Use Technology Effectively

In this section, we provide ideas on how you can use the technology you have more effectively in the teaching and learning environment. We recognize the challenges adult education settings have with uneven technology infrastructure (to say the least); however, there are ways to be creative, and we hope to inspire you to try out some of these ideas.

See the TEAL Center Fact Sheet on Technology Supported Writing Instruction at the end of this section for ideas on how to support writing at every stage with specific tools.

One Computer, No Presentation Capabilities

Make sure everyone has an e-mail address (at least a free account such as Hotmail, Yahoo!, or Gmail). In this way, you can exchange digital materials with students. If you do not have access to a computer laboratory or public computers where you can help get this accomplished, work with a partnering organization to do so. The public library, a community center, a local school (public, private, or charter) or college, a vocational rehabilitation center, One Stop, or even a business that has a computer laboratory may be an effective partnering organization. Teach learners how to open and send attachments.

Huddle Up! Use video and multimedia content on full-screen view, and have learners huddle around the one screen. Use this content to demonstrate a concept, introduce background knowledge, or make a point. Consider the learners’ ability to see details in such a situation. Send them home with the Web address so that they can watch the clip again on their own time, with better viewing capacity.

E-Mail Supplemental Materials to Learners. Discuss the materials and your expectations for their work in advance while you have learners in class, and discuss again as a debriefing activity. For example, if you want learners to do Web research, discuss ways to organize what they find and learn. Examples include the following:

  • Discuss/show on the whiteboard how to copy the URL and how to paste it into an e-mail. Get everyone in the habit of annotating the URL with their thoughts and review of the material. If all learners e-mailed you a few annotated URLs where they found good material on a topic, you could create quite a robust list of resources.
  • Discuss/show how to capture a screenshot and paste it into an attachment or e-mail. This process is incredibly helpful to document the moment when “I got stuck”!
  • Look for supplemental materials that generate a document that learners can print, save, or e-mail to themselves or you. This provides a learning object on which you can continue to build.

Survey Learners for the Technology Tools They Have in Their Pockets. If at least every two learners have a smart phone and a data plan that allows them to get e-mail in the class, find applications that can be e-mailed or sent via text messaging to the cell phones. Look for compact and mobile software programs if learners are working on tiny screens and keyboards.

Here are some examples:

  • Dr. Dictionary, Word of the Day ( – available by e-mail, text message, twitter feed.
  • Grammar Girl ( – has Q&A for many common grammatical challenges; subscribe to the newsletter or Facebook page and learn a tip at a time.
  • Language translation sites (
  • Google mobile browser ( – which runs much better on phones.
  • This Day in History for history buffs ( – available by e-mail; find similar sites for sports, arts, movies, cooks, poetry, Bible readers—almost anything!
  • Twitter! You can find a Twitter feed for any interest that will send short headlines and teasers; you might consider starting a Twitter channel for your classroom so that you can send links to classroom and supplemental materials. See what’s happening nationally in adult education by searching for #adulted.

“I find our class uses a variety as well including voice recorders, video recorders, laptops, PowerPoint, i-pods, zip drives, and projectors. It really seems to keep that twinkle in the students’ eyes when they are utilized. However, many of us could probably agree that the cost is really an issue. ... Perhaps collaborating resources with nearby districts may alleviate some restrictions. My class works very closely with the schools in our neighboring school districts … because the adult parents that I teach have children that attend schools in close proximity. I find that the teachers are very willing to set aside time to allow our class to visit, a field trip if you will, to learn on the SMARTboards that their very own children [use].”

Teacher, New York TEAL Team

“We use YouTube; often I just turn my monitor around so the class can see.”

Hilary Gwilt, Texas TEAL Team

“I have used my ELMO and also find it very useful—not only as a quick way to ‘throw’ something up on the screen, but also to change and add to it. It works great for math as well as writing. It also means you can model writing and the students can see what you’re doing because you’re not blocking the board!”

Jonathon Moore, Mississippi TEAL Team

An Instructor’s Computer With Presentation Equipment

In addition to what you can do with one computer, when you have a projector, there are many other ways you can engage learners. Almost everything that you want your learners to do with technology should be considered a new skill that has to be explicitly taught. Start by demonstrating how to use the features.

  • Demonstrate sentence-combining techniques in your focus lesson by underlining or highlighting the key word from the second sentence and demonstrating editing a new word into a text string.
  • Demonstrate various editing and revision features of your word processing software, such as highlighting related ideas by color code for reorganization, how to use track changes, how to add comments, and how to cut and paste.
  • Teach the use of spell checkers! Discuss the suggested words and why they may be included, and teach learners how to choose the right word or work to get a better selection. (Focus on trying to spell the beginning sounds of a word to get a closer match.)
  • Teach learners how to use text-to-speech to listen to their writing as a proofreading and revision strategy.
  • A single computer also can be a way to introduce websites, software, and ideas you want learners to explore on their own as supplemental to the classwork.
  • Show learners in whole or small groups the websites that you want them to explore on their own time at home, in open laboratories, or in libraries. Use TrackStar ( to create a set of URLs or “track” for individual learners or groups working on similar skills. Search the TrackStar site for tracks created and shared by other teachers, or sign up for the “track of the day.”

Classroom Technologies

  • SMART Boards have a wide range of functions, from projecting presentation slides and Internet sites to serving as an interactive surface that gets learners working together, solving mutual problems. One of the best features is the ability to print the screen, so that all work related to a lesson is saved for later discussion. They are great for showing editing, sentence combining, graphic organizers, planning, and revising.
  • ELMOs are projectors that do not require a laptop—they simply project onto the wall or screen, whatever is put under the lens. You can project student work samples, writing taken from magazines, photos, a notebook page with annotations—anything! When they are connected to laptops, ELMOs can project anything on the screen. They are great for showing editing, sentence combining, graphic organizers, planning, and revising.
  • Digital cameras and recorders can get learners out in the community and bring the community back into the classroom with digital stories. Learn about the use of digital stories in adult education at


We hear this from correctional educators who work in the most constrained instructional environments with learners who have little control over their own schedules. However, even with no Internet technology, you can introduce the concepts learners might encounter when they do gain access.

  • Teach the vocabulary that describes technology and program features; it changes all the time!
  • “Cut and paste” during revision. Do it physically with papers that are ripped apart and taped back together in a new order.
  • Highlight and comment with physical highlighters and self-adhesive notes.
  • Save “documents” in “folders” that are named, dated, and organized on your “desktop.”
  • “Tweet” and “text” short headlines and review comments to check for understanding as an Exit or Entrance Ticket (See Writing to Learn). Count the number of words rather than characters.
  • “Google it.” Digital literacy depends on being able to judge the value of what you find. Bring in various levels of credible information on a topic of discussion. Talk about how you can tell whether something is worth reading, worth citing, how to cite an article found online, and so on. Describe or draw on the whiteboard how search engines display returns with commercials, paid advertising on top and on the side, and freely available sources listed in the middle of the page. Talk about “photoshopping” and how images can be altered. This knowledge will hold learners in good stead when they do get online.