Online Learning and the Adult User: New Findings and Applications - Discussion Transcripts - Technology - Discussion Lists

Online Learning and the Adult User: New Findings and Applications
Discussion Transcripts

Description | Guest and Guest Biography | Introduction | Discussion Preparation

Day 1, June 1, 2009

Let's start the online learning discussion

Warning, this is a long post! Scroll all the way down to see the request.)

First of all, let me say that I am really looking forward to this week's discussion and that I am honored to be asked back to the Tech List. It has been two years since I moderated and listened to practitioners share their experiences teaching with technology. Those rich discussions informed the section of the NIFL paper called Listening to the Field and provided a significant third viewpoint which allowed me to triangulate the data and my findings with more confidence. I can't thank the listserv participants enough. Nell shared the link to the full paper, but let me take some space here to post the executive summary with the key findings.

Executive Summary

This investigation was funded by the National Institute for Literacy in order to understand the online learning environments and opportunities of adult learners. The effort was funded to investigate the threshold levels of literacy and language proficiency necessary for adult learners to use the Internet for independent learning. As the investigation unfolded, it became apparent that the interaction among the learners' skills, the opportunities they encounter, and the supports available determines those thresholds. Understanding how to balance those elements can create new options and opportunities for learning, instruction, program planning, and content development. This report is structured around three distinct sections that contribute to the investigation: learning from large-scale surveys, learning from the literature, and learning from the field. Triangulating from the three major data sources affords this report solid footing on which to draw key findings from the guiding research questions. The search for thresholds revealed that such thresholds did not exist: Learners at even the lowest levels of literacy and language proficiency can engage with online learning content. Moreover, all reports indicate that they are eager to do so and that they benefit in important ways, such as self-confidence, self-directedness, and independence. Adult learners across the literacy and language spectrum show strong motivation to gain computer literacy skills, perceived as key to work advancement. Limitations of this report include the gap between the rapid pace of change in technology trends, access patterns among American adults, and delivery platform options develop and the relatively slower pace of data collection, published evaluations, and program planning, rendering guidance from literature difficult. And while this report is not an attempt at an exhaustive literature review, it is clear that the literature base is broad rather than deep, hampering efforts to draw clear conclusions. The report concludes with the following key findings and the hope that it can join other voices moving the field toward a discussion of evidence-based technology-enhanced solutions.

  • Understanding the interrelatedness of the task, skill, and supports necessitates research and development to guide the design of learning environments and activities that are flexible and that can differentiate on all three dimensions. Experimenting with flexible supports, both human and technological-the variable most accessible to adjustments by educators, program managers, and Web designers-is likely to yield a wealth of information to guide further development.
  • The centrality of work readiness-what the British call "upskilling"-to adults' learning lives provides a key leverage point for programming and content design to address this goal more directly and, through it, more basic literacy and language skills.
  • Adults' existing family and social networks that have proven critical to learning pursuits with technology provide another leverage point that could be tapped with community-based, authentic learning environments, activities, and products.
  • Self-directed skills valued in lifelong learners can be nurtured by providing facilitated access to online, independent learning environments. The studies converge on the findings that engagement with these environments fostered the skills associated with successful self-directed learning.
  • The large numbers of visitors to the freely available online sites such as English for All, TV 411, and California Distance Learning Project Online indicate that users are finding them. However, evaluation data are needed to determine how users are interacting and learning with the material and whether these sites are or could be stepping stones into more formal courses of study.
  • Rates of access and connectivity in the low-income community are definitely growing, yet high-quality equipment and broadband or wireless access are far from ubiquitous. This reality constrains development and dissemination of online learning portals and sites. Findings from the United Kingdom (Selwyn, Gorard, & Furlong, 2006) do not support an expanded use of public Internet terminals by the low literacy and language proficiency population as a solution to this problem.
  • The use of emerging technologies to deliver learning content is only beginning to be reported in the research literature (for example, Kambouri, Mellar, & Logan, 2006). Nevertheless, technology enthusiasts believe strongly that consumer electronics (such as cell phones and personal digital assistants [PDAs]), interactive Web 2.0 platforms (such as blogs, videoconferencing, and immersive environments), and the convergence of media (such as television and radio delivered over the Internet) have the potential to reach new populations and provide authentic learning and communication. Online environments engage and inspire adults, serve the common adult goal of improving workforce readiness, provide authentic communication channels that tap into adults' family and community involvement, and supply an opportunity to engage in self-study and informal learning. We have confirmation that we are headed in the right direction with the inclusion of online technologies for the instruction and engagement of adult learners, even those with the most limited skills and language proficiencies. What is missing is research and evaluation that could provide guidance on content design and flexible supports to serve users' needs and create new options and opportunities for learning, instruction, program planning, and content development.

What I would like to discuss during this week in addition to responding to your questions is: - what changes have occurred in our world since the paper was written in 2007 that impact the implications, - how does the field of adult and family literacy go forward with online learning, and - what does it take? Taking the first question first, I'll start and throw the question back to you all on the list. A few changes are obvious: the economic downturn and subsequent deep budget cuts in education are real and a major challenge for any conversation about technology. The economic downturn is causing more adults to realize they need to improve their skills, language proficiencies, and job readiness. Meanwhile, the new U.S. Administration is tech-savvy. The U.S. Dept of Ed is very interested in what technology can offer teaching, learning, student and data management, and research. Let's make a graffiti poster today with thoughts about how the world/your world has changed in the last two years and what is impacting our work. Post words and phrases to add to the list started below. We'll use this to anchor our further discussions so when we get to "what does it take?" we can be realistic. Graffiti poster: - Economic downturn - Budget cuts - New administration

Heidi Silver-Pacuilla (Guest Moderator)


I'd like to add the following to the graffiti poster:

- rapid changes in technology - expanded uses of cell phones, PDAs and other mobile devices - greater need for services, fewer resources


I'm looking forward to learning from everyone who participates in this discussion.

Leslie Petty


Heidi, here are some items for the graffiti poster:

  • The policy proposal by the adult learner organization, VALUE, that adult education programs help adult learners who have difficulty reading to use technology for "auding", that is, to have text read out loud so they can get information from text, even if they cannot (yet) read it
  • Continued proliferation of mobile phones, especially more web-accessible cell phones
  • Contineud (slow) expansion of online learning for adults and online professional development for adult ed teachers
  • More young adults in adult ed classes, many of whom are (more) comfortable with technology than their teachers

David J. Rosen


In my world there has been a big increase in demand for occupation specific Spanish language training.

English as a second language demand has always been very high in my area with long waiting lists at the more than 200 low-cost ESL classes in our libraries, community centers and churches. Dallas' community colleges average 40,000 ESL and ESOL students per semester.

I am curious about the stat that fewer than 1% of those interviewed were studying ESL. Were the surveys in English thus probably not easily understood by the people in basic level classes. A thought.

Maureen Jones


  • digital divide alive and well
  • lack of affordable access to tech
  • increase in social networking

Lisa Bailey


For the graffiti poster:

There is a very wide range, among adult education program managers and adult ed teachers, in levels of buy-in towards & encouragement of online opportunities / online development expansion

Mercedes Pichard


Hello all,

I am very happy to see this topic!

I've taken the liberty of demonstrating a tech tool, Glogster, by creating our graffiti wall in a different visual way, please see:
http://smilin7.glogster.com/graffiti-poster/

and on it I've added my suggestions:

...the coming of Google Wave http://wave.google.com and PLNs and SLNs (personal and social learning networks).

I thought it might add to the 'power' of the conversation by demonstrating how "different" online learning can be, how empowering, how individualized, how engaging, with quick clicks.

But I'll also add these conflicting thoughts/questions: 1) It took me so little time to create this Glogster poster. 2) Would I (or any adult learner) have more pride in it, for different reasons, if I'd spent considerably more time carefully creating it by hand? Why or why not? 3) Is either "better"? Why or why not? 4) Is either one more effective than the other? Why or why not?

Thank you SO much for this discussion!

Holly Dilatush


The one statement that I will add to the poster is: Elimination of technology trainers (and other trainers as well) in the FIRST round of cuts at a time when that technology training (and other training)is most needed.

With conference travel being cut way back if not completely, and face-to-face trainers being eliminated, online delivery of training will become more critical, yet the technology trainers who would be 1) most likely to deliver that instruction and 2) be the ones to train teachers to be able to access that instruction are the first to go!

Barry Bakin


The digital divide is growing for our adults. If you are rural and have mountains, unless you invest in a satellite dish, you can't get a signal regularly. I have a wireless card that is occasionally good. I'm awaiting, and have been for several years, broadband over power lines(BPL). It is a new technology that is starting here in Nelson county, Virginia. If it works there will be a viable alternative for the mountainous rural people. It will be half the monthly cost of a wireless card - affordable for our students.

Gail Troy


In West Virginia, the public has free access to broadband computers in their public libraries. Check with your public librarian about this option in other states.

Susan Hayden


In my world there has been a big increase in demand for occupation specific Spanish language training.

English as a second language demand has always been very high in my area with long waiting lists at the more than 200 low-cost ESL classes in our libraries, community centers and churches. Dallas' community colleges average 40,000 ESL and ESOL students per semester.

I am curious about the stat that fewer than 1% of those interviewed were studying ESL. Were the surveys in English thus probably not easily understood by the people in basic level classes. A thought.

Maureen Jones


There are ca. 15,000 Hispanics on Maui (of whom, I'd say, at the very least 10,000 have quite limited if any English proficiency). From my familiarity with Maui, at least, I'd say the 1% figure is in the ballpark.

Michael Gyori


Hello Everyone,

I am not as tech savvy as some of you, so if I do something that isn't right, please let me know.

I'd like to add the following to the graffiti poster

  1. i-everything: iWeb, iPhone, iMac, iWork, iLife, i-next?
  2. technology that grants instant gratification (good?)
  3. smart-era: smart board, smart classroom (can it make smart too?)
  4. staying connected any where/any time, great but exhausting

I really like the graffiti poster that Holly made.

Bo Huot


(Warning: another long post! Scroll down to the question.)

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the graffiti poster and to the various ways to display such collaborative brainstorming.

We came up with:

I'm going to post the full list separately for those who like to read (semi) connected text. (Might make a nice activity with students - see if they can extend it or prioritize the elements of our changing world.)

Just looking at these phrases show what/how much work we have to do in adult ed including making sure that our legislators understand the depth and breadth of the need and the incredible human capital return value an investment in adult education is.

This was a fun start to some of the questions posted on the topic in the lead up last week.

For tomorrow, let's see if we can explore PERCEPTIONS of students. A couple questions were:

- Many teachers believe that beginning level ESOL or low-skilled students cannot use technology, and especially not online/distance learning....what does the research say??

- Building off the definition in the report of "independent", what do we know about online/distance learners working with friends, family members or others to accomplish their goals?

One of the main findings I came to was that even low-skilled adults CAN and WANT to learn and learn WITH technology. There are stats in the report from established websites geared to adult learners that are just staggering - people ARE finding them and ARE using them. The most clearly described learning with family and friends come from the UK, especially Selwyn, N., Gorard, S., & Furlong, J. (2006). Adult learning in the digital age. London: Routledge. But ask students and see for yourself - who do you turn to when you are stuck with something techie?? Technology is part of our lives and we naturally reach out to those around us for help in the moment. Additionally, from the research I read and the tech listserv participants, the message loud and clear was that adults saw technology literacy/proficiency as absolutely critical to their work advancement. In this time of economic downturn, one can expect that sense of urgency to increase.

In fact, John Fleischman of OTAN graciously sent me google analytics from the newly launched USA Learns English learning portal launched in November. Basic stats are below.

Total visits: 1,527,959

Total pageviews: 97,049,124

Average pages viewed per visit: 63.52

Average time on site: 27:29 minutes

Bounce rate: 19.43%

Those are impressive numbers given that the outreach and promotional budget is, I think, less than $1. He feels that this basic point, that low skilled adults can and will use and learn with technology if it is available and accessible (topic for tomorrow!), is supported by these numbers and I agree. John, jump in if you want to add or adjust my dollar amounts!

What is still missing is back-end data collection and evaluations. Funders have not insisted nor budgeted for these critical data collection mechanisms, so we cannot track learners' use and progress reliably. It wouldn't be hard. All the technology exists to do this. It is a major trend in K-12 educational technology to build in the student management and progress monitoring so that reports are provided automatically to parent or teacher. We need to convince funders that this is a critical piece of missing knowledge for future tech-based learning development.

My question back to you all for Tuesday is:

Clearly we can see the benefits of infusing technology into teaching and learning for low skilled adult students and are excited about the possibilities for our own teaching. Represented on this listserv are people who are doing it every day in a variety of ways and means. What will it take to help our colleagues (teachers and administrators) try technology infused teaching and learning, too??

Heidi Silver-Pacuilla 


Day 2, June 2, 2009

What will it take to help our colleagues (teachers and administrators) try technology infused teaching and learning, too??

Loved the Wordle. Actually, love using Wordle. I see this used in tech all the time.

Tuesday's question is: Clearly we can see the benefits of infusing technology into teaching and learning for low skilled adult students and are excited about the possibilities for our own teaching. Represented on this listserv are people who are doing it every day in a variety of ways and means. What will it take to help our colleagues (teachers and administrators) try technology infused teaching and learning, too??

I'm following the Twitterstream on ASTD (American Society for Training and Development, 10,000 training type people) and my elearning colleagues are lamenting about how far behind many of the training folks are regarding Social Media there at the conference. They would have heart attacks about what happens in adult ed, and in lots of K-12 unfortunately. There is a huge gap between the digitally savvy and the digitally uninitiated. For many it's fear. For most, it's lack of experience. We conducted a social media workshop last month in the Boston metro area for trainers and found that a large portion of our audience was scared that they were being left behind regarding a technology they heard about but were unfamiliar how to use or how to even get started.

For our peers in adult ed, it may be modeling, but in some agencies, it may be availability. Funding is so scarce, yet there are programs like TechSoup, and the Cristina Foundation that can help with software and equipment. Many of our peers are retired boomers who didn't need technology in their jobs, and learning to use tech is a paradigm shift that may begin with "this is a mouse". That's overwhelming. They may see computers as for the "young kids". They can learn, but it may be a change management process. In organizational development, we know that change put upon a person is resisted. Change a person wants is embraced. Part of change management is creating that buy in from them. Technology can simplify their work, but more than that it can open up worlds for their students. They get frustrated by students texting in class on their cell phones. Why not leverage that technology in class? Let them write some assignments using their cell phones and text the conversations in class. Use Twitter like assignments to create 140 character main ideas to codify their thinking. Set up a chat room and let them practice typing skills in a chat with each other. There are oodles of ways students can leverage technology. We may need to model the ideas for them and remove the fear that sometime might break.

Looking forward to the other thoughts.

Jean Marrapodi


Here are the phrases I pulled out of everyone's contribution. Thanks for making this SUCH AN INTERESTING activity!! Heidi

  • rapid changes in technology
  • expanded uses of cell phones, PDAs and other mobile devices
  • greater need for services, fewer resources
  • text to speech/audible
  • web accessible mobile phones
  • Continued (slow) expansion of online learning
  • Online PD
  • more young adults more comfortable with technology than their teachers
  • big increase in demand for occupation specific Spanish language training
  • ESL
  • Waiting lists
  • Elimination of technology trainers
  • Google Wave
  • personal and social learning networks
  • range of buy-in of online opportunities
  • digital divide alive and well
  • lack of affordable access to tech
  • increase in social networking
  • H1N1virus
  • Climate change
  • instant global communication
  • SKYPE
  • 24/7 access
  • Blocked content in correctional ed
  • 15,000 Hispanics on Maui
  • Broadband over power lines
  • Rural divide
  • distance learning readiness
  • prepare
  • effective distance learning mechanism
  • sense of community
  • facilitating interaction
  • keeping up
  • teachers participating in a web community
  • too many platforms
  • Integrated curriculums
  • make the technology useful
  • free access to broadband computers in public libraries
  • Generation gap
  • Length of career
  • Personality factors
  • Fear and embarrassment

Heidi Silver-Pacuilla


I would add the following to the graffiti list

  • podcasts
  • online dictionaries
  • online language exchange communities
  • vocabulary learning websites
  • online grammar resources
  • online language learning systems

Steve Kaufman


I would also add:

  • "No print budget" (This creates both "innovation" and "dependency" on online communications.)

And, if not already noted add:

  • Twitter
  • Webinars
  • Online training
  • User-generated/Interactive content
  • Google analytics
  • RSS feed
  • Blogs
  • wikis

Tammy Pilisuk


I believe this topic is very timely and important and I would like to briefly introduce my website and some of my views.

PUMAROSA is a free, interactive, bilingual web site for beginning and intermediate adult Spanish-speaking ESL students. Because there is no registration, typing, or much navigating, PUMAROSA is extremely easy to use. Therefore, students with little or no computer skills are able to start learning English immediately – plus computer basics. Focusing on English pronunciation, PUMAROSA assists the students in their transition to English only classes.

PUMAROSA therefore serves as an effective teacher’s aide and can be used in multi-level, multi-lingual classes. The site was launched five years ago and we are now in the process of expanding its content. I recently finished the workbooks and I offer my students audio cds and dvds for home use. Students can also email their questions and, if they are willing, receive back a little homework. To pomote my course, I air a public access television program called Ingles Hoy, and for a while was writing a column for a Spanish language newspaper. I also teach at students' houses. Finally, for now, I would like to say that I believe that computer based distance learning should also be combined with a Computers For Families program and lots of outreach to churches, neighborhoods, libraries and community centers.

Paul Rogers


Day 3, June 3, 2009

Reflections on Day 2 Policy Implications

Good morning! Yesterday's conversation was great! I posted the list of responses to What Does It Take last night and here are some summary thoughts on how all these great ideas move us closer to policy recommendations and research-based implications.

I'll post a Day 3-4 question later today so people have some time to move from program level thinking to policy level reflections. (Hint, let's move to thinking about "what does it take for students to learn w technology?" next....some ideas are already being posted on this next focus.)

Keep thinking!!

Some of the work I've been doing in K-12 ed tech and special ed tech have very similar issues to those raised on the list about adult ed environments. Not surprisingly, the research in K-12 is much more robust, but the themes are similar:

  1. LEADERSHIP is absolutely critical. If the leadership /administration is not a vocal and public supporter, watch for failure or at least failure to thrive of an initiative. Also in the leadership category: mandates work sometimes. If timesheets and class assignments are shifted to an online format, users will follow. Many years ago, VA as a state got the State Assembly to approve online state testing for many reasons including accuracy, ease of scoring etc. - all test and data related - but what it did was provide the leverage to purchase enough computers and install high-capacity broadband in every school in the state as part of the initiative. This is not a silver bullet, of course, but in terms of levers, these state initiatives if funded, can "move the mountain" as someone wrote past the starting gate.
  2. IMPLEMENTATION for the long haul requires policy, procedures, and positions to be created and institutionalized among a TEAM of professionals. The list mentioned the lack of tech support positions - without the understanding that these positions are as critical as teachers, and as protected, you've set teachers up to fail. I've been working with the National Implementation Research Network, if you are implementing a large initiative, check out their Info Briefs and lit review: www.scalingup.org. I've been working with a team of special ed researchers to apply their work to special ed tech, see our Info Briefs at http://www.cited.org/index.aspx?page_id=190
  3. EQUIPMENT PURCHASES without the full implementation plan do not generate deeper and more thoughtful implementation. Also, in K-12 the Total Cost of Ownership is a big conversation - if we aren't budgeting for upkeep, tech support, training, and upgrades, then the investment is undermined over the medium to long term. Sign up (free) for this suite of tools to calculate the TCO of ed tech: http://classroomtco.cosn.org/gartner_intro.html
  4. PD needs to be high quality, ongoing, adult focused in order to be effective at changing and supporting the change of teachers' habits and comfort levels. Support support support was one of the quotes today! The conversation on the PD listserv next week will explore these issues. Keep track of your good ideas!
  5. WHY IS THIS COOL? This a great way to ask, what are the OUTCOMES? We continue to need to provide quality data to our funders, our community stakeholders, our business partners, our government agencies about the increased productivity and learning leveraged by technology. We need to document and track student learning, teacher learning and productivity, improved data accuracy, etc. Our arguments need to go beyond, because it's cool. Some of the issues that simmer at the state and federal level are attrition, data accuracy, use of data to inform instruction and program management, student tracking across programs/transitions, teacher quality in light of student performance, and standards-based education. All of these issues can be addressed with technology as a piece of the answer. Are you able to teach science lessons with virtual labs, for example, when you actually have zero lab equipment?? Can you track your students into a post secondary environment because you share datasets??
  6. KNOWLEDGE SHARING is crucial. We need to replicate success!! Someone added a need for clear guidelines. We need to support each other as states, regions, collaborative, and stop reinventing the wheel every time we start an initiative. What's working?? When an initiative is undertaken and well documented, the lessons learned need to be disseminated in a way that is timely and credible for administrators and funders. We need to collaborate and should expect some technical assistance to do so. Creating online platforms for sharing across programs, regions, states - mentioned on the list - around a specific topic is a great way to start this process.

Heidi Silver-Pacuilla


Heidi and others,

I haven't seen enough recognition in this discussion that many adult learners -- many more than there were only a few years ago -- have access to Internet technology at home, work and in their communities, and that still more learners have access to mobile telephones.

Why is this important?

The role of the teacher in integrating technology may need to shift. Of course, teachers and tutors (and program administrators) need to continue to integrate technology in the classroom, in computer labs and in tutorial sessions. However, teachers have a new responsibility: to help learners use the technology they have in their pockets and purses, and at home and work, especially to use it for their own learning now and in the future. Meeting this responsibility would involve "technology literacy" that is, computer, web-accessible mobile telephone, and Internet competence and comfort. I want to see federal legislation that requires every federally funded adult education program to offer (not require) adult learners technology literacy classes and tutorials. This would involve how to use computers and the Internet for supplemental learning, how to use free or inexpensive (because they have been federally-funded) services like USA Learns and the Learner Web, as well as teacher-made web sites in English and other languages. It would include how to use basic computer and web tools such as word processing, search engines and email. It would include the experience of taking an online learning course or two -- so that adult learners would know how to do it, and would feel comfortable with online/distance learning. It would include introducing assistive technology tools such as text readers to learners who might benefit from knowing how to use this software.

How could underfunded adult education programs do this?

The legislation should not be an unfunded mandate. It should have funding for equipment, including for classroom smartboards, multimedia projectors and loaner laptops for teachers who need them. It should include a lot of funding for professional development including intensive training, over time, for a critical mass of teachers at every program to learn how to use technology well and to teach students how to use it. Teachers should also have paid time to practice using the technology. The message should be to programs and students: this is a new economy, a new teaching world. It is no longer acceptable to make excuses. Excuses are unfair to adult learners who need these basic technology skills -- as much as they need reading, writing and numeracy.

That's a strong position, I know. It may make some people uncomfortable, even some on this technology discussion list. However, it's a question of justice. We need to end the digital divide for adult learners. I believe we can do it, and that there is an interest in Congress in having us address this issue. Let's see if there's a will in Congress, and a will in our field.

David J. Rosen


David,

I wholeheartedly agree that the role of instructor/teacher is shifting. The traditional role of "sage on the stage" is changing to "guide on the side" or, in my opinion, should be changing. While that description may be a little simplistic and overused, I do believe that educators must move away from the model of being the "owners" of information which they impart to students and then determine learning by having students correctly repeat the information via traditional tests and measurements. Moving toward a role of facilitator of learning seems to better address 21st century skills that we (educators, legislators, employers) espouse that learners must have as well as addressing 21st century learners' styles and preferences.

You said, "Excuses are unfair to adult learners who need these basic technology skills -- as much as they need reading, writing and numeracy." I couldn't agree more. Certainly, there are barriers, both real and perceived, but those barriers shouldn't be used as excuses to not teach computer literacy skills and/or to not effectively integrate technology into instruction. Surely, instructors can find the time, either paid or unpaid, to acquire at least one new skill each year and to integrate at least one new aspect of technology into their instruction each year. How much time could that possibly take over the course of a year? By using a slow but steady approach, many instructors, over time, have developed confidence as technology users as well as developed a growing set of instructional strategies that authentically integrate technology into their curricula. I know instructors who were “luddites” several years ago who are now using blogs as tools for writing assignments, wikis for classroom discussions, Voicethread for classroom discussion and collaboration, etc., etc. They didn’t do it all at once but they began and they continued the journey. The point is that they BEGAN. I know that keeping up with technology can be daunting, but I grow weary of hearing from some who use their frustrations, barriers, etc., etc. as justification for not tackling the technology issues. I don't feel that we have the luxury to wait until the ideal set of circumstances comes together, i.e. adequate hardware, accessibility, ongoing training and support. We need to begin now.

Melinda M. Hefner


Well said. If one waited to teach Shakepseare until you had a complete grasp of that time period and full knowledge of the language used at that time you would nev er get to the plays. Better to read/do the plays with imperfect understanding than not at all. As for not "owning the knowledge" AMEN. It's much more exciting to learn with them not impart our often flawed learning.

Katie M


Interesting web site www.esc20.net/techserv K-12 Literacy standards in the Digital Age

Katie M


Could the person who posted the Interesting web site www.esc20.net/techserv K-12 Literacy standards in the Digital Age
please share where within this site you found these standards? I didn't have any luck and I'm interested!

Thanks.

Lynne Wilkins


Try http://dkc.esc20.net. If this doesn't work I'll mail a copy to you.

Katie M


Wow. David, you never cease to impress me. My computer has so many words of wisdom from David Rosen saved on it; this is surely adding to the "reread re-muse" pile! A few comments below:

On Wed, Jun 3, 2009 at 7:32 AM, <DJRosen at theworld.com> wrote:


> Heidi and others,

>

> I haven't seen enough recognition in this discussion that many adult

> learners -- many more than there were only a few years ago -- have access

> to Internet technology at home, work and in their communities, and that

> still more learners have access to mobile telephones.

So true! Build that interaction, beginning with awareness: A few years ago, I tried using Moodles (course management systems) with GED and ESOL classes, to engage interaction, to encourage use OUT of the classroom.

With no support, paying (as I continue to do to this day) the annual fees for a host service), no colleagues willing to engage (unpaid) in this effort with me, it was a slow start.

But I learned a lot in the process, and I choose to believe the students and colleagues did, too -- even the less willing ones.
I found that assigning "survey interviews" helped all of us think and learn about how we do and how we might use technologies.
So, once a week, a new question/series of questions was asked. I started the first two or three, and then had students generate what our next questions might be.

[Have you ever used a computer? If yes, when was the first time? (about how old were you?) Do you own a _____? If yes, when and where did you buy it and do you remember how much it cost? [class project = what does it/similar cost now? graph the changes, calculate the percents, etc.] How many people in your family own ______? (One surprise I learned was how many families owned PlayStation or other gaming stations; I still to this day remain ignorant to this phenomenon. Today, I'd be curious to learn how many owned Wii or have used it?). Whom do you ask for help when you can't figure something out/have a question about your cell phone/on your computer/with your voicemail/________. Have you ever emailed/texted/left a voicemail for someone other than friends and family? Why/why not? If yes, when/why/describe the occasion. and on and on and on....]

Students were asked to ask at least three other people this one question, and to report their answers. Their answers, initially, could be reported in any fashion -- verbally in class, emailed, handwritten, typed, texted, voicemailed, message on Moodle, discussion forum post on Moodle, etc. -- as many possible communications methods as we could list/brainstorm.

Then, as weeks progressed, we'd vote on which option to "delete" from the list, working toward technology-involved choices.

The above describes the ideal, what was supposed to happen from my "brilliant" idea. Reality = lots of resistance, absenteeism, non-involvement, challenges in tracking... But I tried. And will try again with something similar soon in an online class of ESOL learners.

Often, when the focus is indirect (not what "I can" or "I must" do/learn, but what are others doing/learning), it helps "ease toes into the water."

[It's also helpful sometimes, I have found, to think backwards, Z to A, so, grins: toes, knees, shoulders, heads! (Did you ever try to sing that song backwards?!]

Holly Dilatush


That is a great suggestion.

Could you also include Internet access - the cost of satellite dishes, wi-fi cards etc. At minimum the programs should have this access, better yet include the teachers at home and best, include the students.
Rural mountainous sparsely populated areas are a part of the digital divide that needs attention!
Many of our students live in "dead-zones" where cell phones, etc do not have reception.

Gail Troy


David (Rosen) wrote:


> It would include the experience of taking an online learning course or two

> -- so that adult learners would know how to do it, and would feel

> comfortable with

> online/distance learning.

My idealistic frame of mind believes that funding for at least one ongoing hybrid/blended "open door" class for MINIMUM of three years, open to all adults -- whatever proficiency level, whatever teacher/admin/staff (including custodial, everyone!)/student/volunteer position affiliated with the learning institution, with the "fee" being that by the end of _____ months involvement, they pledge to have shared at least three things they've learned with someone not in their class... something modeled along these lines -- with options worked in for possible PD credit for instructors, certificate credit for other learners and volunteers, might work wonders! This sort of situation is one where I can see that my style of teaching and personality and interests in technology would thrive, would have a chance of being effective and meaningful to many. It would "take people from wherever they are in the continuum" and allow them to grow at their own pace, provide support, provide opportunities for them to teach others, and would provide rich opportunities for meaningful research.

It would/could incorporate all of these: (David's suggestions):

  • how to use computers and the Internet for supplemental learning
  • how to use free or inexpensive (because they have been federally-funded)

services like USA Learns and the Learner Web, as well as teacher-made web sites in English and other languages.

  • how to use basic computer and web tools such as word processing, search engines and email
  • introducing assistive technology tools such as text readers to learners who might benefit from knowing how to use this software. and I'd add:
  • cell phones
  • any other technologies learners bring to the fray

> How could underfunded adult education programs do this?

I may not be as ambitious as David suggests -- these sound like highly improbable (in the adult ed realm of things):

> classroom smartboards, multimedia projectors and loaner laptops for

> teachers who need them

And I don't see this "Teachers should also have paid time to practice using the technology." as a reality -- unless it were small scale (two hours per month?) and unrestricted (not having to prove one had "mastered" a specific skill). But if the requirement were two hours per month, at hours of their choosing, logged in to such a hybrid/blended opportunity as I've outlined briefly above, magic could happen. Individuals could choose HOW to be involved, WHEN to be involved, WHAT to pursue, WHO to pursue it with, WHERE (online in their pajamas, in the computer lab at work, at Barnes & Nobles with a colleague or student or friend, endless choices).

I would have been and still would be grateful for anyone offering to pay me two hours per month to honor and validate the time and energy I've invested and continue to invest, in pondering and exploring technology literacy and all its implications.

Re: <<It is no longer acceptable to make excuses. Excuses are unfair to adult learners who need these basic technology skills -- as much as they need reading, writing and numeracy.>>

I fully agree, but my taking this attitude to colleagues years ago is what I fear "scared off/away" energies more than infused energies and enthusiasm. Adding <<...it's a question of justice>> might help sway more folks into considering it. Paying, honoring, welcoming, validating (rather than "mandating" their time certainly would help.

My two cents...

and again, THANK YOU for this valuable discussion list opportunity.

Holly Dilatush


Holly, I really liked these questions. I just emailed a couple out to my distance learning students. I asked them to reply to all to build in some peer to peer interaction. I am curious to see what type of response I will get.

BTW my first computer was the Commodore 64:) ...with pong.

Lisa Bailey


I am not a regular contributor to these kinds of sessions, which I regret, and I hope you will forgive my intrusion. What I have been reading indicates a tremendous amount of interest in technology integration and the desire to do it in an orderly, cost-efficient fashion. I believe that, for the technology integration efforts of Adult Ed programs in any state to be successful, our programs need the support of a State Maintenance body that has a tech plan for us. In Arizona, we have an Adult Education branch as part of the State Department of Education. I imagine (I certainly hope) most states have something similar. That august body, here, has been of tremendous assistance to our tech integration efforts by developing an Adult Education Technology Plan (which gave rise to, and assisted the efforts of, each program creating its own individual technology plan,) following it up with Adult Education Technology Standards, and a program of support individuals, known as ETEs (Education Technology Experts and each program has a couple,) who serve as liaisons to the Dept. of Ed Adult Ed folks so each entity may communicate ideas and needs, and share updates, regarding tech integration. The ETEs are further assisted by annual trainings and the publication of an ETE Handbook. Without this kind of organization and solid base from which to proceed, it may be quite a challenge to sort out the technology concerns and manage them effectively. Any individual Adult Education program that has such a body may want to approach it and see what kind of organizational and technology plan it can provide. Any individual Adult Ed program that lacks this level of support and maintenance may want to approach your Department of Education and press for a plan to guide your efforts. Nothing is going to happen effectively or orderly without a plan. I see that many of the contributors recognize that and none wish to end up just spinning your wheels. Our state tech plan took a couple of years to create. Once that was done and each program had an opportunity to create our individual plans, the standards were developed, which took another year. Both the plan and the standards were created by teams composed of program representatives and members of the Dept. of Education Adult Ed unit working together.

Jim Lively


Nicely put, David!! Wish I had time to do more than lurk with this discussion. I lamented this with Heidi over lunch a little while ago.

Steve Reder


I would add to this that while some students ³have access to Internet technology at home, work and in their communities, and that still more learners have access to mobile telephones.² not all literacy instructors do.

Not sure how it is stateside but up here in Canuckistan, adult educators are usually at the lower end of the pay scale and many do not have the latest versions of technology for personal use. Very few of my colleagues have cell phones. If they do, they do not pay for expensive data plans that allow them to use all the connectivity apps. I know no literacy instructor who has an iPhone or an iPod Touch. We had a community photography night last Friday and only about half of us had digital cameras.

And, as has been expressed many times, the technology in the workplace is rarely state of the art.

Of course, this does not necessarily mean that one cannot integrate technology in a meaningful way. (See Wendell Dryden: http://wendell-communitylit.blogspot.com/ He calls himself an ³older computer hobbiest² and often writes about cobbling together tech solutions on out-dated equipment.)

But it does mean that some literacy instructors will have difficulty integrating technology they do not use and will not use because they cannot afford it and because it does not exist in their workplaces. In some ways, some literacy students may be using technology, at hoe and at work, quite differently than their teachers.

Tracey Mollins


Some people have talked about how integrating technology changes the role of the teacher.

In some ways, I think that integrating technology allows teachers to do some of the things they have long wanted to do but found challenging.

One thing I have been thinking about lately is the role of the canon ‹ that ³dead white guys canon² we deride but that still gives us currency we use daily.

We used to talk a lot about how to bring the canon to literacy ­ how to balance giving literacy learners access to the canon that lets us be part of the Western Judeo-Christian discourse with creating an alternative canon that includes a more diverse range of contributors. We valued the alternative canon and wanted to promote a more democratic, post-colonial canon but we knew this canon is not valued in some of the places literacy learners want to go.

Literacy students come to programs to change the access they have. I remember an occasion when we read Robert Frost¹s Stopping On A Snowy Evening and the next day, Pierre Trudeau¹s (former prime minister of Canada) son paraphrased the poem at his father¹s funeral. The students knew the reference which made the quote more meaningful to them and also made them feel they were part of a conversation ­ not onlookers or outsiders. I think that is an important role for literacy education.

The challenge in finding the balance was always access to resources and the ways in which resources were organized. We used libraries and indexes that were developed by experts. They were useful but we had no ownership and no way to contribute. Most of what students saw was stuff we brought. Most of what students thought was valuable was the stuff we brought. They trusted us to know the index and to choose wisely.

I think that the internet and publishing tools help us find a better balance ­ or a better way of creating balance. It allows us (compels us?), teachers and students alike, to create our own resource lists and index them in ways that are useful to us. It allows us to index items from the revered canon with items from our own personal canons side-by-side. It allows us to publish our own work and see it beside, linked to, and with reference to any other work we choose. It allows us to join a discourse and create a discourse. And it means that each teacher and each student can create their own balance.

And the great thing for those of us working in literacy, those lists and canons and conversations can be less print-based and people who are not primarily reader-learners can participate in them more easily.

Tracey Mollins


I think the point about teachers becoming coaches, or "guides on the sides" was an excellent one. It is far more important to help learners learn how to learn, than to teach them details of the language that they may have trouble understanding, remembering or using.

By the same token, teachers should encourage learners to find the content that interests them, and help them use that content as a learning occasion. I do not think it should be the role of a language teacher to worry about whether the learner uses this or that canon, or poet. The tastes of the teacher should not influence the learner's choice of content to learn from.

There is so much language content available on the Web, in audio and text format, that the learner just needs to be helped in how to find it and how to use it. That is the main principle behind LingQ, where the learner-members contribute most of the learning content (audio with transcript), and earn points based on the popularity of the content they contribute. They either create the content in their own language or obtain permission to use podcasts or other resources that they find on the Web.

Their language learning will progress best if they have access to content of interest, and at their level. It really does not matter what it is, in my view.

Steve Kaufman


Hi All - I've had a busy day today, and so have you!! There are a gazillion of emails in my box, many many of them jumping in with discussions about students. Yeah! Moving back to our focus on students using technology.

Keep 'em coming and I'll try to catch up this evening. We are moving into the question: "what does it take to get students to learn with technology?"

Thanks for keeping the list active --

Heidi Silver-Pacuilla


Day 4, June 4, 2009

Questions for Day 4

Two streams of conversation are going on about infusing technology into adult learners' learning environments...

One is a conversation about the technologies students have access to (like in their pockets!) or don't (broadband subscriptions at home). Let's develop this part of the conversation -- the question for Day 4 is, What do students need to engage in independent or supplemental online learning? (Take the definition of independent from the report -- does NOT mean isolated.)

The second ongoing conversation is instructors' willingness and capabilities to use technology in learning environments.

An idea shared today was helping instructors learn to use technology through a distance learning course. Getting instructors more comfortable teaching w technology by having them learn through technology is a strategy that is working in K-12 education.

Recent national data shows that by 2008, 46% of teachers had taken an online course. Those who had were more likely to rank themselves as technically advanced, 56%, than the national average, 36% of teachers, and those who had taken distance course had 4-10 years of teaching experience but were less likely to have advanced degrees than teachers who hadn't taken a distance course (Henke, K. G. (2009). K-12 Learning in the 21st Century: A national report of online learning. Speak Up Day 2006 and BlackBoard, Inc.).

Ideas for helping instructors learn to use technology through a distance learning course:

- lsten to other practitioners talking about using technology in the AlphaPlus project, http://blog.alphaplus.ca/alphaplus-tech-podcasts/

- how to use computers and the Internet for supplemental learning

- how to use free or inexpensive (because they have been federally-funded) services like USA Learns and the Learner Web, as well as teacher-made web sites in English and other languages

- how to use basic computer and web tools such as word processing, search engines and email

- introducing assistive technology tools such as text readers to learners who might benefit from knowing how to use this software

- cell phones and iPhones as learning devices

- any other technologies learners bring to the fray

This may be another good question to pursue on the PD Listserv later this summer. It might also be worth discussing how this kind of learning may be part of an effort to professionalize the field/get us all ready to be 21st C teachers...

Heide Silver-Pacuilla


I think we need to define which students we are serving and also which adult ed class. My "constituency" is Spanish speaking, low-income, usually older adults who need ESL but are unable or unlikely to attend "live" non-credit classes. So, my program focuses on "community outreach" - demonstrating my website. showing how to access the computers at the library, and providing other materials for home study. And second hand stores usually have a few Windows 98s for sale at around $30. In addition, I advocate and support programs like Computers for Families, which provide low cost or free refurbished computers to low income families. These are not difficult to set up and run, and lots of grant money is available. Grantwriting is not difficult either.

Paul Rogers


Greetings. I'm part of a group of ABE teachers and administrators in St. Paul, MN working on implementing Learner Web http://www.learnerweb.org/infosite/. Early in the project I came across an interesting Wilder Foundation Paper focusing on conditions that support early childhood learning. It included a study of internet connections of low-income families in both north Minneapolis and east St. Paul. http://www.wilder.org/reportsummary.0.html?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=2060. Check out this screenshot for quick glimpse of the percentage of households with internet connections: http://screencast.com/t/Url54hboq

As you can see from the screenshot the numbers looked promising, yet we've still encountered significant challenges in implementing Learner Web and on-line resources like USALearns:

1- Reaching those folks who are connected to the internet at home & getting them into our programs. 2- Providing up-front computer literacy classes so that the resources are accessible.

In short, the problem is not just having a digital connection; it's knowing how to use it AND why it's important to use it.

Jen Vanek


One of the answers to the question "What do students need to engage in independent or supplemental online learning?" could be "they need one or more good reasons for wanting to do so."

Teachers can find ways to support students in the steps they take to solve problems or improve their lives by using technology. When the student and teacher both see there is a good reason for using technology this makes everything else more likely to succeed. The tendency to comply with a mandate like "we have to incorporate technology in our instruction" undermines the effort and misses the point.

Many students come to class and make statements like, "My kids showed me something on the computer that was really neat! "My kids are always on the computer and they won't tell me anything about what they are doing!" "I like to read the news about my country on the Internet." "I have a cousin that has a camera on his computer and he let me use it to talk to my family." "I was looking for jobs on the Internet." "My boss told me she is giving me a promotion to do computer work since I told her I use a computer at school."

The difference is in what we as teachers do when we hear statements like this. Melinda's statement yesterday, "The role of teachers as "sage on the stage" is changing to "guide on the side." really impressed me. When we as teachers can listen with alertness to students, and find ways to support the forward steps our students are already taking to learn for themselves, this can make such a difference. Just the fact that they made the choice to enter our classrooms means they are moving ahead.

As a teacher, our task can often be analogous to a chef or travel guide, who prepares treats and experiences that "keep them coming back." I was impressed with a statement that the head of Disney made the other day, that Disney didn't plan to incorporate a certain event in their parks because it didn't have a story line to accompany it. Evidently, Disney tries to make sure they are bringing people into a story with each of their theme park events.

Halona's post yesterday about the state providing real support to programs and students makes a very important point. Which state entity could do a better of "teaching" adult education students, the federal and state departments of education or departments of labor? Which one "gets it" with regard to knowing what adult education students are like and what would be an effective support for them, the DOE or do the DOL?

For me, things become more and more nuanced, as far as knowing who adult education students are, and what they seek for themselves. They are not one single homogeneous group; their demographics, their literacy skills and life experience attributes are amazingly diverse. One size will not fit all. An older immigrant that had little or no opportunity to go to school but now wants to read emails from family seeks something far different than a youth that barely missed the score cut off on state tests to graduate and now seeks to get that diploma to enter the military or a job.

Let me express my appreciation for this discussion. It has certainly expanded my own horizons, giving me a better understanding of different aspects of the topic. By forwarding the posts to colleagues around the state, it has helped to solidify connections and bring us together on the same page in our state too. Discussions like this have a big ripple effect that lasts long after the week or so that they run. We often pull up previous posts and talk about them, weeks or months later.

Phil Anderson


Thanks for the link to EnglishCafe. Very interesting and well done.

Steve Kaufman


I was associated with a Computers4Kids organization (no relation, I beieve) that finally had to disband due to reorganization, politrically motivated grants denials, and the battle of decreasing hardware costs when the replacement parts for upgrading older computers remained the same. We did some terrific programs from just getting computers into the schools in the early days, to family literacy, employability and ABE/ESL/technology programs, ESL Civics, and TANF training, with the "reward" being computers for students at the end of the program period. Yo this day I get "Oh, I got my first computer through them."

Bonnie Odiorne


Jen said: "As you can see from the screenshot the numbers looked promising, yet we've still encountered significant challenges in implementing Learner Web and on-line resources like USALearns: Reaching those folks who are connected to the internet at home & getting them into our programs."

I believe this is similar to adult literacy programs in general. In Nova Scotia (population about 900,000) we have 38% who have less than Level 3 literacy (IALSS) and just over 94,000 aged 25-65 who don't have a high school diploma. Yet, these potential adult literacy learners are not beating down the doors trying to get in a program. Numbers continue to dwindle for those enrolled in programs to attain a high school diploma. One promising practice was to entice potential learners by offering computer classes...it gets them hooked on learning, they realize they are doing literacy while learning computer skills and often it takes away the stigma perceived to be attached to literacy programming.

How do we create a culture that values all learning whether face to face or online?

Jayne Hunter


I agree that he cannot wait for the state/federal governments to implement technology, but there are systemic barriers to getting students to learn with technology that need to be addressed for those of us who teach in "borrowed" space and do not have our own facilities. We use laptops in a mobile lab format, but there is always the risk of theft and vandalism in locations where storage is increasingly difficult to secure. We are recommending that school districts build parent centers into their budgets so that we can have a stable location that students can use day or evening. We have also requested a "home" from local mayors so that we have a base for our operations that is locally funded.

Terry Shearer


People need to know where to go to get information on a variety of issues, not just classes: how to use the libraries, where to find used computers, etc. Immigrants who know no or little English also need help in navigating sometimes hostile waters.

Paul Rogers


Heidi said: An idea shared today was helping instructors learn to use technology through a distance learning course. Getting instructors more comfortable teaching w technology by having them learn through technology

I agree. In Nova Scotia, we are revamping and redesigning the foundational training for all practitioners to be offered on-line. There are other PD opportunities which be offered face to face but the certificate program will be offered on-line. This will make it more accessible to folks and many of the newer tutors and instructors are requesting an on-line version. One of the nine modules offered through the training is how to integrate technology.

By offering the training online, it is hoped that practitioners will feel more confident in using technology in the classroom. Learners definitely value learning these skills as they see the need to have them for work, family and community.

Jayne Hunter


Thanks for all the lively posts this morning and last night.

Many have written that the diversity in adult ed programs prompts the question, Which students??

This is fantastic, we have one of the most diverse student bodies an educational institution could hope for. Of COURSE there are many different needs. Let's discuss and figure out what the range is.

Let's dig deeper in response to the question to see if different demographics need different levels, types, quantities, etc. of support to engage in independent and supplemental online learning.

Tell us about the student pop's you work with: Who are they and what do they need to be successful learning with technology??

Heidi Silver-Pacuilla


I think that learners need time to explore and have fun on the computer in a comfortable environment where others are exploring too. Everyone brings expertise and experience, could be from another learner or from the teacher. As people learn new skills or discover interesting sites, they share with the others in the group. Everyone is learning and teaching. I feel this is very empowering. We've had very successful programs called IT for women, so successful in fact that the men demanded a similar program...the acronym was CATS but I can't remember what it stood for. This was also a wonderful program where the men went on field trips, took pictures with digital cameras, made movies, learned basic computer skills, etc.

One of the barriers I've encountered with computer courses is the perception of the learner, "if it's fun and games it can't really be learning." Has anyone else run into this?

Jayne Hunter


I've got some folks who fit into categories and then the really individual folks (I'm lookin' at one now).

Most of the students I see have had limited opportunities for development. In school systems, they were shuffled on through or spewed right out for any of a number of reasons; academic expectations have been low.

Some have medical issues such as drug abuse or medical malpractice that interfere with their ability to read and write;

Some struggle with anything abstract but can figure out the words reasonably well

  • Lots* of them have limited vocabularies and have learned to skip stuff they don't understand and do their best to get the gist.

A few are classic "bright dyslexics" who have academic strengths that are masked by specific difficulties.

Some are second language learners with widely varying levels of literacy in native language and culture.

My setting has different filters than many of yours since I'm in a college with mandatory placement testing, so I don't see the folks going to Adult Ed. However, Adult Ed doesn't work with folks with a high school diploma, and of course we have lots of folks with the piece of paper but without the literacy skills they need.

Susan Jones


Heidi's question: "Tell us about the student pop's you work with: Who are they and what do they need to be successful learning with technology??"

I'm not sure the needs of learners vary that much from the needs of educators (literacy level aside). In both cases they are adults and androgogical principals should apply across the spectrum. We all need: -motivation -access -time -support -ability or systems/rubric/curriculum to show our progress

Adam Kieffer


Heidi and others, I like Phil's analogy, “ As a teacher, our task can often be analogous to a chef or travel guide, who prepares treats and experiences that "keep them coming back." I think that is true. Though, as we offer these experiences as self-study it is a bit harder to sense what a learner needs at a particular time and so some learners struggle.

A colleague who was monitoring a pilot course noticed that there were four basic obstacles that lent themselves to learners dropping off. Bascially; - language level was too high - not enough time, - more computer skills were needed - affective factors such as not enough interest in material or lack of self-discipline etc.

It was felt that generally when two or more were lacking that students tended not to persist. Of course if any one of the above was particularly strong it was “curtains.”

Yet, affective factors can carry the day and translate into incredible persistence to overcome all the others. I have seen learners with very low computer skill and language levels struggle immensely but ultimately succeed. So I think it important for students to be engaged by us as far as course material, but I am not so sure how to address the need in self-study for external motivation that an instructor can offer. I have seen email and phone calls help in moderated courses but if it is purely self-study...?

Steve Quann


I think there should be a review of the needs that various kinds or groups of students have, especially focusing on the differences. In ESL, for example, students in a class of 25 have different needs than those in a class of 6. Young adults in their 20s are very different from older adults. For one thing, they learn a little faster. Many of them may already have studied English in high school and college. And they may be better off financially than others. They are more likely to already know how to use computers, etc. Older students who work 6 days a week and have families and are poor have very specific needs - and resources - not the least of which, in many cases, is living in a hostile environment. Those who know little or no English need bilingual materials and a teacher who can communicate in their language. Many of these older students not only do not know how to use computers but have more difficulty than younger students. Women are discriminated against because they need child care. This group is usually defined in terms of being the most underserved, and I would add the most deserving.

Paul Rogers


Yes!

I have had students who felt they weren't in "real school" if they weren't bored and unhappy. Some actually left!

There is a grammar series called "Power English" - a series of nine books that have incremental steps with lots of review. The biggest complaint I get is that it's too easy.

Learning should be enjoyable - fun actually.

Gail Troy


I do not think that computer learning need be just games, digital cameras, creating youtube videos, twittering and the like. For many learners, the availability of interesting meaningful content at their level, to listen to and read, is already of major benefit. There are a number of support functions and activities that can be built around that, online or face to face, but the main benefit is providing easy access to meaningful content, in audio and text format.

Of course this still assumes a certain knowledge of the computer and that needs to be provided if the learner lacks these skills.

Steve Kaufman


Agreed on motivation, access, time, support. As for measurement of activity and progress, and recognition, this is very important. Our learners have asked for a certificate even though most are self-learners, and LingQ is not in any way a certificate granting institution.

Here <http://lingqcentral.lingq.com/2009/06/a-lingq-certificate.html> is an example of the kind of certificate that we are developing with our learners. It displays the cumulative activities of each learner, and an evaluation by a tutor.

The idea is that a learner who wants a certificate after a certain period of study, whether study with a tutor or self study, will have to sign up for a 4 week course, or request his/her tutor to offer a 4 week course in order to be evaluated. The cost of a course is exclusively for the writing correction and online interaction with the tutor. The lessons, (content items) are, in fact, free. We need to make sure that a learner has at least 4 online discussions and 4 writing submissions in order to enable the tutor to evaluate the learner, after reviewing the learner's activity at LingQ.

The certificate shows the total cumulative achievements of the learner, and the learners level as evaluated by the tutor.

The certificate can be emailed by the tutor, or for a handling fee we could print it at our head office and mail it to the learner.


Steve Kaufman


Hello all - This has been another generative day of ideas about how we can support students and what it take to support students in online learning. Thank you to all who have shared and the many more who have been readers this week. I've compiled excerpts and will send an email w all of them. I want to point out two main, interwoven take-aways.

One, a couple comments moved us to the research/next steps focus for day 5 (how do you guys do that? Did someone get a hold of my notes about what to cover this week??? Everything has been nicely foreshadowed!!). I'm going to put up that post later this evening to kick that off.

Second, a few comments came in that focused on how projects continue to ripple well past the event. I want to dwell on this just a bit because it is one of my big passions even though it is not tech focused. Teaching is so much about MAKING OPPORTUNITIES for others. I am regularly inspired by how much and how far students (any age!) can go once given the opportunities and supports to do so. There are many elements to making opportunities: giving permission, arranging the environment, setting up for safe risk taking, encouragement, stepping back so students can take responsibility, scaffolding practice and growth, arranging showcases, and many, many others. This is where teaching is so wonderfully like community organizing and development.

Most of you have described projects in which you have invested a lot of personal time and energy. These efforts to make opportunities for others to learn with technology enrich all of our communities and we thank you and appreciate your work! Don't forget as you do this to share the wonderful feeling that making opportunities provides -- bring other organizations into the effort so they can share the glow. Partner! Ask! Insist! Individuals can do a lot, which is the point of this off-topic ramble, but it takes a concerted effort and team work to move systems.

Three comments tell of how this discussion which we are all squeezing into our already-busy lives is impacting distant others:

-Yet this day I get "Oh, I got my first computer through them." (of a long-defunct project that gave away computers to families)

-By forwarding the posts to colleagues around the state, it has helped to solidify connections and bring us together on the same page in our state too. Discussions like this have a big ripple effect that lasts long after the week or so that they run. We often pull up previous posts and talk about them, weeks or months later.

-So, again, THANK YOU for this discussion, for other discussions, for exemplary guidance -- and thank you to all who make the time to contribute (whether or not I agree with what you say). I have gained professionally and personally from this and other online CoPs.

Thanks for asking me to participate in the listserv so I can get some of your glow!

Heidi Silver-Pacuilla


Ideas shared today about What Do Students Need ? (minus a few that will lead into the Day 5 topic of research)

[It] takes more than the system/state/institution support è takes lots of time from teachers making opportunities happen.

When the student and teacher both see there is a good reason for using technology this makes everything else more likely to succeed.

It is far more important to help learners learn how to learn, than to teach them details of the language that they may have trouble understanding, remembering or using.

what kind of platform could integrate these [radically] different populations [that are represented in adult ed], because I remain convinced that at least some education-oriented platforms need to address the education of human beings, regardless of age.

-Some have medical issues such as drug abuse or medical malpractice that interfere with their ability to read and write;

-Some struggle with anything abstract but can figure out the words reasonably well

-*Lots* of them have limited vocabularies and have learned to skip stuff they don't understand and do their best to get the gist

-A few are classic "bright dyslexics" who have academic strengths that are masked by specific difficulties.

Some are second language learners with widely varying levels of literacy in native language and culture.

One of the barriers I've encountered with computer courses is the perception of the learner, "if it's fun and games it can't really be learning." Has anyone else run into this?

In ESL, for example, students in a class of 25 have different needs than those in a class of 6. Young adults in their 20s are very different from older adults.

One promising practice was to entice potential learners by offering computer classes...it gets them hooked on learning, they realize they are doing literacy while learning computer skills and often it takes away the stigma perceived to be attached to literacy programming.

Access, Awareness, Support

...less than it used to! ...a willingness to be a "guide on the side" ...a willingness to learn with...a willingness to deal with "glitches" in a non-panicky, 'plan B', use a little humor, way.

Heidi Silver-Pacuilla


These comments from day 4 lead us perfectly into day 5: (scroll down for the question of the day)

A colleague who was monitoring a pilot course noticed that there were four basic obstacles that lent themselves to learners dropping off. Basically:

- language level was too high

- not enough time

- more computer skills were needed

- affective factors such as not enough interest in material or lack of self-discipline etc.

When two or more were lacking that students tended not to persist.

We've still encountered significant challenges in implementing Learner Web and on-line resources like USA Learns: 1- Reaching those folks who are connected to the internet at home & getting them into our programs. 2- Providing up-front computer literacy classes so that the resources are accessible. In short, the problem is not just having a digital connection; it's knowing how to use it AND why it's important to use it.

We need more research, data collection, and shared knowledge such as the above lessons learned to understand how and how much learners learn in different online environments. We need such research to:

- compile practice guides,

- offer best practice examples to share,

- inform technical assistance,

- collect user data and progress monitoring from adult learning sites,

- inform programs' use of new accessible technologies,

- inform developers' use of digital support mechanism,

- guide future investments and policy, etc.

Please weigh in on the burning questions that research could address in terms of all we've discussed this week. Another "what would it take" question...

Heidi Silver-Pacuilla


Day 5, June 5, 2009

Questions for Day 5

We need more research, data collection, and shared knowledge such as the above lessons learned to understand how and how much learners learn in different online environments. We need such research to:

- compile practice guides,

- offer best practice examples to share,

- inform technical assistance,

- collect user data and progress monitoring from adult learning sites,

- inform programs' use of new accessible technologies,

- inform developers' use of digital support mechanism,

- guide future investments and policy, etc.

Please weigh in on the burning questions that research could address in terms of all we've discussed this week. Another "what would it take" question...

Heide Silver-Pacuilla


In addition to these four obstacles, I would like to add a fifth, one that I consider the major obstacle. The learner does not think that he or she can improve.

I often hear that some people just have a talent for languages and others do not. This is not true in my opinion, or at least it is not an important factor. Most Swedes and Dutch and Singaporeans speak at least one other language. Most Americans do not. Most aristocrats in Russian and Germany in the 19th century spoke flawless French. A majority of Ethiopians are fluent in more than one language. At various times in history it has been normal for people of certain classes or groups to be fluent in several languages. It is not a matter of a gene for language learning. It is a matter of considering speaking another language to be a normal thing to do, nothing special.

Whether in a classroom or on the internet, the learner has to be persuaded that he or she can do it, that it is normal, nothing special, but it does take a considerable commitment of time with the language. That time commitment is easier to fulfill today with technology.

Steve Kaufman


Heidi, I'd like to see more action research on persistence in online learning. I am not sure the key to success is always in the skills of the learner or in the content (or even quality per se) of the course, but the things it takes to persist. (I am not saying it is all on the learner's shoulders here, but I would love to see what educational psychologists would do with this topic.) I know many have looked to discussion boards etc to help create community support. But I am not convinced that forums work for everyone. Perhaps it comes down to that self study and online learning is not for everyone. (I suppose classroom learning might not be for everyone either.)

Or maybe success means just bringing it all together well. If more and more learners are going to be expected to perform in this new online environment, can we develop strategies that will help persistence as we might in our regular programs?

The New England Literacy Resource Center at World Education designed an action research study that drew on existing research, from NCSALL and associated promising strategies, and engaged adult education programs as research partners in adapting and testing those strategies for their program contexts. Perhaps there could there be the same kind of study but as it relates to online learning? In fact, of the 18 programs, one program studied the use of Quia and another Moodle. In case you'd like to see those parts or the whole study you can in this pdf [8MB] found at http://nelrc.org/persist/report09.pdf

Thanks for an excellent week of discussion. Best, Steve Quann


I work in a computer lab at a college, giving academic support. Mostly I help with the developmental reading, writing and math, but some students come in here to work on online classes (especially if they've got dialup at home). Just as in the classroom, there's a vast array of styles of delivery. Some of the things I've seen students respond well to (which correspond to what they'd respond well to in face-to-face situations) are:

-- Assignments appropriate to their skill level. This is harder to judge in an online setting, of course; you can't watch 'em work. -- reasonably quick teacher feedback about things. (As you'd expect, some students are simply amazed when a teacher gets back to them within a day or two, and other students are shocked and appalled that when they sent an email at 2 a.m. they didn't get a reply immediately, because after all, the paper was due the next day and they needed an answer...) -- structure. For example -- Guided questions in those forums. -- Those cute little icons for each week that link the student to the assignments and activities and everything that's due -- Accurate, current grades.

Some teachers have amazingly animated, organized courses; others can't be bothered to fix their broken links but still hold students responsible for that information...

Susan Jones


Heidi asked: Please weigh in on the burning questions that research could address in terms of all we’ve discussed this week. Another “what would it take” question…

Here are 5 of my burning technology questions for which we have little or no evidence from research:

  1. What are effective models for teacher training/professional development that help adult education teachers to effectively integrate the use of technology in their classrooms? Anyone know of any research that answers this question?
  2. Does integrating technology in the classroom provide improved learning gains? We do have some pre-post evaluation research that using supplementary videos outside class (videotapes, dvds and/or online) enables adult ESL students, at least in California, to make better progress than students who only attend class. For more information see: http://wiki.literacytent.org/index.php/ResearchOnTech#What_do_research_and_professional_wisdom_tell_us_about_the_use_of_Distance_Learning_.28DL.29_in_the_classroom.3F or, for short, http://tinyurl.com/9pq4d However, we need a lot more research in order to answer this question with confidence.
  3. Specifically, is there good evidence that using CAI or CALL with adults results in improved learning gains? This is the only evidence-based study I am aware of that shows gains for adults who used supplemental CALL software. Computer-Supported ESL Instruction For Adults: A Quasi-Experimental Study Of Usability, Listening Skill Gains And Technological Literacy, a study by Dawn Hannah, Ricardo Diaz, Lynda Ginsburg, and Christine Hollister, NCAL (2004) "was conducted with a group of adult English language learners at the intermediate level (although a 'relatively well-educated sample,' based on years of schooling, who valued independent learning and technological literacy skills), nearly half of whom had never used a computer to learn English before. A quasi-experimental design was used, and though substantial data were collected, the sample size was small enough to limit this to what would be termed an exploratory study." The findings from the study by Hannah et. al show that those ESOL students who used any of the three listening software programs (whose costs ranged from high-end to free) made greater gains than those who only went to class.)
  4. With what groups of learners, under what conditions, is adult basic education/ESOL distance learning effective? A study I conducted with Paul Porter in Massachusetts showed that adult learners in a blended model, with lots of face-to-face and telephone support was as effective or more effective (measured by retention and learning gains as reported by standardized pre-post tests) than classroom learning. However, the cost of providing these services as distance learning was greater than providing classroom learning. We didn't have the opportunity to study what the minimum level of support might be to make these gains.
  5. What are effective strategies for introducing adult learners to assistive technology that result in their using the technology on their own, and their making progress toward reaching their goals such as h.s. completion or attaining work related certificates? VALUE, the national adult learner organization is advocating for funding for demonstration projects in which adult learners learn how to use assistive technology such as text to speech to help them get meaning from text (what researcher, Tom Sticht, calls "auding" text, listening to text (from hard copy documents and/or electronic text) read out loud.

David J. Rosen


Day 6, June 8, 2009

Summing-up and Some Words about Twitter

Thanks to all who contributed and read and thought with us this week on the topic of independent and supplemental online learning for adults w low skills and/or English proficiency. As last time, I have learned so much about what people are doing around the continent as well as where the barriers are.

There are so many related elements we didn't get to....a good reason to keep the conversation going on this and related lists. Elements brought up in the questions submitted in advance that should be discussed soon in some way include accessible and assistive technologies online and in the classroom that can support literacy development and independence (the "facilitated access" piece) and the scope of self study for adult learners. Nell is putting up much of this discussion on the adult ed wiki for knowledge capture and sharing and will send a link and describe her work in more details.

The PD List is taking up the element of teacher preparedness in the near future. This is a critical area and I'll be watching and listening to that conversation. I hope you all will, too, as you have much to share.

I applaud all that you are doing, and encourage you to consider conducting action research and case studies and writing it up in a way that others can find it, learn from it, replicate/adapt it, and begin to build the research base in the use of technology for adult learners. At the same time, we have to keep up the advocacy for adequate funding for adult education so that we can serve students, support teachers, conduct rigorous research, and provide appropriate PD and technical assistance.

All best and thank you again for the conversation -

Heidi Silver-Pacuilla


I would add: what in adult learning theory might indicate enhanced learning using technology (learning modalitieis, multiple intelligences, neurological theories of language acquisition...)?

Bonnie Odiorne


Thought this article from Time magazine may be of interest.

I haven't explored the viability of twitter to enhance adult literacy education. Perhaps there are some possibilities amidst the vast trivialities.

Heres the link: http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1902604,00.html

George Demetrion


The objective should be to enhance the reach and effectiveness of teachers as guides and coaches. There is no way that a blended solution should be more expensive than classroom instruction( as claimed below), even without considering the cost of the learner getting to class.

Our experience suggests quite the opposite. A lot of people can be helped very inexpensively using technology. Until the classroom ceases to be viewed as the focal point of learning, no great change can occur. The centre of learning is the learner's brain. The teacher is one of many resources available to help. If the teacher sees her/himself as a coordinator, coach, guide or even orchestra conductor, rather than teacher of the language, then much can be achieved to help many more people than are now being helped with their language learning.

Steve Kaufman


I think you might want a little more "cross fertilization" of groups. This seems like a lot of breakdown.

One of thought I had was separating out health and human services from education. I work in the former and do sift through many emails that don't directly apply to my work. However, I do occasionally pick up some interesting tips anyway,...

Tammy Pilisuk


Steve Kaufmann wrote:


> There is no way that a blended solution should be more expensive

> than classroom instruction( as claimed below), even without

> considering the cost of the learner getting to class....Our

> experience suggests quite the opposite. A lot of people can be

> helped very inexpensively using technology.


Just to clarify, the Massachusetts Department of Education, the funder of the program I referred to in 4 (see below) was not impressed that the retention and learning gain outcomes of this DL (actually a blended learning) program were very good. Given that it was more expensive than classroom instruction, they immediately abandoned this intensive support blended model and moved to a pure DL model that, in its design at least, had very little instructor support -- one teacher contact hour by phone or in person for every 15 hours of independent online (or text-based) learning. (This was an affordable model, but the retention and outcomes were disappointing.) The question, "What supports do what kinds of learners need to be successful in distance learning" is a good one, but I learned from doing our study that a more useful question, especially for funders, might be this refinement: "What are the minimal supports (especially teacher contact by phone, online or in-person) needed for different kinds of learners to succeed (defined by attaining specific learning objectives and/or outcomes) with distance learning?" It would be useful to have a national research center that studies using technology in adult literacy education (including ESOL/ESL,) to set up some experiments in which we systematically look at a range of supports in several different programs serving the same kind and level of adult learner. For example, suppose 6 intermediate level ESOL programs were chosen, with learners who were comparable on key variables, and each used a different support model, ranging from a ratio of 1:12 to 1:4 hours of teacher support to hours of independent learning. Suppose further, that each learner was pre- and post- tested (after the same number of hours) using the same standardized instruments used to measure learners in intermediate level ESOL classes. And suppose that the cost of the DL programs were equal to or less than classroom models. This would give us a design that might be able to answer the question of what kinds of supports intermediate level ESOL DL learners need to attain the desired outcomes, and perhaps also whether more instructor support leads to better or faster outcomes.

Steve, has there been any research done on the approach you refer to?

David J. Rosen


I am actually an active participant on Twitter, (@jmarrapodi, follow me at http://twitter.com/jmarrapodi ) and have been playing around with the idea of an experimental class segment for low literacy learners in a Tweetchat. They could practice writing, reading, conceptualizing their thoughts, computer skills. We can block who has access to them. Having a 140 character limit makes things manageable and provides quick feedback. I have put out several Tweets about adult literacy, tagging them #adultliteracy if anyone cares to search.

Jean Marrapodi


Hi all,

Thank you, Heidi Silver-Pacuilla, for guest moderating such a thoughtful and animated discussion. And thank you list subscribers for such great participation. Our discussion was mentioned on at least one blog and on twitter

Blog: http://tdsbliteracy.blogspot.com/2009/06/learning-online-discussion.html

Twitter:

literacycaf <http://twitter.com/literacycaf> Link: Technology Discussion List http://tinyurl.com/nthuct1:05 PM Jun 2nd <http://twitter.com/literacycaf/status/2005719753> from web

literacycaf <http://twitter.com/literacycaf> i have been following the NIFL tech list discussion on intergrating online learning. day one people made a graffiti wall of recent changes.1:02 PM Jun 2nd <http://twitter.com/literacycaf/status/2005684975> from web

literacycaf <http://twitter.com/literacycaf> day 2 nifl tech ?: What will it take to help our colleagues (teachers and administrators) try technology infused teaching and learning, too?1:03 PM Jun 2nd <http://twitter.com/literacycaf/status/2005698007> from web

As Heidi mentioned, in July there will be a second part to this discussion moderated on the NIFL Professional Development Discussion List. Once the date is finalized I will make sure to post it on the Tech List. Also I am still working on the content for the ALE Wiki and will send out a post when it is all up. As I do this I will gather a list of questions that didn't get fully explored and post one or two questions a week so we can keep this discussion going.

Nell Eckersley


Great article on Twitter. I don't need another time eater in my life, but I think that we can, at minimum, use twitter as an outreach tool. Many bright students drop out of high school because they're bored. Capturing this easy to serve group should be a "slam-dunk". Getting them to recommend a GED program to their non-high school completer friends, family and acquaintances may be a good recruiting tool. Isn't there a national clearinghouse for inquiries? I know that Virginia will tell students about the nearest program.

Gail Troy


Jean, thanks for sharing this. I think this is a wonderful example of how to authentically integrate technology into instruction as a learning tool.

Melinda


This might be an elementary question, but If you don't have a mobile device, how can you keep up with Twitter? I signed up, but have to go into the Titter page to see tweets from the folks I want to follow. And I would like to jump on board!



Tammy Pilisuk


David,

You are welcome to look at what we are doing at LingQ, to survey our learners and to look at the cost. Most people use the system free of charge. However the active learners spend between $30 and $100 a month on tutor services.

Better still you can look at how this model could be modified to suit the needs of different kinds of learners.

It can be argued that we only get motivated learners at LingQ since there is no coercion. I would argue that only motivated learners achieve any meaningful progress in any case. The question is how to motivate and encourage more learners.

I am quite convinced that more face to face interaction than we offer would dramatically increase the number of motivated or engaged learners. This should be less expensive than relying exclusively on the classroom.

Steve Kaufman


An analogous question: are there apps that allow Tweets to come in as text messages do, rather than having to go to the website? I have a Palm Treo, which is pretty archaic in all this. Which mobile devices are more suitable? (I need a smartphone for assistive technology reasons).

Bonnie Ondiorne


Hello Tammy,

I appreciate your thoughts!

I agree with you completely about "cross-fertilization" across discussion lists. That's precisely why messages are (or ought to be) cross-posted whenever they are applicable to more than one discussion area.

Let me briefly explain my rationale for proposing the lists below: there are fundamental differences in L1 vs. L2 acquisition, especially when L2 is acquired subsequent to schooling having begun in the L1. In fact, I was schooled in English (my third language) from kindergarten onward (but knew not a word of English until then), and it took me two years to "catch up" with my English L1 peers. When you look at Collier's famous studies that point to a 5-7 year period for ELLs to catch up, the time I needed doesn't appear unusual. Further, I come from a well-educated family and my parents were devout believers in education and helped me with my studies, albeit in Hungarian (which is fine, because they could read English and understood my assignments). Of course, there are so many variables that impact L1 vs. L2 acquisition (many of which, in turn, certainly do cross borders, such that meaningful cross-posting might be the way to go).

As for immigrants with limited or no schooling and provided they take ESL classes and pursue some type of ABE, the threshold of learning what they already know in their L1 will soon have been reached and they will then be learning vocabulary and concepts they are not familiar with in their L1. This is an additional challenge unto itself.

I have actually proposed maintaining the same number of lists we currently have, but drawing a line that separates L1 and L2 learning, assessment, and professional development. What I'm not satisfied with is having lumped all other literacies into one multiple literacies list. Reading and writing literacy has evolved into such an such an array of literacies (each valid in their own right), that I'm not sure how the discussion lists can accommodate them and include more as they crop up, which they surely will in time.

You are the first one to have responded to my thoughts, and again, I greatly appreciate it. My attention is clearly directed at making the NIFL discussion lists as powerful a platform as only possible as we look toward the future, which is what prompted my thoughts in the first place.

Michael A. Gyori


I am a new tweeter. how do I find the bookmarks?

Joan Guthrie Medlen


Dear Steve,

The countries that do the best job at teaching EFL are the ones that teach it across the curriculum rather than as a separate "subject" area (which, in some fundamental ways, it is not, but rather a medium whereby learning is enabled). That we learn to read so we may read to learn is true for all languages, whether natively spoken or not.

I have read the many thoughts about a variety of personal traits, such as empathy and passion, and skill sets, such as being familiar with the experience of learning an L2 (ideally, I would say, in the context of a foreign country in which one is literally forced, even if for a few months, to learn the dominant language in order to maneuver the adopted surroundings, even if temporarily), and other skills sets derived from appropriate formal education in subject areas that relate to SL/FL language acquisition. I site these two skills sets as non-exclusive examples, but would argue that most teachers without them would further enhance their teaching abilities by developing them.

Unfortunately, many teachers rightfully claim they don't have any remaining time or resources to attend to more professional development. This is a real social and economic problem in the United States that is increasingly backfiring as a result of a currently umet need for bilingual (or multilingual) individuals across a broad range of language groups. I trust as the world becomes ever smaller, things will begin to change at an exponentially increasing rate.

Further, that technology in instruction should be used is, in my mind, a no-brainer. The only caveat is that its use is limited by its still uneven availability and perhaps even more so the lack of requisite knowledge on the part of some teachers as to how to incorporate technology as a vital resource both inside and outside the classroom.

Unfortunately, SL/FL education in the United States lags behind numerous other countries. Obvious reasons, in my opinion, include the lack of need for most Americans to learn another language, rampant subtractive bilingualism, and the relatively limited (to put it mildly) sociopolitical status of SL & FL education in this country.

When all is said and done, my experience tells me that the best teachers are the ones who self-admittedly keep on wanting to learn more about their professions. I frequently tell my students that the best teachers are the best students, and that the best students are the best teachers. Learning is a lifelong venture.

world10

Michael A. Gyori


That's ok Tammy. It is a learning process. There are a couple of ways to track Tweets. I keep Tweetdeck (http://tweetdeck.com/beta/ ) open on my system which also tracks my Facebook updates. This is a freebie you download and log into. It keeps the Twitter updates in columns, including a separate column for any replies mentioning me, or direct messages to me. I have over 200 people following me, so I've created groups of people, and columns for each group: for learning, nonprofits and Providence, where I live. You can also have searches active in another column so if someone mentions a particular word, you can be aware of it. That's how marketing people keep up with news and comments on their product. It's also a great way to find people interested in the things you are interested in.

You can just work with one column, by keeping the Twitter.com page open and logged in. It keeps a running list ("timeline") of your incoming and outgoing tweets, and you can easily scan for news. You can just minimize it, or use it as another tab on a web browser that allows for multiple tabs.

Think of it like e-mail: something to check in on from time to time.

Here's a nice overview of how-to, with some terminology, but warning: you may need your sunglasses. http://www.deannazandt.com/2009/02/26/a-non-fanatical-beginners-guide-t…

Jean Marrapodi