[AAACE-NLA] The Need for Digital Literacy in Adult Literacy Education
djrosen at theworld.com
Sun Feb 21 17:19:15 EST 2010
I welcome your reactions to the following challenge for our field:
Adults and out-of-school youth who are enrolled in basic literacy,
basic skills, English, adult secondary education or college
preparation programs, along with other Americans, need to be able to
use technology to wisely purchase, use, maintain and upgrade:
• Cell phones (or possibly smart phones/portable computers)
• Home computers
• Home printers/copy machines/fax machines
• Digital cameras including digital video cameras
• Internet access*
Skills in using these electronic tools, especially web-accessible
portable or desktop computers, are now necessary for most American
adults in order to:
• Get, keep or advance in a job;
• Get essential government information and applications, for example:
vehicle licensing and registration; government assistance program
services; Medicare; home energy audits; and job opportunity information;
• Get and reply to information about their children’s school choices,
about their children’s school’s programs, or classroom activities;
• Help their children with their homework or schoolwork;
• Improve their English language skills;
• Continue, enhance or accelerate their basic skills learning, now
increasingly offered through online and blended options;
• Get information from written documents, even though they may
currently lack the skills to read the documents, through using
software which can read the text out loud to them;
• Make wise and cost-efficient online purchases; and
• Pay bills efficiently, and in a way that is friendly to the
Many learners served by adult literacy education programs do not have
the technology knowledge and skills they need to do these things.
Most, but still not all, of the programs they attend have web-
accessible computer labs and/or web-accessible computers in the
classrooms. All adult literacy programs should have state-of-the-art
computer labs with broadband access, computers with broadband access
in every classroom, and a multimedia projector and electronic
whiteboard for each classroom; even if they did, there is another
obstacle for adults who want to learn these now essential skills: many
of their teachers cannot teach these skills because they do not feel
comfortable or competent to use digital technology themselves.
Why, in 2010, is this still a big barrier?
1) Our field has not made professional development, especially
professional development in using technology, a high priority.
2) The majority of our teaching force still consists of “digital
immigrants”, those of us who did not grow up with computer and
Internet technology, although that should slowly change over time.
3) Many adult education teachers either do not have regular daily
access to a computer and the Internet, or they have not had a
technology immersion program through which they could become
comfortable and competent in using the technology. For many of these
teachers, training – especially one-shot workshops – is not enough.
They need regular daily access to the Internet, regular, ongoing
training, regular practice of their new technology skills and
knowledge with their students; they need to be required – and
supported – to make this happen.
4) There is almost no public funding for adult literacy education
technology, including teacher professional development in using
technology, at the federal or at most state levels.
5) There is interest in our field in changing this situation, but
we have not given this anywhere near the level of priority it needs.
What can you do about this?
1) If you are a teacher, tutor, or administrator who is not
comfortable and competent in using technology, and you do have access
to a computer and the Internet, make digital and Internet literacy a
professional development goal for this year. Even if your state has
few or no technology trainings, or only ones that are offered when you
can attend, you can begin to learn these skills online (in some cases
with a little help in getting started) through a free (initially
federally-funded) web site, http://adultedonline.org
2) If you are a program administrator responsible for the
supervision of teachers, make technology professional development a
high priority this year. You could use http://adultedonline.org to get
3) If you are a state level adult education administrator, make
technology professional development a higher priority in all face-to-
face and blended professional development offerings. With program
administrators, teachers and others who care, identify teacher
professional development competencies in technology for your state.
Promulgate these, and provide opportunities for teachers to attain
them. Recognize teachers who do attain the competencies.
4) If you are a government or private-sector funder, fund
professional development to help adult literacy education teachers get
these technology competencies. If you are a federal level funder, make
teacher professional development the highest technology priority,
student technology literacy the second highest priority, and provide
the funding that states and programs need to support a massive
campaign for teacher technology professional development.
5) If you are a program monitor, include technology literacy
professional development and technology literacy for students on your
list of items to monitor. Make these a high priority.
* 74% of American adults, ages 18 and older, now use the internet as
of December 2009. http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Internet-broadband-and-cell-phone-statistics.aspx
David J. Rosen
DJRosen at theworld.com
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