I encourage you to post questions in the Integrating Technology group related to using technology in your teaching, program management or professional development. Perhaps someone in the LINCS community has a good answer, or can help in other ways.
I have an unanswered question myself: a couple of days ago a colleague asked me about an integrating technology context often now referred to as Problem-Solving in Technology Rich Environments or effectively using a computer or other digital hardware, software or apps and the Internet in solving authentic work, family or personal problems. The specific question is: Do you know any examples of instruction, authentic problem-solving activities, lessons, or curricula for adult basic skills learners that support this use of technology? If you know of any, please reply here with information about them. Thanks!
David J. Rosen, Moderator
LINCS CoP Integrating Technology and Program Managemnent groups
I suppose we would need more detail. I suggest that technology is a valuable tool in problem solving. Just learning how to use technology itself is generally an experience in problem solving. In order for me to direct you, I need to know what type of problem you are trying to solve.
Thanks for your thoughts about this. Of course you're right that using technology itself creates problems...for all of us. Below are three examples of problems students might need to solve, one from each of the three contexts I mentioned: work, family and personal. My colleague is not necessarily interested in solutions to these particular problems but rather, in finding existing examples of instruction, authentic problem-solving activities, lessons, or curricula for adult basic skills learners that support this use of technology. Of course, it would be great if this stimulates you or other teachers, curriculum developers, professional developers, or others to create instruction, authentic problem-solving activities, lessons, or curricula for adult basic skills learners. If you do create these, and if you are willing to share them, please let us know how to find them.
David J. Rosen, Moderator
LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group
Problem: You work in a restaurant. You get to work by bus. Your supervisor has told you that you must not again be late for work. You have been late two times because the reliable bus you have taken for three years has recently not arrived on time. It is the only bus you know to get to work. You have a smartphone and wonder if that could help you in solving this problem. You wonder if there is another bus you could take. You wonder how much a taxi would cost. You have heard about TNCs (Uber, Lyft, etc), but have never used one. You aren't sure what TNC even means. You wonder how much a TNC would cost. You wonder if you could use one of these solutions if a bus came late. You wonder if there are other solutions you haven't thought of, and if you could get some ideas and needed information by using your smartphone.
Problem: Your son who is in sixth grade got a poor report card. He said he doesn't know why. You need to understand why and how he can be helped. However, you work all day and can never get time off to go to the school and meet with the teacher during the week. You have a smart phone and you live two blocks from a library. It offers free use of computers weekdays, Saturdays and some evenings until 9:00 P.M.and a computer skills class on Saturdays. Your son says that his teacher has said parents can reach her using email or something called Whatsapp.
You wonder if you can download whatsapp. If you can, you wonder how to reach this teacher. You think your English is not very good. You wonder if the teacher will understand you. You need, somehow, to explain that you cannot come to the school but would like to talk with the teacher, that you want to learn how your son can be helped to get better grades.
Problem: Your doctor has said that you have a disease called Wegener's (Wegener’s Granulomatosis). You can read and write English very well. You have a smartphone, and you can use a computer at the public library. Your doctor has asked you how you prefer to learn about this disease: meet with a medical social worker, read about it in a pamphlet, or learn about it online. You would like to meet with a social worker and you wonder if there are online videos you could watch or if you could find plain English articles about the disease that you could understand.
How can you learn more about this disease, its diagnosis, treatment and what you and your family can expect in the years ahead?
David and all, after reading each of the examples provided, I was feeling a very common theme that I hear almost every day. "I want to be able to do something, I need some guidance or navigation, I don't know where to find that assistance." This is not just tied to technology either, ask almost any parent you know today how they help their child with math. The pervasive feeling of not knowing where we can get assistance should indicate a huge hole we have in our educational system.
I am not sure if this hole is created in part because people fear or distrust that "schools" or educational outreach really can help. Perhaps it is much more an accessibility as hinted in some of the examples where a resource, the library, is available but not accessible because of hours or transportation? Maybe people don't trust that education even cares about their individual need because every time they have stepped into some program the program seemed to be all designed around content rather than individual needs? Finally, maybe it is just a fear or distrust in sharing that we need help with others in our community? After all, in many social context, there can be a stigma around not knowing something or asking for help.
An example from just this week may help illustrate: A woman comes to me holding out her phone as if she were holding a viper and it was very easy to hear the anxiety in her tone as she was almost weeping in her broken English. Her 4 year old had managed to snag her brand new iPhone and somehow managed to put a passcode on it (Gosh I hate this feature if any Apple reps are reading). Her phone and account were locked. She had convinced a friend to bring her to the closest commercial help (3 hour round trip). She was devastated to learn that they were going to charge her $100 to fix this problem while she was already concerned about all the gas and food money going into this trip to get information. At any rate, I spent 10 minutes showing her how I found the solution to her problem and what she can do in the future if it happens again. The relief that washed over her was all the "payment" needed, but that relief quickly turned to anger. "Why can they charge such stupid rates for something so simple, and why isn't there more help for people to learn these things (about fixing problems like this)?" She needed only 10 minutes of help/navigation to avoid stress and anxiety that had built over a two day period of time.
This all got me thinking about Where we offer assistance to people and How that assistance is provided. More and more today getting any group of people together for a common meeting time is becoming a challenge. Transportation, juggling schedules, unreliable systems in and out of the home and the many stresses of surviving often derail many good intentions students have. Even if we can get people to help or resources, many sources of offer standard prescriptions designed to help most people and these experiences can sometimes make learners feel they are being marginalized or "This does not even apply to why I came here for help..."
The solution is still elusive for me and I hope discussions here might help offer ideas, solutions and attempts that are already in process elsewhere. Here are some ideas that come to mind for me, please add any you have:
- Adult Education (or some agency) offering phone and/or online educational support that can help with academic, life, work, technology .... navigation. Those manning the phone/screen may not always have answers, but they connect to a social network of such support systems in the local area and may even need to call the learner back once solutions or options are found. This service could be offered by learners enrolled in existing educational programs and would offer many academic, social and work experiences that would be helpful to the enrolled learner as well as the community members calling in.
- Volunteers: As many may have read before, I volunteer every Saturday at a local library to act as a community navigator for anyone in our area. Thus far, after almost two years, it has just been a one person volunteer show, but in that time I have had well over 200 different community members come in and find the assistance they were seeking. In a population center that only has 1,300 in town, that is not a horrible ratio. Still, getting qualified and reliable volunteers that are comfortable fielding any requests thrown their way is a very unrealistic expectation it seems in many areas. Perhaps if educational "courses" we offer were structured more as a community of learners where the teacher modeled and supported learners learning from each other, this might build into a nice nucleus of people capable of helping others educationally navigate as well as possibly padding numbers to the available volunteers in the area?
- Community Center / Services: We seem to have many agencies all aiming to help individuals. Are there agencies that have vision statements that might easily include a community navigation service? Since money drives the direction many agencies can go, this might be a challenging thing to find. By the way, the lady with the phone was in an elementary school and was simply sharing her frustrations when a teacher suggested to her that I was coming into the building after school and might be able to help. Maybe Schools might help filter intake questions from the public in some way? Students can learn how to accurately take in data in order to get that data to community navigators?
Let's assume something like the above ideas may be in place. Why might this be more effective than some specific curriculum? I would offer that when we address individuals with their individual real life problems, like David shared, our efforts don't stop with that one individual. My phone lady example shared yesterday that she taught all her sisters and sister-in-laws (it is a big Mexican family) how to reset their phones if they should get locked out. My 10 minute intervention may end up educating dozens of community members with a technology problem that is becoming more and more common. With each individual navigation we find success, we build the community network of learners that can share knowledge with each other. It builds trust, increases the ability to connect with someone that can help or navigate to help, and it empowers people to be part of the community solution to the challenges we all face in trying to figure out information today.
Oh, one more example to add to David's examples... personal category. A person has a house mortgage (insert amount there) and a car payment (insert amount here). They picked up another part time job in order to help pay down their debt. If the house payments have 3.5% interest and the car payments have 4.95% interest which account should the person apply the extra $200 that will be available each month to help pay down debt? I personally have this situation and have been sharing it with learners I work with. It has been amazing to see that many have opinions, but almost no one has offered a mathematical/financial justification for their advice.
Sorry I did not directly offer what you were asking about, David, but these thoughts came to mind as I was reflecting on the whole discussion that started months ago around using technology to assist in real life decisions.
As usual, you have given us lots to think about.
You wrote, "After reading each of the examples provided, I was feeling a very common theme that I hear almost every day. "I want to be able to do something, I need some guidance or navigation, I don't know where to find that assistance." This is not just tied to technology either, ask almost any parent you know today how they help their child with math. The pervasive feeling of not knowing where we can get assistance should indicate a huge hole we have in our educational system."
I enthusiastically agree. For years many pubic libraries have had what libraries call a Reference Desk and a person called a reference librarian. Some larger libraries and library networks offer this service online. I have sometimes contacted my online reference librarian service in Boston with a question after library hours, and have found an immediate answer from an open library in this online reference librarian network on the west coast. What I have liked best about this online service is when the reference librarian does a search, of course using state-of-the-art search strategies and reliable sources, the search steps are all captured in a transcript and s/he provides the transcript as well as the best answer(s) to my question. I get answers, a set of search strategies that I can learn from, and sometimes I learn that I have not phrased my question well, that I was misunderstood, that I got an answer to a different question. These transcripts have been useful in refining my search skills, finding new online information sources, and in writing my questions. When I use this free service I get a fish and some fishing tips for next time. While many small libraries may not have a full-time reference librarian, perhaps they have access to an online reference service. Does your library offer something like this, Ed?
Everyone: could you find out what reference librarian services your library offers? Face-to-face and online? Could you then reply here so that we all get a picture of the range of these resources. For example, Susan Gaer, or others who teach English language learners, does the local library in your students' community have a reference desk? Does it offer both face-to-face and online reference services? Are these services offered only in English, or in other languages, too?
Do your students know about these services? Can you -- can adult education (including ESL/ESOL) teachers -- prepare students for using these services well, for example with some key English words or phrases for forming good questions? Could your students, as a PSTRE problem to solve, research the full range of library reference desk or reference librarian services in their community? Can they share that information with other students in your class?
Another free, online resource that may help adult learners get answers to their daily personal, family and work-related questions is called Wiki How -- How to Do Anything. (I love that name!) Give it a try yourself, and let us know what you learned how to do. If you are a writing teacher, consider asking your adult learners to write a WikiHow article. One of the most prolific WikiHow writers, a woman in California who knows how to do many things well, was not a skilled writer, at least when she started, and may not have had much schooling. However, readers loved her articles because she had the knowledge and experience they needed. Some of your students may be like her. They know how to do things, may be experts in doing them, but they need help in explaining clearly and completely, step by step, how to do them. WikiHow has an article format that helps, and because it's a wiki, it also has online volunteers who are willing to help improve the writing in an article. If your students write WikiHow articles they are sharing their expertise with the whole world. They are published authors. It's a great motivation to improve anyone's writing, including adult learners.
Here's a question for everyone, including Ed and Susan: What resources, face-to-face and online, do you recommend to learners that you work with to help them in solving problems they care about? Please share what these resources are with us all.
David J. Rosen, Moderator
LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group
I agree with PIAAC that much problem solving required today involves accomplishing a task that, because of the presence of digital technologies, can no longer be accomplished through application of routine actions/behaviors. I think it's important to provide opportunities to help learners become comfortable with a problem solving process - teaching them some key reflective questions to guide untangling what might seem an unaccomplishable task, consider available relevant technologies and goals and context to make choices about how and when to use them.
Resources for doing that? I've seen a few good ones on GCFLearnFree: https://www.gcflearnfree.org/moneybasics/financial-problem-solving-strategies/1/ and https://www.gcflearnfree.org/computerbasics/basic-troubleshooting-techniques/1/
For what it's worth, I have proposed some classroom activities that might help learners familiarize themselves with a process for working a problem. It's based on the PSTRE theoretical framework from PIAAC. You can see them in this paper: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/51bb74b8e4b0139570ddf020/t/589a3d3c1e5b6cd7b42cddcb/1486503229769/PSTRE_Guide_Vanek_2017.pdf
Thanks, Jen, for this very useful reply. As you would be one of the first to note, technology itself has problems for us to solve, for example making clickable links in a LINCS post. So here are correct links to two of the great resources you suggested:
- GCF Learn Free https://www.gcflearnfree.org/moneybasics/financial-problem-solving-strategies/1/
- The link to the following GCF Learn Free resource works fine. https://www.gcflearnfree.org/computerbasics/basic-troubleshooting-techniques/1/ The resource has clear and practical tips for solving problems in which the problem is the technology or the user of the technology. Teachers and learners, and others of us reading this, should have a print-out for this resource handy when we can't access it online because we have a computer (or Internet) problem.
- The clickable link to your guide for teachers who want to create PSTRE activities for their learners is https://static1.squarespace.com/static/51bb74b8e4b0139570ddf020/t/589a3d3c1e5b6cd7b42cddcb/1486503229769/PSTRE_Guide_Vanek_2017.pdf I strongly recommend this guide to teachers who want to build problem solving activities that involve the use of technology. The guide lays out where PSTRE (PS-TRE) came from, how teachers can design PSTRE learning activities, and it has some useful conclusions. Pages 18-31 have some examples of these instructional activities for those who want to see what they might look like. (I wonder if a good format for building PSTRE activities like these might be HyperDocs. Ashly Winkle, and others, what do you think about that? To learn about HyperDocs, see this LINCS discussion.) If you look at the guide and have questions for Jen Vanek, email her or, even better, post them here. I think it would be useful to have a discussion here specifically about what Jen has proposed in the document.
David J. Rosen, Moderator
LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group
Jen, you participated in an earlier LINCS PSTRE discussion. I found this post of yours particularly helpful as a way to envision instruction for problem solving activities in a technology rich environment. Maybe others will want to have a look at this, too.
David J. Rosen, Moderator
LINCS CoP Technology and Learning group
I have also found that problem solving processes and understanding the choice and use of technology are so important for tackling issues/problems in all areas of our lives. Typically, I have started with the processes such as these: http://eff.clee.utk.edu/fundamentals/standard_solve_problems.htm and http://eff.clee.utk.edu/fundamentals/standard_use_information.htm
Then we use guides, strategies and other supports/tools appropriate to the situation (including how do we decide what strategies/guides/supports to use).
Aaron - I remember EFF! There is some great stuff there. Thanks for brining it into this conversation. I think PSTRE is more like the Problem Solving standard, but adding a step "Identify required technologies" right after the part about generating alternative solutions.
Hi Ed, David,
I find these examples very compelling, and it's why we at Building Skills Partnership now have specific smartphone training workshops focused on teaching immigrant service workers (mostly janitors) how to use their phones to accomplish important tasks in their lives, like learning to use google maps, access the app for their health system/insurance, their bank, etc. But the issue of where an individual can go when they need specific help it critical. The libraries are important but not always close enough. I'd love to explore where else we can position volunteers for this, like k-12 schools as you mentioned or perhaps grocery stores...?
EdTech Center @ World Education
Hi Alison, and others,
That's a very good question, Alison, and it opens up some interesting possibilities:
- Free, nonformal learning circles sponsored by public libraries, adult basic skills programs, community health centers, and other community-based organizations that could offer free, short blended learning "courses" (3 - 8 weeks for example) where adults meet once a week to learn how to use their smart phones for learning, and for accomplishing important purposes in their daily lives
- Volunteer learning navigators in libraries -- Ed Latham, a member of the LINCS Integrating Technology community, is a "learning navigator." He volunteers his services on the weekend at his local public library in Maine to help individuals with, and build peer-support for, learning navigation
- A national "smartphone learning" telephone helpline, 18-hours a day, 7 days a week perhaps funded by a national foundation interested in supporting adult digital literacy and problem solving in a smartphone environment. Perhaps someone reading this could propose that for their organization. Perhaps it could be a service learning, Americorps or other (trained and supported) volunteer project.
- Local "under the hood" smartphones groups. Years ago, when personal computers were new, a community-based technology program in Cleveland organized computer maintenance, repair and refurbishing groups. These groups were often for unemployed or recently displaced workers, men who had grown up learning about automobile repair by "hanging out under the hood" and learning how to fix cars from each other. That "situated learning" model was adapted to learning "under the hood of a computer". Community-based organizations could inexpensively support volunteer-facilitated, peer learning groups whose members learned how to use smartphones for online learning and problem solving.
- Tech Goes Home: A Smartphone Version. In Boston, since 2010, there has been an adult (originally only for parents or grandparents and children) digital literacy training program known as Tech Goes Home. One incentive for participants completing the course, in addition to learning how to use a computer well, originally was a free desktop computer, and now it is a greatly discounted computer. Perhaps this model could be adapted in communities across the country for smartphones. I suppose the name would have to change to something like "Tech With You Everywhere"
Anyone else have thoughts about where an adult should be able to go for smartphone help?
David J. Rosen, Moderator
LINCS CoP, Integrating Technology group
In the LINCS ESL Pro project we created an online learning module called Integrating Technology into Adult English Language Instruction. There are 4 online units and the 4th one is called Unit 4: Solving Problems in Technology-Rich Environments. The unit describes ways to integrate problem-solving in technology rich environments into courses and curricula and includes some examples of problems that could be used in ESL classes. It is a resource designed for teachers as well as professional developers and curriculum designers.
You can find the unit in the LINCS learning portal at https://courses.lincs.ed.gov/ under the course section English Language Acquisition, called LINCS ESL Pro Module 2: Integrating Technology into Adult English Language Instruction, within that module is Unit 4: Solving Problems in Technology-Rich Environments.
As we look toward curriculum examples for students, let's not forget that often, we need to upskill our teachers, support staff, and administrators. I am currently at a state adult education conference and have had the privledge of learning from educators who are working in the field and the questions from teachers were often staggering.
How can you use google voice? What is snapchat? Why do students want to use this? How can you model behavior? Do yo use the note features on your smart phone?
So, as we create technology rich environments for students, how do we build technology rich PD environments for our teachers to model this behavior?
In our community college setting, we can do PD sessions ... last year our tech crew did a "use this one weird trick to improve engagement!" session and we learned about videos and a few other things.
I've put a proposal into our Faculty Summer INstitute to do a session on finding and making good visuals for math, including GIMP and Geogebra -- Powerpoint and Camtasia would have been contenders, too.
Mainly I find things online, myself...
David and All, your questions remind me that LINCS offers future state trainers a workshop called Integrating Digital Literacy and Problem Solving Into Instruction. The packet has two parts:
(1) Finding Computers in Your area: The goal of this lesson is for adult students to learn how to search for and locate information about local libraries and share what they learn with others. Students will search for an address of a library nearby, get directions using Google Maps, and use technology to communicate those directions in writing or orally.
(2) Getting Everyone On - The goal of this lesson is for adult learners to read about opportunities for low-cost hardware and broadband Internet and to improve their communication skills by producing a public awareness campaign.
I believe this packet is available to everyone, but I can find out for sure if anyone is interested. If it is, people can drop me a note and I can either send them the packet as an attachment or post the link here to the Google Drive where I have the packet and instructional notes posted.
Hi Leecy, sounds like a great resource for digital literacy activities. I tried looking up the workshop and found this lesson pack, is this the right one? https://lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/digitalaccess-problemsolving.pdf
Thanks for mentioning it!
That's it, Alecia! Thanks for posting the link! The nice thing about these resources is that they can be adapted to different needs. The ideas for the two lesson plans can also be adapted to address different problems whilet the concept is solid: use technology to solve problems!
Hi, I'm looking for some fresh and exciting examples for a workshop we at the EdTech Center are putting together at COABE. It will be framed practice engagement theory and focus on how to use technology to provide students with opportunities for authentic practice outside of class. For example, a student in an EL civics class can be taught to sign up for Google alerts to read about issues they care about. Or they can practice writing by texting. A student in a math class can be directed to online tools for budgeting. Do you have any favorite examples of this we should add to our presentation? I have many of technology providing practice of digital literacy skills, as well as ESL, reading and writing, but what about great examples of other basic skills? Math? GED? Other? We'd be happy to credit whose idea it was! Alison