Well worth a visit.

LinguaCenter Home Page
This extensive site designed by the DEIL LinguaCenter has some of the most original ideas for using the Internet to study English. Areas include, interactive listening, grammar safari, teacher resources, pen pal exchange and more.

Parlo - Language, Culture, Life
Parlo provides instruction in English, as well as other languages. It's approach is called Virtual Immersion - integrated language instruction and exploration of international cultures. The site includes an excellent selection of materials for students as well as teachers.

Peak English
Excellent new online distance learning course which includes vocabulary, reading, listening (by use of RealAudio) and grammar lessons. This online course teaches English as it is used in the United States. For a limited time this course is being offered for free!

Taiwan Teacher A very nice all around non-commercial EFL site with a lot of specific information on EFL in Taiwan, including information on teaching in Taiwan.

Tower of English Tower of English is very student-friendly and allows the student to integrate lots of web sources into his/her learning experience. Great variety of resources and very professional design

Good luck!

Greetings: Our Canadian neighbors have developed a number of extensive web sites to assist service providers, educators and parents with up to date information, lesson plans, learning activities, and tutorials for children and their families. A number of sites provide copyright free materials for staff development.

Child & Family Canada has a very user-friendly home page with links to Parenting, Play, Learning Activities, Child Development, Child Care, Safety and many other pages. These areas have hot links with clear titles for activities ranging from Constructive Play, developed by the Canadian Child Care Federation to Book Reviews for Children with Special Needs, developed by the Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs.

Curious to learn more about these partners I visited their web sites. The Canadian Child Care Federation supports the mission of improving the quality of child care services for Canadian families. They have an extensive on-line journal (download with Adobe), Interaction. I spent an hour reading the journal where I found frequent links to many American institutions with web sites promoting family literacy. They also have a site for Families Helping Families that had hundreds of common sense tips provided by, yes - parents at I think parents in family literacy programs would benefit from these helpful dialogues and suggestions.

The links back to the states includes the Education Library at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University was very interesting for research purposes.

It's always helpful to get "out of the box" when solving problems. These Canadian web resources are prime examples of lessons learned about crossing the digital divide. The sponsors promote and share at no cost high quality Internet resources for family literacy practitioners and the families they serve.

Jeri Levesque, Ed.D.
Associate Professor, Webster University
Program Consultant, LIFT-Missouri

Well, folks, it is almost time for Jeri to leave us as our "guest." Surely, out of the over 900 subscribers to this list, there are more questions out there for her? Anyone?

Jeri, you have been great! Thanks. I was in a state meeting today as they are exploring how to deliver training to the adult educators throughout their state on "reading." It was great to hear them discussing several methods of delivery that included technology. As you think about teaching adults to read, how do you see using technology to do that?

I know you will be sharing at the National Conference on Family Literacy about "Preventing Reading Difficulties in Families." Taken from the conference description listing: This session connects research-driven principles of reading instruction from the National Research Council's study, Preventing Reading Difficulties, with the four components of family literacy programs. Participants will be engaged as adult learners being introduced to reading strategies that they will transfer to PACT Time activities, parenting issues for discussion, and reading improvement tactics for GED study. Participants will also review a number of available resources and practice activities to enhance parents' and children's language development.

My next question is, besides "Between the Lions," what are some other online programs that can help with reading? Specifically, do you know of online programs for helping adults learn to read?

Again, thanks for being on the list this week and are great!
Nancy Sledd, NIFL-Family list moderator
National Center for Family Literacy
Louisville, KY

Hello Jeri, I have a bunch of related questions I would like to hear your thoughts on. What do you see as the role of technology in very basic literacy for adults? Are there software programs that you think are useful for adults with learning disabilities (for example, Lexia, or others?) What do you think of using text-to-speech software (such as the CAST E-Reader, or IBM or Kuirzweil Web readers?) Should we be thinking about how to design Web-based software so that adults can elarn to read on their own-- at a distance? Or should we think instead about using Web-based software in combination with face-to-face tutorials? What other uses of technology are, or would be, helpful to adults reading at NALS levels 1 or 2 who want to improve their reading?

David J. Rosen

Package on its way! Wendy

-- Wendy Jill Ross
Vermont Department of Education
Montpelier, Vermont

From: Maria Panico

Thanks very much!!


Greetings David,

Thank you for joining our discussion. Excellent questions that I can't answer - so I hope others reading this will chime in with suggestions for software.

I purchased Via Voice for our Learning Disabilities project. I reasoned that it was relatively inexpensive and speech to print would be a good way to develop literacy with Language Experience Activities (what I know I can say- what I say can be written, what is written I can read). I was dismayed to find that in order to train the voice recognition component the user has to read an abridged version of Treasure Island aloud. The printed text is loaded with homophonic errors (wear for ware etc.). Needless to say - it did not meet our learner's needs.

Currently I am designing a basic literacy curriculum using the EFF model and concentrating on NALS levels 1 and 2. We haven't selected any software, perhaps out of ignorance. What we have done is develop directed reading activities that include Internet sites. Take for example the NALS one skill that an "Adult cannot usually perform - locate an intersection on a street map." A quick link to with explicit instructions for reading a map complete the lesson. We found many lesson plans, thank you David for your, using similar strategies for local communities.

I think Webbed software in combination with face-to-face tutorials are the strongest instructional strategy. As Bruce Springstein sang, "we need a little bit of human touch."

And finally, I've been reintroducing people to audio tape recorders, Polaroid cameras, and other "low tech" equipment. Telling story in a tape recorder that is then transcribed by the teacher/tutor and complemented with a photo and a one dollar blank photo album sets our learning experience in a concrete realm of possibilities

Jeri Levesque, Ed.D.
Associate Professor, Webster University
St. Louis, Missouri

I think Read, Write, & Type Learning System is designed precisely to meet the full reading and writing instructional needs of NRS/ABE Level 1 & 2 students, especially those with dyslexia. For those with learning difficulties it would best be used with a tutor (who could be volunteer) working one on one guiding the learner (there is a manual with guidance for each lesson for parents/tutors/teachers). I have the home version which is $89.00 and comes with a detailed parents guide--this version was written with kids in mind. They are planning an adult version too, but I think most beginning reading adults would be quite happy working with this version. There is also a classroom version and network version both of which have lesson plans. Check it out on the web at

Judith Lashof
Rutland Region Even Start Coordinator
Rutland, VT

In response to the following posting on January 26th (see below):

Jeri Levesque asked the question: Has anyone had success with web TV as a source of home computer access for families in your programs?

At Partners in Reading (adult literacy program/one-to-one tutoring), we implemented a WebTV program in September. We purchased WebTV units and identified four tutor and learner pairs to use the WebTVs to enhance their reading and writing through the use of e-mail and special Internet web sites. We found that all the learners invited their families to use the WebTV. The learners felt a sense of confidence using the WebTV after a few weeks. This put them in a situation where they were able to teach their child/family member how to use the WebTV. Overall, the program has been a success.


Jennifer G. Lee
Technology Specialist
Partners in Reading
San Jose Public Library

Hello Judith,

Thanks for letting us know about Read, Write & Type. I went to the Web site you suggested ( -- for those who had trouble with the address Judith gave) and was impressed with the design, but found the content overwhelmingly child-oriented. Have you had experience using this with adults? And if so, do you find they don't mind that it's so child-oriented?

Do you -- or does anyone on the list -- use this software in a family literacy class, and if so, how? Would this be a good PACT activity, for example?

Judith, do please let us know when the adult version comes out.


David J. Rosen

D. Closing by the Guest and by the List Moderator.

Here's a final note, Monday I did an hour segment on our local NPR station, WKMU with our University president. It was a live call in show about illiteracy. I analyzed all of the call in questions - they were dominated by testimonials about the critical role families play - whether rich or poor, literate or not - as influences in each callers ability to read - and subsequent love of reading. One caller blamed parents for the disgrace of illiteracy - this was my perfect jump shot for explaining the intergenerational cycles of illiteracy and poverty associated with families. The host's jaw dropped, off the air he asked, "So it is really that powerful?" Yes, that's the power and promise of family literacy.


Jeri, you have been terrific, and I am so thankful you took the time to share from your infinite knowledge base. Thanks!

Nancy Sledd, NIFL-Family list moderator


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