2018 Book Challenge #2: The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly

New book review available! I’ve enjoyed KK.com for a while, and finally finished this longer work on the verbs that HUMANS will be doing in our new digital age. I’m having a little trouble with YouTube Live, so there’s a delay in posting, but I have a third book review video hopefully processing now on Little Book of Conflict Transformation by John Paul Lederach. I’m also in the process of reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, and Laudato Si by Pope Francis.

Please support this read-a-thon by subscribing to the YouTube playlist and sending a donation to Henderson Library Association, 54 E Jefferson St, Jefferson, OH 44047.

If I Ran the School: Blended Learning

If you ran a school for at-risk teens or non-traditional adult learners, what would you do?

I’ve been fortunate to work in adult education, where this question gets asked daily. What do you do when 100% of your students have the most barriers to learning, and a bad taste in their mouths?

What works, and what doesn’t?

I would focus on two words:


Next week, I am facilitating a live course about BLENDED LEARNING for Virginia Department of Corrections educators. 

Want to join us? Sign up for details about how to follow along online!

Tell Me More

Here’s a closer look at common adult education program structures (and why I think blended learning is the best):

Business as Usual: Face-to-face Instruction

No matter your student population, some teachers are all about classic face-to-face group instruction:

  • lecture,
  • textbooks,
  • long videos,
  • and now many students ignoring it all in lieu of cell phones…

Okay, Ferris Bueller is a super exaggeration. I mean, I have seen some really excellent group instruction: engaging, interactive, relevant. But… it’s still face-to-face group instruction.

“What’s wrong with business as usual?” you ask.

Well…if you miss a day, you’re behind. Or you show up, but you don’t understand it, you’re behind. Guess what? Most at-risk students already start BEHIND!

Actually, the truth is that a slim majority of high school students actually pass with business a usual. At least, they graduate.

But I’m not worried about “most students,” and neither are you. We’re worried about the ones who didn’t get it the first time, the ones who fall through the cracks.

What alternative programs do high schools or adult education classes offer for the large minority of students who do not succeed in traditional face-to-face group instruction? How do they stack up against 

Worst Outcomes: Self-Paced Online Learning

A few years back, some members of the educational press were crowing that MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) were going to be The Golden Ticket that was going to FIX education!

As predicted, MOOCs did not fix business as usual… follow up studies showed that only 10% of students who enrolled completed a MOOC.

These outcomes could be improved by adding elements of faciliated coursework. But that required removing the Massive and Open parts of a MOOC. Then it’s just an OC (online course), and stops being entirely self-paced.

The high school where I worked fell into a similar trap as MOOCs. The district offered online learning for students with barriers:

  • teens who had babies,
  • were ill for extended periods, or
  • their behavior was too disruptive.

Most of the at-risk online students didn’t have the discipline to complete their coursework. For the 10% of motivated, self-paced learners, online learning is critical.

But purely online learning needs additional support, not less than traditional teaching. It works well for traveling artists & athletes, not discipline cases.

Moderate Success: Dual Enrollment

With the merger of workforce development and adult basic education through WIOA, career pathways are all the rage.

Dual enrollment combines high school level study with post-secondary credentials.

Technical training, classes at a local college campus, and supervised work-study tend to help students persist in learning, and give them a head start on productive careers.

There are plenty of data backing up the effectiveness of these programs for those who enroll.

Men in ties in a carpentry workshop
Returned soldiers at vocational training in Queensland, 1920

So why aren’t they top on my list?

These approaches are not scalable because enrollment is limited.

And limited enrollment is a good thing! Specialized technical training is not for everyone, especially when we’re preparing people for jobs that won’t exist a decade from now.

On top of that, the students with the most barriers–OUR adult basic education students–are often the least likely to benefit from highly structured programs.

Best Solution: Blended Learning

What can we do? 

How can we consistently improve outcomes for adult education or alternative high school programs?

How do we reach the at-risk adults and teens who lack:

  • the stability for dual enrollment programs,
  • the discipline for self-paced online learning, and
  • the attention span for face-to-face instruction?

We throw in a mix of each with blended learning!

Blended learning combines face-to-face, instructor-led programs with self-paced student use of technology.

Multiple pathways are accessible for students in the same building. Through online learning, students can engage the world… while maintaining the support and continuity of instructor oversight.


Vulnerable students of all ages need genuine human connection to successfully graduate.

But they also need the flexibility and autonomy to make their own choices, and accommodate the messiness of life.

Graduate schools have figured this out: they are expanding their reach by adding flexible, blended learning programs that encourage individual inquiry while developing a community of scholars.

Those at “the top” of their careers share the same barriers as those who are most vulnerable:

  • unpredictable schedules,
  • work and family responsibilities,
  • need for increased support, and
  • an inability to participate in an immersive on-campus experience.

Blended learning meets all those needs, plus it’s scalable. Thus blended learning is the optimal solution to prepare at-risk high-school-level graduates for a 21st century economy.

Graduates will be entering a world that mixes:

  • oversight and autonomy,
  • independence and teamwork, &
  • technology and human connection.

Blended learning prepares students for the “both… and” aspect of our strange new world.

“Blended learning is the optimal solution… for a 21st century economy.”

Next week I look forward to discussing the details of how to implement blended learning in adult education programs. I hope you can join us!


Tell Me More

Benefits and Difficulties of Teaching Tech 101

In an increasingly digital world, those without basic technology skills can be left behind socially and economically. How can we help bridge the gap of the digital divide?

As an educator, what are your hopes, goals, and expectations for teaching basic technology skills? I found this short (less than three minutes) but interesting video of one tutor’s experience teaching technology to elders in Toronto. While watching, consider the following:

  • What is Sarah Lee’s motivation for volunteering as a technology tutor? Why does she think teaching basic skills is important?
  • Pay attention to how the classroom is set up. What are the positions & facial expressions of students & tutors?
  • What does Sarah Lee consider the biggest benefits and difficulties of her experience as a tutor?

How does Sarah Lee’s experience compare to your own motivation, classroom set up, and difficulties teaching basic technology? Why do you do it? What is realistic to expect from the experience?

Improve Your Typing Speed for Computer-Based GED® Testing

This tip was inspired by Elizabeth Sekerak, former AmeriCorps member in Northeast Ohio Literacy Corps.

The GED® test will only be offered exclusively on the computer at authorized testing centers. You can never take the GED® test online.

The 2014 GED test has typed response sections in Science, Social Studies and Reading! Some test takers are much slower at typing. My adult literacy students wanted to learn to type faster, so I made this chart to track their progress:

Typing Chart

Each Wednesday for 15-20 minutes, my students practiced typing at TypingTest.com.


  1. There are lots of ads on the site, so sometimes students found themselves on another website. If that happened, I told them not to click or type, but just stop and raise their hand and I showed them how to go back in the browser or close the pop-up.
  2. The site offers a typing tutor product. It is free at first, but later you have to pay, so I told my students not to sign up. (They had me, after all!) But if you are studying at home and struggling, maybe the typing tutor online would be helpful. Just don’t forget to call and stop payments when you’re not using it any more!

Typing Test Screenshot

I gave my students these directions to use the Typing Speed Test:

  1. Choose your language. We use English.
  2. Choose to take a test for one, two or three minutes.
  3. Choose which story you want to type. Some are more difficult than others due to punctuation or unfamiliar vocabulary. Instructors should try the stories in advance to give recommendations.
  4. Click “Start Test.”
  5. The website will give you a story and you type every character, including spaces, capitalization and punctuation. You can use delete or backspace to correct errors.
  6. At the end of the test, you get a report of your Words-Per-Minute (WPM), which subtracts your errors.

Important: The test takes off points for errors. After their first test, I put the students’ index cards on the chart (with their permission) to show their WPM (minus errors). They ranged from 3 to 18. When I put the index cards on the chart, I emphasize that they are not racing each other, but racing themselves to see how much they can improve their own score.

Next, I showed the whole class how to use:

  1. “Backspace” or “delete” to correct errors.
  2. “Shift” to capitalize letters and type punctuation like , ” – ? !

At first, I told students to practice on the same story over and over. They tried again, and I moved up their index cards on the chart on the first day. Just learning how to type without errors greatly improved their scores.

After three weeks, most students almost doubled their WPM! We were very excited to see results go from 3 to 7 WPM or from 12 to 21 WPM. We applaud at the end of each session for students as they move along the chart. But after the initial improvement, the progress was not as dramatic.

There were still a few students typing with one finger at a time (I call this “hunt and peck”). They wanted to learn how to type without looking at the keyboard every time, also called “touch typing.”

Enter YouTube! There are lots of brief videos on specific keyboarding skills. I chose a playlist from Expert Village of nine Computer Typing Lessons. Videos can be used for a group, or individual students can watch with headphones. After watching once, students can practice the keyboarding skills (in a word processor like Microsoft Word or Google Document) along with the videos:


Do you have any other tips or websites to help improve typing skills?

Resources for Teaching Tech for the GED® Test

Computer-based GED® testing has already arrived in many states. Starting January 2, 2014, the new version of the GED® test will only be delivered on computers-though still only at official GED® testing centers! Writing must be typed on a QWERTY keyboard instead of handwritten or on a mobile device keyboard. Test-takers will also have to drag-and-drop answers, select from drop-down-menus, use an on-screen calculator and formula sheet, and read text by scrolling and clicking on tabs.

In learning about the new format of the test, some instructors in a recent training in Cleveland, Ohio shared resources to help their students (and themselves) learn the computer skills needed for the test.


The silly dancing mouse leads the way to a focused introduction to many of the main computer skills that will be required for the new test. Also available in Spanish. I was impressed by the simplicity of this tutorial: no music or flashing lights, just the basics. Learning to use the mouse is challenging enough!

Many thanks to Chris Rippel of the Central Kansas Library System for creating this great resource and making it available for free.


With over 750 lessons and 250 videos, this site is full of helpful information and activities to increase computer skills.
Under Computer Basics, I highly recommend the Interactives, especially Mouse Tutorial and Parts of the Keyboard.

The Beehive’s Digital Basics

I appreciate this site’s focus on using the internet safely. I’ve known many students and instructors excited to try out smartphones or broadband at home, only to get a virus or scammed. Vocabulary seems too difficult for low level readers.

LearningExpress Library

INFOhio offers this service for free to Ohio residents. You can login to INFOhio using the user name: INFOhio and the password: power. Next you can go to > Electronic Resources Core Collection > Learning Express Library (LEL), and then create your own LEL account name and password. You’ll find materials for GED Test Preparation as well as popular software tutorials. Recommended for intermediate computer users and independent readers looking to study from their home computer or to improve their employability.


Teknimedia’s CBT100

Looking for lessons and activities specific to the computer-based 2014 GED® Test? Teknimedia delivers. Test it out with three sample lessons and a 30 day free trial.

GED Academy’s Computer Essentials

To accompany its existing online test preparation program, GED Academy is developing a “course that teaches itself and doesn’t require you to become an expert in computer literacy skills.” Coming soon!

Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing

Mavis Beacon is a classic software in computer learning labs for all ages. The program provides structured lessons and activities to build typing skills. Now they also offer a free Facebook game called Movie Mayhem!

Online Practice

The following websites don’t provide explicit digital literacy instruction for beginning or intermediate computer users. However they can give students practice with clicking, navigating tabs, scrolling, and drop-down menus, all while studying content assessed on the GED® Test:

The importance of partnerships

Instructors shared resources in the Cleveland community that either offer their own computer literacy programs, or would be willing to partner and teach the skills needed for computer-based testing. These include:

CAACE: Exciting Strategies & Technology to Prep Learners for the 2014 GED Test

My first full day workshop on Teaching Adults: GED® was great fun in Bristol, CT! We had a packed workshop of about 80 attendees, mostly instructors. Many of them brought their own tablets and laptops and earned a Tech Savvy sticker. Before the session started, people were very curious & most were excited about the possibility of getting stickers. Other attendees got an Experienced Educator sticker for having 20 or more years teaching adult education. Our most experienced had 43 years under her belt! 42 of the participants also signed up for a student account and joined our Edmodo group, which earned them an online badge. I love those little ways of making workshops fun and demonstrating transferrable tech/non-tech strategies.

CAACE hosted the workshop at the Bristol Adult Education Center, which was the first in the state to implement computer-based GED® testing. The facility was fully equipped with SMARTboards, multiple computer labs, re-sizable rooms with dividers…a fantastic space for a large group training. Their Director, Maria Groody, also made it a great experience by emphasizing having a relaxed, fun day together. I tried to take full advantage of the amenities, especially to highlight some possibilities for technology in GED® Test Prep instruction. Unfortunately I lost my own “Tech Savvy” sticker because I couldn’t stop touching the SMARTboard! I’m used to my own chalkboard back in Cleveland.

The first half of the day was my typical “Top 5 GED Changes” presentation, with the Q&A and reflection in pairs and large groups. We had a fresh-off-the-press new version of the book sampler with updated information that had just been reviewed by the GED Testing Service. That was exciting, and as always we generated some interesting discussion.

The afternoon I really got to switch it up by sending participants into small groups in various classrooms & computer labs to create their own lesson plans and post them on Edmodo. Such creativity! The instructors really took to the challenge, finding free online content on relevant topics for their students like coordinate planes, school uniforms, body mass index, abortion, recycling, driver’s licenses… And the best part is all those lessons are now in our Edmodo group for participants to share and use again!

Download the template & create your own interdisciplinary lesson plan:

Training & Workshops in 2013: Tech Integration & GED Test Prep

A new series of GED® Tests is released on January 2, 2014. The new test has significant changes, including the entire test being delivered on the computer (though still ONLY at official GED Testing Centers…never online). GED students, instructors, publishers, and programs are all preparing for the change.

I’d like to help you get ready, too! Teaching Adults: A 2014 GED® Test Resource Book will be released by New Readers Press this spring, and I’m bringing lesson from the book to workshops and conference around the country. The following dates have already been set, with more in the works, including webinars. I hope to see you there!

Friday, March 15, 9:00am-noon, Cleveland, OH
Finding Great Tech for Teaching for The Literacy Cooperative

Tuesday, March 26, 1:45-3:00pm, New Orleans, LA
Teaching Adults: A 2014 GED Resource Book Exciting Strategies to Prep Learners for the New Test (Session #C302) for 2013 COABE LAPCAE National Conference

Friday, April 19, 9:00am-noon, Cleveland, OH
Tech to Track and Assess for The Literacy Cooperative

Thursday, May 2, 2:00-5:00pm, Nashville, TN
Teaching Adults: A 2014 GED Test Resource Book Exciting Strategies for Low Level Learners for USCAL Southeastern Regional Conference

Is your city not on the list? I’d be happy to discuss presenting any of these workshops or scheduling a webinar for your organization. Fill out the form below and let’s talk!

Are Technology Natives All Illiterate?

Literacy means a lot more than just reading. It can mean any skill of comprehending, analyzing, applying, and evaluating different types of information in order to function in society. Computer and technology literacy can be one of the most complicated, especially because of how frequently things change. Now with the hot topics of computer-based testing and mlearning, I’ve begun to feel that every time new technology disruptions rock our worlds, any one of us can find ourselves “illiterate” and struggling to understand exactly what we’re looking at.

About six months ago, I was ending my largest long-term contract as an educational consultant. As I pondered my next move, I wondered what it would take to position myself to move from purely local projects to also working on something with national relevance. Because of my interest in technology integration and distance education, I decided to develop an engaged, strategic social media presence. While I had a personal Facebook account, plus a professional blog and eNewsletter, I used them only when I had time between other projects.

Though I consider myself a technology “native,” creating a genuine social media platform was like starting all over again. It has been a real challenge for me! I started my strategy with a recommendation from Constant Contact to post to Twitter three times a day, Facebook once per day, and your blog once per week to engage and grow an audience. I also decided to create a LinkedIn group to try to locally share jobs and opportunities in literacy.

Although I consider myself proactive in finding resources online, I was surprised with the amount of time it took me at the beginning to find and share content. Sharing using multiple accounts led me to try a new range of secondary tools (like HootSuite) just to read & schedule content so it was presented more regularly and in an appropriate format for each network. As I reached out to new people through multiple networks, I then had to regularly check back when people began responding with genuine conversation! Also I was regularly (at first kind of addictively) checking my statistics to see how many visitors, shares, and followers I had across different accounts.

Over time I have more easily integrated this ongoing stream of information input & output into my daily life. Because I have developed genuine relationships & ongoing conversations, I no longer have to dedicate a chunk of 2-3 hours once or twice per week to find & schedule content; I just “check in” with my networks on my smart phone whenever I have some down time. Based on analytics & interest, I have let some elements drop (like the eNewsletter) to focus on the areas that have provided more individualized interaction & depth of content (it turns out I love Twitter! It’s my newspaper now). I have realized that more thoughtful blogging at any pace is much better than cursory content on a schedule. Most people find my blog posts through search engines anyway. In addition, I met my goal of developing an inter-regional & international network with whom I can learn, share, and get involved with exciting projects with national scope. The buzz word for that is a “Personal Learning Network.”

Because technology is constantly changing, and using even familiar technology for a new purpose is like starting over, I think anyone (tech “natives” or not) are now bound for a lifetime of being illiterate over & over again. I found a great blog post by The Technium on Techno Life Skills that everyone needs regardless of the technology they use. My favorite pieces of advice are:

“Often learning a new tool requires unlearning the old one. The habits of using a land line phone don’t work in email or cell phone. The habits of email don’t work in twitter. The habits of twitter don’t work in what is next.

“You will be [a] newbie forever. Get good at the beginner mode, learning new programs, asking dumb questions, making stupid mistakes, soticting [sic] help, and helping others with what you learn (the best way to learn yourself).”

I think we can all plan on being illiterate workers for our whole careers! But as long as we stay curious and collaborative, we can stay connected with each other to learn and unlearn technology together.

Free Cool Online Tool: Gamestar Mechanic

Some of you may know that I have spent the past year on a vision quest: wondering as a woman with an academic background in religion and a professional background in adult education and non-profit consulting, how can I best equip myself to enter the fields of elearning and educational technology?  In this way, I have become the consummate non-traditional adult learner: with only one undergraduate class in computer science ten years ago, and no clear professional development not designed for those already in the field, I am wondering where I should possibly begin to scale the mountain of nerd-dom with enough technical skills to be competitive?

Some people have even told me they don’t see how it is possible if you start in computer science after college. On top of that I find myself (unfortunately) trying to break into a male-dominated field. For example, looking at the roles of women working for Khan Academy, women are mostly in administrative and coordination roles…very few developers there. While those coordinating roles are necessary, and quite frankly would fit my existing skills, I have finally decided at 30 years old that I’m not going to settle for the pink ghetto any more, especially in my professional life. I’ve realized that technical skills are the way to break that barrier. I honestly have no love for programming languages, but do have a vision and passion for educational technology targeting non-traditional adult literacy learners, so have been seeking less code-heavy methods for designing learning objects, just to get started.

I may have found a starting place with Gamestar Mechanic, a curriculum designed to help elementary school kids learn the fundamentals of video game design by “leveling up from player to designer.” I was excited to read the following in Education Week’s Digital Directions: “the website features a free basic level that any teacher–or even student–can access, and an even more elaborate for-pay model.”

Gamestar Mechanic: Empowering youth through game design

I was further encouraged by this review from STEM Challenge which states the product serves not only school teachers, but also librarians and parents. Gamestar Mechanic’s website boasts individual and family pricing plans, as well as the opportunity to learn from industry professionals.

Like most non-traditional adult learners, I’m now faced with difficult questions: Do I suck it up and sign up to learn at the level of (and possibly right along with) elementary school kids? Will the money, time, and potential skills be worth it to invest? Gamestar Mechanic looks like the solution I’ve been hoping for, but will I actually sign up?

Gamestar’s page for parents on “Who is Gamestar Mechanic for?” may have me sold:

GameStar Mechanic is designed for 7- to 14-year-olds but is open to everyone. In fact, we strongly encourage intergenerational gameplay: parents playing with kids, older siblings playing with younger siblings, even getting the grandparents involved!

Although playing and making games tends to appeal to young boys more than young girls, we have been careful to design the characters, narrative and gameplay to appeal to both boys and girls.”

What do you think? Should I sign up? Do you want to play along with me? Subscribe to the blog or connect with me on Twitter or Facebook to find out my next steps in escaping the pink ghetto.

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