Ten years ago…
I started as a volunteer adult literacy tutor at a homeless shelter and outreach center. In six months, I helped a student change from calling herself stupid to picking up the community college brochure to look at classes. My Site Manager asked me to teach a class two evenings a week. I joined the ranks of the 77% of adult literacy instructors who teach part-time with little training.
Within a couple years I became a full-time Site Manager, learning most of my teaching skills from watching other volunteers and co-workers. Eager to serve my students better, I attended a national conference organized by ProLiteracy. The workshops gave me a new perspective, connected me to the latest research, and transformed my teaching.
It has been thrilling to give back to the adult literacy community as an author, consultant, and trainer over the past few years. I have seen instructor training change lives, classrooms, and programs.
This month I started a new adventure creating Social Studies materials for Essential Education. Much to my joy, I also get to work on a team developing professional development materials for adult educators! And WE WANT YOUR INPUT!
What about you?
What did you wish you knew when you started as an instructor? What workshops would/do you provide for new instructors? What skills or training improved your teaching? What professional development topics do you think have the most impact?
If you respond by Tuesday, August 26th, I will share your comments at our team meeting, but this is an ongoing process and your comments are welcome at any time.
Farrell Scholars, I’m finally bringing it home! This month I ended my recent whirlwind tour of 2014 GED Test workshops with a training for The Literacy Cooperative of Greater Cleveland. We had instructors from all over Northeast Ohio participate, from Cuyahoga to Ashtabula counties. As usual, our conversation was uniquely responsive to the concerns in the room, and we developed an interesting list of potential resources for teaching digital literacy skills. Look for that list as my next blog post!
Check out the presentation, including a new sample lesson:
Instructors worked in groups to develop their own interdisciplinary lessons. Here is the template and their scanned results:
Though this workshop was not provided through New Readers Press, The Literacy Cooperative generously raffled off five copies of Teaching Adults: A 2014 GED® Test Resource Book. Here is the newly updated book sampler, which has been fully reviewed for accuracy by GED Testing Service:
I don’t have many pictures to show for it but I greatly enjoyed my visit to Nashville, Tennessee for the USCAL Regional Conference. At the opening session, I approached a side table and sat down with three total strangers…and one turned out to be Linda Nelson! Twitter strikes again! Amazing. And of course she had brought along one of her AmeriCorps members, whom I promptly thanked for her service.
Linda and her AmeriCorps member both attended my workshop on Teaching Adults: A 2014 GED® Test Resource Book. This extended version focused on the relevance for teaching low-level learners, and gave participants a chance to create their own interdisciplinary lesson plans. Check out their creative creations below, along with the presentation and handout. Then download the lesson plan template and make your own!
We also browsed some of the test item samplers generously provided by GED Testing Service on the website. To see the book sampler as a PDF, go to the product page at New Readers Press and click “View product.”
Where did the new GED Test come from? What will it mean for adult literacy providers? How can adult learners and instructors get their voices heard about this and future changes in the educational landscape?
I answered these questions and more in ProLiteracy’s most recent white paper on the new GED test. I hope it’s helpful for you to prepare!
It’s grant writing season again, and this year I found myself updating local Census data, but still relying on literacy levels from the National Assessment of Adult Literacy back in 2003. It’s been 9 years! Like many of my colleagues, I was wondering when a new national assessment might be released.
Fellow members of ProLiteracy were able to do their networking magic and discovered that the National Center for Education Statistics is currently collecting data for an international studies that will provide data for the U.S. This will be beneficial not only to inform policy & practice in coming years, but also to provide international benchmarks to see how the U.S. ranks among other nations.
Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies
The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) is a cyclical, large-scale, direct household assessment under the auspices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The assessment will be first administered in 2011 to approximately 5,000 individuals between the ages of 16 and 65 in each of the 27 participating countries.The goal of PIAAC is to assess and compare the basic skills and competencies of adults around the world. The assessment focuses on cognitive and workplace skills needed for successful participation in 21st-century society and the global economy. Specifically, PIAAC measures relationships between individuals’ educational background, workplace experiences and skills, occupational attainment, use of information and communications technology, and cognitive skills in the areas of literacy, numeracy, and problem solving.
In the United States, data is being collected by the National Center of Education Statistics and the study is being called the International Survey of Adult Statistics. Though there are two different names and webpages, they are actually both the same thing. Follow our blog to get an update when the survey results are released!
One of the fellow ProLiteracy members lamented that she felt the data from NAAL has little applicability for her practice. Personally, I feel the investment is cost effective because it (theoretically) helps us decide as a country and community where to put our resources to create a more just and socially inclusive society. While NAAL and PIAAC are useful for making the argument for funding of adult literacy at large, she’s 100% right that it doesn’t help us make better decisions about specific interventions. For that kind of “practitioner relevant” research we can (and should!) look to best practices. Look for a blog post on definitions and resources for best practices in literacy next week.
After yesterday’s post about Google for Educators, Mimi Tanner from the Richardson Adult Literacy Center asked how to sign up for Google for Educators. Great question! Hope this helps:
Google for Educators and Google for Non-Profits have multiple levels of involvement, depending on what you want to do. I’ll give you two sets of instructions depending on whether you want to use this individually or for your whole organization.
Instructions for individuals looking to use tools independently:
STEP 1: Go to the home pages linked above and enter your email to sign up for their email lists.
STEP 2: Sign up for a Google account. Create a Gmail address here. This Gmail address will link together everything that you sign up for in Google. (It helps to create a separate work account from any personal accounts you may have) You will use your Gmail address & password to sign in to any other tools offered by Google.
STEP 3: Decide which tools you want to use. Start with looking at the descriptions for the Google tools for Educators. Use your Gmail account to sign up for any tool for free with no strings attached. If you have questions about how to use the tools, Google offers tutorials and videos (search YouTube if they are not posted from the Help pages). There is also a Google for Educators Discussion Group where you can view or post questions and answer about using Google for Educators.
Instructions for tools for a whole Non-Profit organization:
STEP 1: If you want to sign up your entire organization for these tools, then you should apply for Google Apps starting at this webpage. Google Apps is a whole set of tools that offers email service, websites, intranet, document sharing, video sharing, and calendar services for everyone in your organization. On that webpage linked above you will also see information about Professional Consulting available for organizations to start using the tools.
STEP 2: Go back to the main homepage for Google for Non-Profits. Consider some of the other options available for you for free. You could apply for Google Grants: in-kind grants of advertising space on Google’s search results. I won’t repeat the whole page: you can read it yourself. But similar to Google for Educators there is an online Discussion Group where you can read and post questions and answers about using these tools for your non-profit organization.
The nice thing about Google is that it is very integrated: once you start, everything connects to each other. The problem is that the possibilities are endless! You could spend all day posting on YouTube or Blogger or making maps on Google Earth. Before using this stuff, it saves a lot of time to have a plan for what you want to DO with it. Then after you get comfortable, continually analyze how what you are doing is working to see what tools you shouldn’t bother wasting any further time on. If none of your coworkers reads the Google docs you share with them, or lots of people read your blog but no one volunteers or donates, then reconsider your strategy. These are just a set of tools like any other tool. Even though the belt sander might be really cool, it’ll be useless if you don’t have a project to sand!
Another IMPORTANT NOTE about using Google Tools: it is your responsibility to guard your security. NEVER share your password with anyone for any reason. You can set the security settings on what you use in Google to decide exactly who can access what you create, including documents, videos, websites, pictures, etc. When you share that content, you should also check the security settings to see if they can share with others. On the other extreme, it is your responsibility to get your content noticed online! There are all sorts of things you can do to increase your visibility online (including applying for Google Grants) but the most important thing you can do is to create something that is useful for people and sends a clear message. My message is that it’s never been more affordable to join the 21st Century and hopefully by using these tools, adult literacy programs can become more efficient and reach a broader audience.
February 4, 2013: Updated links! Still the same great resource.
Do you want to connect to a broader network of programs working hard to educate low-literate adults? Get involved with ProLiteracy:
1. Advocacy: Sign the Statement of Adult Learner Rights or contact your representatives about legislation affecting adult literacy.
2. Become a Member: Get news about grants, discounts on New Readers Press Materials, adult education journals, and more.
3. Attend the Annual U.S. Conference on Adult Literacy (USCAL): network, learn, and celebrate. You can also nominate students, tutors, or programs for awards!