Digital Literacy and Literacy

There is emerging evidence pointing to what we writing and reading instructors already know: the practice of digital literacy significantly improves reading and writing skills. If that is so, why don't more adult learners in our programs use digital tools? Why don't more instructors implement digital resources in ABE and HSE instruction?

Your thoughts? Leecy


Hi Leecy,

One reason may be that reading and writing instructors don't know what online reading and writing tools are available. Here's a starting list of reading digital tools from the Mobile Up list developed by Alison Ascher Webber.

Reading Practice

Mobile Tool What to Use it For 

News stories available at different levels. Charges license fees.

VOA News

For reading practice with audio

Change Agent

Socially relevant student-written reading content (CCR aligned) with accompanying audio. Charge to subscribe to magazine.

Simple English Wikipedia

Online crowd-sourced encyclopedia graded to simpler language

I would add another:

CSAL Library (free) developed by the Center for the Study of Adult Literacy at Georgia State University

It offers three levels for the readings: EASIER  |  MEDIUM  |  HARDER

and these topics:



Another reason teachers may not encourage students to use digital tools for reading and writing is that many adult basic skills (including English Language Acquisition) teachers need some help in learning how to use these tools. One way is through face-to-face, online and blended learning workshops or courses. Another, depending on the tool, may be free online videos that explain how to set up and use the tool. You may find these by searching YouTube or VIMEO.  A third way might be when teachers decide to learn something together as a group and form a study circle or a learning circle.  Although these are best organized locally, as a blended learning group, what teachers learn could be shared here in the LINCS Reading and Writing community, and we could all benefit from what teachers are learning locally. These local groups, for example,  could address issues such as:

1) What free or low-cost digital reading and writing tools are worthwhile and suitable for adult learners?

2) What might be a teacher-friendly description of each digital reading or writing tool?

3) What are some good ways to use each tool with adult learners?

If you think it would be useful to organize groups like this in your state or at your program, tell us what you would like to do (or are already doing).

David J. Rosen

David, I would like to share a few Google resources that I have had some success with when working with adult learners. 

Google Docs: Built into this online word processing tool is a voice to text tool. This tool has been helpful with learners that struggle to write or feel their current writing speed gets in the way of the story they wish to tell. Likewise, those that struggle to type are amazed that they can crank out a paragraph just by talking nice and slow like Mr Rogers did for all those years. With other learners, the voice to text helps work on enunciation and pronouncing words. This has been helpful for some of my ESL learners that wanted to self assess how well their speech improved. With the voice to text the learners feel very confident that if the computer can understand their words well, people should be able to. 

Google Slides: There are many settings one can change in Google Slides that allow freedom to create some interesting things. Learners soon discover they can make birthday cards, posters, banners and most anything they might have heard programs like Publisher can do. Additionally, learners are able to make comic strips within Google slides with a wind array of options open to the learner. Another use of Slides learners have had success with is to assemble illustrations and story together to make their own digital book or stories. These can then be made into a video with their voice over of them reading their own story. The digital books can even be interactive by having buttons and hyperlinked words that allow readers to travel through their writing in neat ways. 

Google News: This tool allows learners to customize what sources the news they read comes from. Great compare and contrasts are easy to set up simply by choosing news sources that are from different points of view or perspectives. Additionally, one can filter to just see local news or news that is local to some other region in the world. Again this allows for much discussion and comparison of what people in different regions may focus on in the news. I find it humors and interesting that Fox News and CNN are blocked in the filters by default (you can toggle them back on). On the right hand side of the news feed there is a section called Fact Check which offers great materials to discuss how we know news is real or fake. 

Blogger (Google's Blog tool): This blogging tool allows learners to journal any experience and control who gets to view their blog. It is very easy for a learner to get started and to add new entries. As with all Google resources, pulling in photos and news clippings or any other item stored in Google's drive are easy to insert into the blog. For learners that are motivated by attention, there are built in tracking tools to share how popular each blog post is and how many unique visits any article they write receives. 

There are many other examples, but I wanted to share just a few to encourage everyone to explore how many powerful tools are all bundled in the Google suite of tools. The depth of options I discover monthly excites me and shocks constantly. Even better, there are more tools and features added very often. A sample of updates that are massively useful can be seen in the new Google Sites. It is so much easier now to make a website that looks good on a phone, tablet or computer. 

I look forward to reading any other reading or writing tools others have found success with! 

I have found that young adults today have very little experience reading graphic novels and that shocked me. Of course once I started shopping around for some graphic novels to share, the price tag of these graphic novels today floor me. I have found two very nice options:

Mavel Comics has an online service called Marvel Unlimited that costs $69 per year and offers access to over 20,000 comics !!!!! The comics are all in digital format available on any digital device (computer, phone, tablet) and access is controlled by a user account and password. 

For those of us that are cheaper, there is an AWESOME collection of comics available on . This collection includes comics from all types and all companies. It is nice for learners to discover that there are comics that are not just superhero comics out there :) 

Just forgot to share these reading resources that have helped many of my visual learners and my artistic learners get into reading and even creating stories. I came upon a published series of history books that were all done up in comic book fashion. Unfortunately I have misplaced the name and will have to report back if I can find it. I was able to use one of these history books at a conference and I just remember thinking, "Gosh I wish my text books were all like this!!!!" I hope I can find the title/publisher. Perhaps others have seen something like this and have a name handy?


I have been keeping a Scoop.It collection of adult literacy Apps for English language learners and native English speakers. You'll find the adult literacy apps and other tools and resources here.  The full web address is

I haven't used or evaluated most of these collected apps, but it might be one place to start your search.

David J. Rosen


Hope our community will also take a look at the Make Beliefs Comix app for iPad users which is now used in many literacy programs and which can be downloaded from iTunes.  There's a free version and a for-fee version.

Best wishes,

Bill Zimmerman


The worst thing about learning English is it's spelling .  For US English there is a digital learning assistant called truespel phonetics that helps visualize how to spell words phonetically in a phonics based way that resembles traditional spelling.  Tutorials are free on the interned with a free converter at http:/ .  Truespel can be learned in an hour.  With some practice the learner and write as well as read phonetically.  See .The internet paves the way.

Colleagues here, I am excited to find the rich resources you are sharing, along with your comments addressing the question of why digital learning hasn't played a significant instructional role among our Adult Ed programs in the US.

The most recent study I've come across on this issue is Evaluating Digital Learning for Adult Basic Literacy and Numeracy, Menlo Park, CA: SRI International, by Murphy, R., Bienkowski, M., Bhanot, R., Wang, S., Wetzel, T., House, A., Leones, T., Van Brunt, J. (2017). (David, I know you are familiar with the resource.)

I was excited to review this study, hoping that it would provide insights that would help us promote digital practice as an accelerated path to improving academic skills. I was disappointed to find that instead of offering instructors the engaging ammunition they needed to hook their learners (and themselves!) into digital learning, the study required them employ complete instructional packages from five vendors. All packages were strongly text driven although some also incorporated images and video clips.

Why was I disappointed? Because they chose "canned" curricula over offering programs choices like the ones you have listed here! Those are fun, engaging, easily matched to standards if so desired, and often written at reasonable reading levels! I want to see the same study conducted using those resources. I bet that the conclusions would be very different and far more exiting. As David suggested, maybe reading and writing instructors are still not aware of the pearls to be gathered within our digital waves. Comments? Leecy

Leecy and group members – in my opinion, in order to increase the use of technology in adult education we need to. …promote it, show it, and talk about it at PTA meetings, for example, in short advertisements in the public’s eye and here on Lincs groups. So I added my two cents to something on the English Acquisition page.

Here is a good reference:  The Lexile® Framework for Reading