[Technology 1249] Re: Homeland Security question

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Matthias Sturm msturm at alphaplus.ca
Wed Aug 29 15:13:05 EDT 2007

Hi David and all

Thanks for your questions and interest in work outside of the US. Too bad all this discussion takes place under the umbrella of homeland security.

I inserted my answers to your questions in your message. Since there were 4 distinctly different programs participating in the pilot, I won't go into much detail about the specifics of each but I will draw your attention to where in the project report you can find additional info if you are interested. The report is at http://distance.alphaplus.ca

Cheers, Matthias


From: technology-bounces at nifl.gov on behalf of David J. Rosen
Sent: Tue 28-Aug-07 1:14 PM
To: The Technology and Literacy Discussion List
Subject: [Technology 1245] Re: Homeland Security question

Hello Matthias,

On Aug 27, 2007, at 3:32 PM, you wrote:

In Canada, we had the same questions coming into providing more online options for ABE learners starting in 2003. Over the course of the three years of the pilot project, we found out that the demographic of learners targeted and reached was quite different to the one of regular classroom-based or one-on-one literacy programs as the participating programs offered learners more flexibility in their learning options. >From a funding perspective that meant that the amount of learners to be serviced in the future for the same amount of funding is larger and more cost-effective options are needed, which in some cases online option can provide. Overall I think that by providing more flexibility to learners the quality of services has improved, also because it's more reflective of the demands in today's society re the use of learning technology. And it has helped to reach learners that were marginalized by not being able to attend regular programs in the past.

Matthias Sturm

Can you tell us a little more, please?

1) Were those in the pilot project who were using online learning doing it as pure distance learning or was this a blended (supported, hybrid) model?

Each of the four programs differed in terms of type and combination of e-based and print-based resources and communication tools used but all of them used a blended model to some degree. Over the three years the distance portion of the programs increased due to several factors (geographical barriers of the student population, push for increasing student numbers by the funder, attempts to deliver more cost-efficiently by reducing outreach activities, etc.) and synchronous communication platforms like Centra were used to provide as much personal and immediate contact as possible without having to meet face-to-face. From the beginning, the programs were encouraged to develop their own learning model based on the needs of the communities of their target area and as a result the programs delivered very customized programs but often had to make concessions and decisions that had to do more with the available funding and technology rather than what they would have wanted to do. Look at pages 21-26 for more specific info of the programs during the pilot phase.

2) Exactly how did the demographics change with those who chose to participate in the pilot? How did they differ from those served in regular classrooms? Students' goals? Literacy levels? Geography (more rural?) In other ways? For example, if you are familiar with the Reder and Strawn Longitudinal study (LSAL) in Portland Oregon, would you describe the pilot study participants as primarily "self study" people?

I'm unfortunately not familiar with that study but thanks for pointing me to it. There was self-study envolved to differing degrees at the participating programs but generally speaking, most activities were supported by a mentor in whichever way possible at at whatever intensity feasable depending on a whole set of circumstances. Student's goals in most literacy programs in Ontario are very individualized and training plans are customized to fis each student's employment or personal development goal. In programs provided by colleges and school boards, goals would be more academically driven, e.g. GED or an apprenticeship program.

In terms of the demographics of students, on the one hand, the pilot programs targeted students from a demographic which had been excluded from participating in classroom-based programs because there simply weren't any in proximity of the communities where they lived, e.g. isolated fly-in communities in North Western Ontario. On the other hand, although it looks like classrooms-based programs have included students from a demographic with transportantion and scheduling problems, for instance, the higher success rate of students who tried to attend classromm-based programs in the past but were not in the position to attend regularily shows that these students weren't really services by these programs but their needs are addressed by programs with higher flexibility in terms of scheduling options and use of learning mediums. We did work with a classroom-based control group for part of the research phase of the pilot so you'll be able to see some differences - see pages 33-37.

3) Are you saying that you found online learning more cost-effective? If so, can you tell us why?

No, I didn't mean to imply that online learning is more cost-effective, I'd rather imply the opposite but the reality has been that the funding pot hasn't increased while the target population of the students to be served has increased due to the fact that more students can access the services because of blended learning options. During the pilot phase this didn't matter much because special funds were set aside for the four particpatig programs but as soon as these options are available to learners across the Province, it will necessarily mean that programs have to find ways to deliver their program in more cost-effective ways. For example, it may mean that if one program cannot find enough learners with similiar employment and learning goals, they may not be able to work in small group or even one-on-one as has been the custom at community-based agencies here; they may be forced to look for partnering agencies to share resources but also the funding received on a per student basis. Looking at programs servicing Deaf students here, this has happened already as different programs in a program network work with groups of learners connected by video-conference because any other way there would be no program available for such a small demographic spread across a large area.

4) Why has quality of services improved? Is this because with combinations of face-to-face and online learning students have greater intensity of learning, i.e. more time on task? Or is it something else?

I agree that the combination of face-to-face and online increases the intensity of learning. For students who have been excluded from face-to-face programs in the past for various reasons, online learning is the only option anyways. Face-to-face seems to have been thought of a necessary quality of learning but we seem to have found that it is not the face-to-face contact between students and their teacher and their peers but rather the immediacy of response. This can be as effectively provided by synchonous communication tools, IM, Centra, sometimes even the telephone, as face-to-face and in some ways even better because more connections are possible at any given time between the parties involved. A side effect is that it places the teacher among the group of participants and that is a very democratizing element that education everywhere needs badly, in my opinion.

Also, I think the quality of learning has improved because, e.g. (1) more learners actually have access to programs (2) they are connected with more learners with similar experiences (3) they thrive by being included in the latest societal developments, i.e. the use of web technology (4) the development of learning materials and strategies is being revisted in light of the new media connecting students, teachers, learning materials and communication tools, and that often in a reflective manner about past classroom-based practices (5) learners are empowered by using the tools that other adults (their peers, their teachers, etc) and their own children use and can see very quickly that they can particpate in and contribute to their immediate environement. I think that adults no matter what their skill level have a right to be included at every level and generally speaking the quality of services improve because they are often delivered more throughtfully and respectfully by the people involved when pst parctices have to be revisted because of changes brought on by new developments.

Thanks. I look forward to learning more about the pilot project and to seeing your answers to these questions.

All the best,


David J. Rosen
djrosen at comcast.net


> ________________________________


> From: technology-bounces at nifl.gov on behalf of John Fleischman

> Sent: Sat 25-Aug-07 9:21 PM

> To: The Technology and Literacy Discussion List

> Subject: [Technology 1233] Re: Homeland Security question



> By most estimates, we're reaching less than 10% of the adults that

> need to improve their literacy skills. With the rapid advancement

> of the Internet and broadband connectivity, it may be possible to

> reach some of those adults who are unwilling or unable to

> participate in face-to-face adult education programs provided by

> public and not-for-profit entities. Yes, the potential students'

> lack of computers and Internet access may be problem, but it may

> not be as great as you think. Our initial research is showing

> significant shifts in both access to computers and connectivity.


> Is there reason to think that adults in need of literacy and

> English language services would engage in independent learning? The

> Longitudinal Study of Adult Learners (LSAL) provides strong

> evidence that as many as 65% of adults needing additional services

> engage in some form of self-study (Reder & Strawn, 2006). While

> the LSAL does not specifically address Web-based resources, a

> portal with a variety of content and appropriate support structures

> should appeal to adults who have easy access to the Web and are

> comfortable interacting with Web-based materials.


> A comprehensive online resource could also serve as mechanism to

> increase intensity of instruction in conjunction with traditional

> delivery systems. If designed appropriately, the online resource

> could serve independent learners as well as those "connected" to a

> tutor or teacher. The plan is to have this new resource as an

> addition, not a replacement for our current system.


> John Fleischman


> The Technology and Literacy Discussion List <technology at nifl.gov>

> on Saturday, August 25, 2007 at 1:05 PM -0800 wrote:

> Everytime I hear about this issue, I wonder if the existence of

> these free electronic resources will lead to huge reductions in

> government funding for the face-to-face adult education programs

> currently provided by the states. With that possibility in mind,

> I'm also concerned about potential students' lack of computers and

> Internet access, not to mention the relative benefits of learning

> exclusively online versus learning in a classroom with colleagues

> and teachers. But if this new resource will be an addition to our

> current resources rather than a replacement for all or part of what

> we're doing now, I'm all for it.

> Debra Morris Smith



> On 8/24/07, John Fleischman <jfleischman at scoe.net

> <mailto:jfleischman at scoe.net> > wrote:




> Greetings, Larry and Barry. And greetings to NIFL Tech Listserv

> subscribers. John Fleischman here at the Sacramento County Office

> of Education.


> I believe I can shed some light on the August 10th announcement by

> President Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

> See: < http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/

> 2007/08/20070810.html <http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/

> 2007/08/20070810.html> >.


> The announcement by the Administration focused on improving border

> security and immigration. The last item on the list, number 26,

> indicates, "The Department of Education will launch a free, Web-

> based portal to help immigrants learn English, and expand this

> model over time.


> The development of this portal is an outgrowth of a currently

> funded Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) project

> entitled Strengthening Programs Through Technology (AKA AdultEd

> Online), a partnership between my office and the University of

> Michigan. The contract was awarded to develop a number of

> technology resources for adult education including exploring the

> feasibility of building a Web portal where adult learners could

> find instructional materials on subjects ranging from learning

> English to preparing for the G.E.D. To better understand the

> design features a portal should have, a prototype is being built

> first. The prototype will contain learning materials in three

> areas: a beginning-level English course, a mid-level English

> course, and activities for improving reading, writing and life skills.


> The prototype should be complete on January 31, 2008. It will then

> undergo several months of field testing with learners. By

> September a refined portal should be ready to launch for use by

> adults anywhere in the United States. The portal begins with a

> focus on learning English, but the portal is expected to expand

> over time, with the addition of materials in areas such as civics

> and basic skills.


> Over the next couple of months we'll be sharing more information

> about the portal. We also look forward to getting stakeholder

> input as we conduct field testing during Winter-Spring of 2008.


> John Fleischman

> jfleischman at scoe.net <mailto:jfleischman at scoe.net>


> Jerome Johnston

> jerej at umich.edu <mailto:jerej at umich.edu>



> The Technology and Literacy Discussion List < technology at nifl.gov

> <mailto:technology at nifl.gov> > on Wednesday, August 15, 2007 at

> 1:35 AM -0800 wrote:

> On Tuesday the Department of Homeland Security announced 25 new

> measures to address "border security" and "immigration

> challenges." I would actually characterize many, if not most, of

> them as anti-immigrant.


> There is one, however, that teachers of English Language Learners,

> and their students, might find helpful. It is, not surprisingly,

> the last one on the list.


> The announcement stated that the "Department of Education will

> launch a free, web-based portal to help immigrants learn English..."


> The announcement gives absolutely no other details about when it

> will begin, what might be included, or who in the Department of

> Education is actually doing it.


> Does anyone know more?


> Larry Ferlazzo

> http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/ <http://

> larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/>


> The Technology and Literacy Discussion List <technology at nifl.gov

> <mailto:technology at nifl.gov> > on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 at

> 5:28 AM -0800 wrote:

> I will have to learn more about the site, but I think many students

> will view the help skeptically because of past experience. After

> September 11th, NYC asked all immigrants (legal and illegal) to

> register to help the city better understand its friends vs..

> enemies. Many immigrants did so, and those illegals (Mexican,

> Irish, Danish, Congolese, etc.) were shipped off over the next

> couple of years.


> So, what am I getting at? Some classes build progressively and

> want individual student identification so that a student can leave

> mid-class and pick-up where they left off. Could this individual ID

> hurt the student's status: I am thinking that even if the DHS site

> does not ask for personal information it can be gotten other ways,

> like using a " jon.smith at yahoo.com <mailto:jon.smith at yahoo.com> "

> address to track to the user's more personal information of locale.


> Barry Burkett,

> Frankfort, KY


> The Technology and Literacy Discussion List <technology at nifl.gov

> <mailto:technology at nifl.gov> > on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 at

> 4:48 PM -0800 wrote:

> Barry makes an excellent point. I think the public statement said

> it would be run through the Education Department, but that doesn't

> mean they wouldn't share information.


> I still haven't found anyone who knows anything more about it than

> what was said on the release.


> Larry Ferlazzo



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