What challenges are you facing in using technology well?

Hello colleagues,

What challenges are you facing in using technology well as a teacher/instructor/tutor, program administrator, technology coordinator, state ABE administrator or professional developer? I hope we hear from you beginning now, and throughout the rest of this year and next, about challenges or problems you face in using computers, Chromebooks, electronic tablets, smartphones or other portable digital devices, VR Goggles, Electronic smart boards, software, apps, getting access to the Internet, and more. Your challenge(s) may or may not have to do with technology, but might be an instruction problem that you hope technology can help you with. I do not promise solutions, or even mitigations to these problems, but indeed others here and I may offer solutions and, in any case, your challenge(s) might suggest some new focus for us in this group.

The LINCS Integrating Technology group is a Community of Practice. We learn from each other here about what we are trying to do with technology, how it's going, what we recommend to each other, and what our challenges are. I'll suggest some challenges in upcoming replies, but first let's hear from you!

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group



I think MY biggest challenge as an HSE teacher is sufficiently integrating the student's technology skills into my instruction. My students use technology everyday in some capacity or another; however, I often feel that we are not spending enough time creating. I think it is imperative that students develop 21st century skills and  master tools that they can take into the workforce, but sometimes we are so limited on time and focused on meeting standards and teaching HSE subjects that we forget the importance of not only allowing students to be creative, but teaching them soft skills they can use outside of the classroom. This often takes additional time, knowledge, and instruction from the teacher. When you only meet students twice a week for three hours a day, and receive new students monthly, including a project where students use technology tools to demonstrate understanding can easily be overlooked. 

Thanks Ashly for getting us started. What you wrote suggests to me two related questions that maybe you, or others here, can answer:

  • Do you  -- does anyone here -- know of a checklist of technology skills that starts with technology basics that apply across many uses of computers, electronic tablets, smartphones and other portable digital devices, but that also includes 21st century technology skills needed for communication, problem solving, creativity, media literacy, and technology skills needed specifically for work. I wonder if there is a checklist based on ISTE standards. Anyone know? A checklist like this, built on a well-considered and concrete set of technology standards, might be useful to build a single, comprehensive learner technology assessment, if one does not already exist.
  • Do good assessments exist that include this wide range of technology skills for the 21st century but that start with the most basic technology skills? If so, what are they?

Here's a suggestion that may help to solve the common problem you raise, Ashly, of "the additional time, knowledge, and instruction from the teacher" that may be needed. You wrote, "When you only meet students twice a week for three hours a day, and receive new students monthly, including a project where students use technology tools to demonstrate understanding can easily be overlooked."  It might be possible to find volunteer facilitators to lead small optional learning circles of just a few weeks each that would focus on a topic or project of interest to some students. The learning circle would  include the group members and facilitator meeting once a week for 90 minutes to two hours; it would also include an online learning project that might have assigned tasks requiring practice of a new set of technology skills learned in the face-to-face session. Students would practice these skills asynchrously, at their convenience, between each weekly face-to-face session and would produce something using their new skills. At the next week's session they would present their "product" that was developed using these new skills. Of course, their "weekly product" might be just one step of a larger multi-step project leading to the final product. 21st century skills learning circles might be offered, for example, to help learners:

  • Create a program or school online newsletter;
  • Develop a class, program, school or community online survey using Google Forms about an issue of high interest or concern; or to
  • Create an infographic to explain a complicated issue or problem by using charts, graphs, images and plain language text to quickly and clearly explain the issue. 

As with anything new, you would want to pilot your 21st century technology skills learning circle and to refine it from what you learn before offering it more widely.

Anyone, if you have questions about learning circles, and specifically 21st century technology skills learning circles, let me know.

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group

Hi Ashly,

I agree with what you said about "I often feel that we are not spending enough time creating." It is great to include technology in the classroom and to have students use it to benefit the learning. The question becomes, how can using this technology help students in the real world, how can one create an technological environment that is not just using the technology, but to become an effective asset to the learning. One use of technology I think might be helpful in this area is Hyperdocs. i saw a webinar on how to use this form of technology and thought that it was good to both assist in learning but to form real world interventions. I believe you can Google the term and information about it should come up. 

My next question, though, is student learning levels is always an issue regardless of the type of technology used. And, as you mentioned, time, teacher technological learning curves, and creating effective learning processes still remain an issue in adult education programs. The comments others have made on this issue support your concerns about technology in the classroom as well. 

Actually, that may have been my webinar you saw.  I use Hyperdocs for almost every lesson. And yes, they definitely help, but I still find myself challenged with time! Here is a website I created if you would like to explore some that my colleagues and I have made. https://sites.google.com/view/hyperdocsforadulteducators/home 

You are right about the levels as well. That is always an issue and to me, that is even more of a reason for us to be teaching them skills. If they are challenged in our classroom, how are they going to feel at a job or college?


Hi Ashly,

How great!!! I thought that the webinar was great and have kept the information close to my heart. And, yes, it still does depend on the levels. As I remember from your webinar, your students were able to log in and go even before class had started and knew how to navigate to and through the process with little assistance. I do think that this tool could be very useful at any level, but time, teacher experience and knowledge, and technological literacy does present some limitations.


Hi David,

As with Ashly, time is  a major factor in incorporating technology in a major way in my ABE classes in a manner that, at least, adds value to the learning of my students.  At this point, I mostly rely on the excellent texts available through New Readers Press and other adult ed publishing centers.  That said, I ask students to gather around the staff computer adjacent to the classroom to review videos for additional materials on a subject we focus on in class, including math videos, which sometimes help us to better understand a problem or operation.  I also use my phone-based computer to explore topics in class and the students sometimes use the phone dictionary to look up words.  

They are mostly adept with texting, not quite as much with email.  They do some Internet searching on their phones, but not as much as they might.

My main responsibility is to help my students qualify to enter the NEDP class, which requires attainment of certain level CASAS scores in math and reading as well as the ability to write a basic essay.  Given the goals of the class, our limited time frame of meetings twice a week for 5 hours, and endemic absentee issues, I don't know that I want to spend too much time on the most current technological resources, as I rely more on traditional technological resources--the copy machine, the white board, and print-based texts.  Our program does offer computer classes, which I recommend to the students, but adding another day to their schedule is tough.

In an ideal world I would like to incorporate more technology and have done so in other settings where I have created weblinks of free instructional sites that students have utilized.  I have found that that works best when the weblinks are integrated within a program that has a computer lab of some sort where students work with teachers on specific educational goals and topics.  The challenge there, I think, is to insure that the technology-based learning is at least as high quality as that which can be gained through print-based texts, or at least supplemental in some substantial way.

Perhaps I need to be thinking of creating a small "weblinks" library for this program.

I also work with technology in a different way in my capacity as a writing tutor at the Capital Community College, but discussion of that would require another post--one for another day.

There are a lot of issues embedded in your question.

George Demetrion

1199 Training and Upgrading Fund

Hartford, CT

George Demetrion

Hi George,

With the wealth of technological avenues one can use to support technology use and student learning in the classroom, it is challenging to identify which may be better than another. It may also depend on student levels (low to high), teacher technological learning levels, and student ability, awareness, or knowledge of technology and how to use it. I would refer back to Ashly's comment about  the creative factor in using technology in the classroom.  

At one program, the volunteers, along with administrative help and support, created an internal website that houses as many and as much resources on the website called The Knowledge Network. It is a place where teachers can get ideas, forms, information, that other teachers can use as instruction in their classroom. This is a great way to share information internally and to see what other teachers are using that works. The site also separates the information by levels and based on the book levels as well.

I agree that having a computer lab is helpful, but, as you say, without instruction and adding additional unscheduled days to their roster can be challenging.  

Thanks Corlis for sharing your insights and information on The Knowledge Network.  It would be great if you could provide a link for that site.

As for my current students, the print-based texts provide sufficient resources for meeting our instructional goals where I draw on electronic-based technology in a supplemental way.  At one time, our program had the PLATO program which is way more extensive than what we, as an agency, needed.  I previously worked for Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford where we created a collection of resources that we titled, Weblinks.  That consisted of a broad collection of free instructional sites, which tutors, students, and staff utilized in the 25-station computer lab, along with the agency's network-based programs for both Basic Literacy and ESOL.  These instructional resources were available to students (a) before being assigned to a small instructional group, (b) after they were assigned a group on their off days or before or after their tutoring sessions, (c) as a mandatory assignment one hour per week, in which the group and the tutor would work on a specific task or program. This assignment was coordinated with our program staff and lab volunteers who worked with the students and the tutors in successfully working through the assignment.

The initial weblinks originally consisted of over 100 sites, all of which were linked and cataloged and put up on the agency website.  Eventually, an active list was pruned and periodically changed so that the number of sites available at any given time became manageable.  The current lists of sites on the LVGH Weblinks site is available here (https://lvgh.org/students/weblinks/).  In the LVGH program, electronic instructional resources are well integrated into the program and are embedded into its organizational culture, which, I believe, is essential to its viability.

The weblinks concept--which seems broadly synonymous to The Knowledge Network--can be easily adapted to other programs, though, I think the key remains the extent to which such a resource can become vitally integrated into the organizational culture that supports such resources.  This is especially critical since (I believe) its primary value is not to be found on the direct pedagogical value of most instructional sites since, with exceptions noted, most of the sites are a lot more simplistic in their instructional design than what a group of students and a teacher can explore in the classroom setting.  For any given student such sites can become a useful resource to enhance learning and a sharing of individual instructional sites that we find particularly rich in instructional value might be worthy of our time here.  That said, the exponential value of such resources has a much better prospect of emerging when they are integrated into the broader programmatic design through an organizational wide level of support, and ideally, a professional staff person or volunteer in charge of this aspect of the program.

Hi George,

It sounds like you have used quite a few resources to support your students. It all relates to the time one has to gather the information, learn it, and apply it to the classroom and students. As David Rosen has pointed out, the technological resources are vast and using figuring out which is best for one's classroom can be a bit daunting.

In terms of obtaining access to The Knowledge net work that I mentioned, i will make contact with the program that has created it to ask if they are prepared to share the website.

In the meanwhile, are you familiar with Google Applied Digital Skills I found this to be a good resources as well. I like how the videos were easy to follow and could be used at any level. The videos were also clean, organized, specific. I first learned about this site during my research for my dissertation. It was a pilot program back then, couple years ago, where they had used the program a couple different libraries and am glad to see how they have improved and upgraded the program.



As Ashley shared, so many of us are busy keeping many things going that it is often hard to make the time to try to remotely keep up with so many technology changes. I work with so many staff members that really want to learn about and to use all the wonderful options out there, but their professional and personal lives just don't have opportunities for them to explore or safely digest the myriad of options available daily. 

To that end, I have spent most of my summer this year trying to brainstorm ideas of how we may all best support each other in "keeping up". We all need some easy to access, time compressed, means of at least being aware of what is possible, descriptions of how we might use some of this stuff, and most of all how does one safely get started trying out one of these wonderful options we hear about without us feeling that we are trying to build our own house with just a hammer and a chainsaw? I don't have any concrete answers yet, but here are some thoughts that have resonated positively with some of the educational people I have shared them with. I would welcome ideas and thoughts from others on these options as well as other suggestions because this is a big problem that will need many of us to address. 

Ideas so far: 

Idea 1: A live service for teachers to call into with questions, problems, requests for implementation ideas and other such items. The calls could be a live interaction or some call in bank where someone calls (or otherwise digitally connects) with the caller when options are found. All materials can be recorded to create a sort of educational radio program (Think Car Talk but for educators) 

Idea 2: How about a YouTube video collection in which educators share short (<10 min) videos on very discrete categories. How to, implementation, evaluation, critical reviews and many other categories could be established by a core group that would get things going with the hope that as educators around the country find use in this, more contributors would be included. 

Idea 3: This idea blends the first two. There are online streaming services in which a video presentation is given while "viewers" can participate in chat. This is very similar to a webinar, but is much more interactive and responsive than most webinars are. The presenters may have a general topic of the day, but the improvisational interaction with the chat participants helps to drive the direction of the experience. Some of the best versions of this interaction are when the presenter is given a task in which the answer is not immediately apparent and the presenter works through how he or she would approach finding solutions and by the end of the experience at least two or three solutions have been found. There are so many positives to this form of interaction and yet we, as busy adults, have rarely had chances to experience anything like this. Perhaps it is time to try to start something up to see if it is helpful for people? 

Idea #4: In technology, there exist specialize forums in which people can post questions in specific categories. These forums turn into a sort of game for the digital community. ANYONE that feels they can answer any question posed, offers solutions to the question and the original author is charged with choosing a response that helps meet their needs best. Of course is proposed solutions are not meeting the needs, the dialog continues to refine the problem and potential solutions. In the end, people are rewarded with points for helping others get their technical needs met. There is a live leaderboard of scores that is updated in real time as people are better able to meet the needs of other. The techies on these boards use these experiences to better sell their services to other companies, but all the services offered in the online forums are free and no monies are exchanged. I feel that something like this could benefit educators and we may be surprised with the solutions, options and the collaboration that would be a result of some sort of Educational Digital Parking Lot for questions and needs we all want help with. Perhaps those that score the most points in a year become part of the radio program staff the next year which would tie some of these ideas together? 

There are many other ideas but there are some qualities I continually hear from educators that are valued. Do you value these as well or do you feel there might be other items left off this list?

Thoughts on any of these ideas? Are there other values or other ideas you would like to have in place?

  1. Access: I want to be able to quickly and easily be able to find content that best addresses my needs

  2. Time: The shorter things are the better (not like Ed's posts on forums Image removed. )

  3. Dialog with others: So often it is more helpful to be able to have a conversation with knowledgeable people to enable clarifications, questions and discussion that quickly gets us where we want to be.

  4. Supported: If I try something and have problems, is there somewhere I can reach out to get some help from a real person instead of some canned responses that may not apply to my situation?

Hi Ed,

You offer several great ideas.  Let me start with the last one. You wrote:

"Thoughts on any of these ideas? Are there other values or other ideas you would like to have in place?

  1. Access: I want to be able to quickly and easily be able to find content that best addresses my needs

  2. Time: The shorter things are the better (not like Ed's posts on forums Image removed. )

  3. Dialog with others: So often it is more helpful to be able to have a conversation with knowledgeable people to enable clarifications, questions and discussion that quickly gets us where we want to be.

  4. Supported: If I try something and have problems, is there somewhere I can reach out to get some help from a real person instead of some canned responses that may not apply to my situation?"

I would add to your list as a #5: "Help in framing the question." Very often when people have a question they have only a rough idea of what they are asking and don't have the background -- or sometimes the precise terms or jargon -- to frame the question in a way that an expert understands how to answer it. This is played out in public libraries across the U.S. when a library patron (user) approaches a reference desk librarian with, "I'm not sure how to ask this question but maybe you can help..." and the librarian, well-trained to deal with this initial problem knows how to ask more about the initial question with clarifying questions such as, "When you say "x" do you mean "Y", "Z" or something else?" or "Tell me more about what you might know or know how to do if you already had the answer to your question" and other clarifying questions. Of course, these kinds of dialogues sometimes take place in classrooms too, but often it requires one-on-one time that classroom teachers don't have.  Everyone: Is there a free, online natural language database that can help someone who needs to frame a vague question more clearly or precisely? 

After asking my question, I decided to do an online search for such a "natural language database." Here's what happened:

1. Using Google, I typed in "free natural language database to help frame a question more clearly" realizing that I might need to refine my search.

2. I learned the following just from reading the titles of the search engine's reply to my query: "natural language database" may be called "natural language processing (NLP)" or "Natural Language Query Interface to Databases." I learned that "chatbots" or "voicebots" may or may not be able to handle the complexity of what I am looking for. They can be helpful if there is a limited set of variables; for example if I know a company has a product I need, its chatbot may help me determine which of its many products I might need.

3. A couple of the search engine responses pointed me toward the IBM Watson system. One that I read, a journal article, had this encouraging sentence about the IBM Watson system. "The first stage of processing in the IBM Watson system is to perform a detailed analysis of the question in order to determine what it is asking for and how best to approach answering it."

At this point I have had some help from my search in refining my question and think a refined search using "natural language processing services that help frame a question" (without the quotation marks) may give me more help. However, I don't yet have an answer to my question. It also occurs to me that it might be time to ask experts. So, I know an IBM Watson expert and some AI researchers to whom I can email my question, and I think some of our colleagues here might be able to help. Let's see.

Incidentally, if you find that you have a technology-related question that you are not sure how to frame, post it here and ask for help. Here's an example of a question I was recently asked, "Which Virtual Reality Googles should I buy?"  I get questions like that often. I am not sure how satisfying my answer is, as it usually involves another question, a variation on "What is the teaching or learning problem you hope the technology will help you with?"  My colleague who asked the question immediately answered, "I am thinking that I could use these as a prompt for my English language learners' narrative writing practice." If you have used VR goggles for that purpose, and have some thoughts about what VR goggles to buy and how they might be used with adult English language learners to prompt writing, let's hear them!

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group



Hi Ed!

Thanks for posting your always-creative ideas. I'm attracted to #s 2 and 3 because they're visual and could have interaction via comments and be on-demand, for example #3 could be done as YouTube Live.

Another idea: Teachers are hungry for video examples of good practices, so adding more videos on teachers implementing digital lit to David's MLOTS would be appreciated by many, I'm sure. (I'd love to have them to use for PD I give.)

It's wonderful reading everyone's posts to hear what's going on and to know people's suggestions. Very useful for my work. 

And to add to the wonderful pages of teacher and student resources folks have shared, I'd like to mention CrowdEd Learning's lists for teachers. There's a discussion happening starting today with Ed Goumas, proud father of CrowdEd.

Hello Integrating Technology colleagues,

We have already had some great observations about challenges teachers and students face in using technology well, and now that you have had a chance to think about the question -- What challenges are you facing in using technology well -- if you haven't yet replied, I would also like to hear from you!


David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group



Hi David and everyone,

I'm thinking about this question and I'm wondering if part of the challenge with using technology "well" is the assumptions we (teachers, volunteers, anyone who ever shows someone else how to do something with technology) may make about how to use technology "well", and the possible mismatch between what we assume to be 'normal' (good/useful/whatever) technology use and the views of our learners.

There are often many different ways to accomplish a task using technology and while some may be inherently more efficient or effective than others, sometimes there may be a way of doing something that is more appropriate for another individual than the way you do it yourself. I'll give you a couple of examples of what I mean from my recent experience talking to teachers and learners of basic ESL literacy and observing some learners' use of technology.

I recently interviewed a handful of teachers about technology use and they all said their learners use YouTube so they felt it was appropriate to refer them to additional learning resources on YouTube. They typically did this either by giving learners a link on a handout or by sending them a link in an email.

I also interviewed learners and encouraged them to show me how they do things. The teachers were right- they all used YouTube. Even those with almost no literacy skills and very little experience of using technology used YouTube. However, these learners didn't know how to access the links their teachers referred them to. The teachers in my sample had all learnt to use the internet on computers before the mobile internet was a thing. They typically accessed YouTube via a web browser. The learners on the other hand were all 'mobile first' internet users who all accessed YouTube via an app on their phones. Some of them didn't recognise the link in the email and didn't know to click on it. None of them knew what to do with a link in paper. When learners told their teachers "yes I use YouTube", teachers had assumed this meant they had certain skills that they didn't have, due to their different backgrounds and experiences of technology. So, should these teachers teach their learners how to access YouTube on the web? Is there value in knowing how and where to enter a URL to access web content? Apps and Google make URLs increasingly redundant. Do the teachers need to get up to speed in this and learn to present content in a way that matches learners' current use of technology? I think the answers depend a lot on context and purpose but in any case, the mismatch presents a challenge that needs addressing.


Thank you for sharing this situation, Jo. As I was reading about the URL vs Apps mentality shift I started thinking about zooming out a bit to think about what we value most between helping users create content in their digital worlds vs being able to efficiently navigate what has been created already. I see apps, along with the portable device tools available today as being mostly designed for consumption of content. There are cameras and microphones on these devices and as evidenced by Snap Chat, Instagram and other sites, there are some creation usages for the phones and tablets, but that level of creation is still quite limited compared to what one could do on a decent laptop with modern specifications. The tools that we have access to on laptops/desktop computers are so powerful and there are so many different tools available as well. Here is an example:

An English teacher wanted to be able to record her learners reading different parts of a story and to be able to mix those recordings all together, She even thought it would be nice to add in some sound effects and background music to make a sort of classroom radio show from the reading they were doing. After looking through phone apps for some time, we found this a very difficult need to fill and yet on the one laptop in the room, it was quick and easy to spot Audacity as such an easy solution. Audacity is a free program that only works on Windows, IOS, and Linux, it does not have a phone app. The program allowed the teacher to instantly get recording, editing, and mixing all these sounds and she had no experience at all with the tool. She needed 5 minutes of instruction and poof she had a solution and the class is knee deep in their production now. Best of all .. it was all free. 

I agree with you completely that in determining what "using technology well" means, there are many variables. I contend that one of the starting points in defining what will work well is in determining if we want our learners consuming or creating content. At this point in time in our technology growth as a society, the mobile market is primarily concerned with consumption and we see the demand for these devices always increasing. Our creation tools on those same tools are growing but it is a very slow growth compared to the options to consume existing materials. This trend of creating a consumer based tool is why I feel it is very important for all of us to try to expose our learners to computer coding. Even if our learners don't intend on being computer programmers, there are free ways to instantly make a phone app that a learner may decide could help them. MIT has had a free resource called MIT App Inventor 2 (Note a google gmail or google account is needed to start using this tool). In this tool, you don't need to know much at all about programming. You set up what you want your app to look like, you give each area of your screen the properties you want (size, color, font types ...), and lastly you use puzzle piece type shapes to "program" the behaviors of how all your screen components should work with each other. Given 15 minutes of instruction, I have had learners designing and making their own basic apps. It's all free. 

What I have noticed is that those learners that have experienced this relatively brief introduction to the coding world, almost never had navigation challenges when going to consume information out on the Internet afterwards. They reflect that it was just easier to understand how things were working, specifically how hyperlinks work and how buttons really work. As more and more of our world becomes programmed by some sort of code, it is becoming more important for us to also discuss that shift in content and experiences that we may never have individually had a need for.  The need for us to all know about those things we don't know is why professional dialog and sharing of ideas on resources like LINCS is vital for any of us to be able to "keep up" with things our learners may benefit from. Yes, that was a gentle poke at all you lurkers out there that we still would love to hear your positions, thoughts, and even stories like Jo shared above. 

Oh, speaking of Jo's post, my direct responses to your questions would be: URLs, and by extension navigating the Web are still going to be vital tools for helping learners understand how to create web content, specifically anything that relies on hyperlinking. This is not limited to only text because buttons, images and even videos can all be hyperlinked to give the users different types of experiences in their navigation. In contrast, working on the consumption end, especially in the mobile device field is a completely different set of skills in which addresses and hyperlinks have much less value. Instead of clicking on some link to weather.com or something, I simply say, "Hey, Google. What's the weather outside?" and my phone tells me the weather in my location. I can then follow it up with. "Hey, Google, what will it be for the rest of the week?" and the app knows exactly that I was connecting my requests and it knows how to connect those verbal requests to get me the information I want to know. If we want our learners involved in how to develop this level of processing that our world is going to soon require, they will need to understand URLs and internet communication much more than we currently do. 

Hi Ed

You really got me thinking about the consumer v creator issue. Thanks for the reminder. I think in the setting I'm currently working in we do tend to think of our learners as potential consumers first, and creators later. When I think back over the teachers' interviews about what they do with their learners, it's mainly about helping them learn to access web content (or maybe fill in an online form - interact/transact in a very basic way).  We are talking about learners with extremely low levels of literacy, many of whom are still learning to speak English too, and many of whom have never used a computer before at all and I think because there's so much they seem to "need" to be able to do and so little time, we get fixated on trying to meet those perceived needs. 

Sometimes we get it wrong about what learners "need" in any case, so perhaps in class we need to focus more on providing learning experiences that are motivating and engaging.  Teachers have told me learners need to be able to fill in forms and find jobs, but learners have told me other people help them do that - and they will probably continue to get help from others until they're a lot more confident, so activities that increase their confidence in using English and using technology, whatever the nature of the activity, are probably more valuable than a lesson on jobs or forms or something else that the learner does not transfer to their real life because they still don't have the confidence to do it themselves.

But I'm waffling a bit now...


I also wanted to respond to your last bit about the increased importance of understanding the internet. Your argument is that although it's now easier to use the internet in a basic way with less knowledge than we used to need, it's also more important that more people actually have a greater understanding of it because that will enable them to become creators. Is that right? 

That seems to make sense to me. But do we all aspire to become creators? Should we? I know plenty of people who can use the internet fairly competently for their informational/transactional/communication needs but have no desire to blog, or make websites, or become YouTubers? Do we ALL need that deeper knowledge of how the internet works, or can we obtain that knowledge when (or if) we decide we want to create? Doesn't the urge to become a creator of web content often come from an interest that is unrelated to internet technology?

My friend's son wants to make YouTube videos about his mountain biking - the mountain biking came first and he recognises YouTube as a great platform for sharing his skills, and potentially gaining recognition and making money, so he's teaching himself how to become a YouTuber, how to edit videos etc. He didn't learn these skills at school but it doesn't matter. He has enough general IT skills to find out for himself now that he has the motivation.  The ability to seek and understand information is key actually - as long as he can find the resources to teach himself, he'll be ok: consume to create. 

Hello Jo,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. When I posted this thread my thoughts were about challenges in using technology well, but I appreciate your reflection on what it means to use technology well. You wrote, "There are often many different ways to accomplish a task using technology and while some may be inherently more efficient or effective than others, sometimes there may be a way of doing something that is more appropriate for another individual than the way you do it yourself." I agree that in using digital technology there are, as some in the U.S. say, "more than one way to skin a cat." (For pet lovers, you may be relieved unless you are a vegetarian to know that this refers not to felines, but to catfish.)

You have put your finger, Jo, on an important aspect of using technology well, what we might call resourcefulness in getting the task done.  This reminds me that using a set of digital tools well depends on being clear about the purpose, goal or task. that finding or choosing a digital tool must come after a clear understanding of what you are trying to accomplish, and what tools you have available. I once saw a very funny set of posters with the theme of choosing the wrong tool for the task, with people hammering nails with saw blades, eating cereal with a hammer, painting a wall with a shoehorn, etc. The point is well taken, but one might argue that if you don't have the perfect tool a resourceful use of another tool may get the job done.

Along those lines, not only in the U.K., but also in the U.S. and in many other countries, more people have smartphones than personal computers; however, in education we need to help students learn to use both devices well. Ed Latham's reply  gives a good example of why.  When I only have a slotted screwdriver I can sometimes, with difficulty, use it to loosen a Phillips head screw, but sometimes only a Philips head screwdriver will loosen the screw.


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In the U.S., many high-stakes exams can only be taken on computers in licensed testing centers. Adult learners who want to pass a high school equivalency exam, for example, need to know how to use a computer, whether they have one at home or not. On the other hand, many of us find some things on smartphones are easier or more efficient or convenient than using a computer.

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group

Thanks for your response David. I always aim to follow up on such replies more than I do. I give it plenty of thought but don't always get back to put it on here. I very much want to reply to Ed;s thought-provoking response too but am struggling for time.

Just quickly, the issue of qualifications is interesting and relevant to my predicament. In contrast to the US situation, our learners in the UK primarily take their english literacy and ESOL (ESL) exams on paper. This presents another challenge to teachers wanting to embed technology in their classes or to extend learners' engagement with English by suggesting they use digital resources at home. At the lowest levels (the people I'm currently working with) especially, learners may still not be able to hand write fast and fluently. Asking them to learn to type their written English appears (to some of them at least, according to their interview responses) to be just giving them an additional difficulty to overcome which doesn't directly contribute to their ability to pass their exams. They want to practise writing English on paper, to know that they can do it in the exam, that their handwriting is fast enough and legible enough. 

Yes, ultimately, "in education we need to help students learn to use both devices well". But, any individual teacher only has a limited number of hours with their students and also a specific goal for the class (e.g. often to pass a particular qualification). And, yes again, "finding or choosing a digital tool must come after a clear understanding of what you are trying to accomplish". But for many tasks in the literacy or ESL classroom (at least in the current UK context, given that learners do not need digital skills to progress through the qualifications) the most appropriate tool may, arguably, not be digital at all.  So while some of us are urging teachers to integrate technology into their lessons, teachers are struggling with fitting it in in productive ways when their learners also need to be able to use non-digital tools - and perhaps in some cases handling a pen and coping with paper-based texts is the more urgent need. 

This makes me wonder whether there is any kind ofrequirement in the US for literacy and ESL instructors to also teach digital skills. Perhaps just to ensure that learners have the skills to access the exams? In the UK, the government promotes the idea that digital skills can be embedded into literacy and ESOL lessons, but the curriculum and qualifications framework do not reflect this. 

Many challenges, little time to write about them :-)  


" But for many tasks in the literacy or ESL classroom (at least in the current UK context, given that learners do not need digital skills to progress through the qualifications) the most appropriate tool may, arguably, not be digital at all."


That's an important insight, Jo, in which, at least part, the issue is in what contexts is it important to utilize electronic technological resources well in a classroom environment in which all of our instructional resources may be viewed as a form of technology.  This would depend, in no small measure, on the curricular objectives of the various programs in which we are engaged as well as the specific goals, resources, constraints and opportunities accessible in our own immediate classroom contexts.  Many variables would be in play.

Hello Jo, and others,

You asked, "whether there is any kind of requirement in the US for literacy and ESL instructors to also teach digital skills. Perhaps just to ensure that learners have the skills to access the exams?"

In the U.S., federal policy on adult basic education legislation did not until recently support technology skills, as computer skills were looked at as vocational (occupational) training. With the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), Title II, Adult Education and Family Literacy (AEFLA), this changed and federal policy now  "supports the use of technology for the improvement of teaching, learning, professional development, productivity, and system efficiencies." Digital literacy is now part of workplace preparation, and this has made a difference in adult basic education programs' and adult schools' interest in teaching students how to use computers and portable digital devices such as smartphones although, in my view, this has often been looked at by program administrators and teachers as an added responsibility without additional government funding needed to fully implement it.

I believe that adult secondary education programs have also become more interested in teaching computer skills so that students in their high school equivalency exam preparation classes are better prepared for these exams that are now mostly taken on computers.

We do not have national standards for adult education in the United States but, with the support of the U.S. Department of Education, an excellent set of adult basic skills standards, the College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education is available, and I believe that forty eight of fifty states have adopted these for adult basic skills education. In these standards, in addition to an appendix, "Preparing students for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics," and frequent brief references throughout the document, one of the main standards, CCR Anchor 6, supports technology*

There is also greater awareness now in adult basic skills education of international standards for technology education, and many adult basic skills programs and adult schools are trying to incorporate some of these, as described in the ISTE standards, in their curricula.

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group


* "Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
With guidance and support, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers. (W.1.6)
With guidance and support, use technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills) as well as to interact and collaborate with others. (W.3.6)
With some guidance and support, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting. (W.4.6)
Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and link to and cite sources as well as to interact and collaborate with others, including linking to and citing sources. (W.7.6)
Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically. (W.9-10.6)"



"an added responsibility without additional government funding needed to fully implement it" pretty much sums up how many feel about it in the UK too I think. 


The UK has a relatively new framework for essential digital skills:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/essential-digital-skills-framework

nd an even newer set of national standards for essential digital skills: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-standards-for-essential-digital-skills 


To my knowledge, these are not things that teachers of literacy and numeracy are looking at or embedding because, as others here have mentioned, they do not have the time and their priority is to get students to achieve a bunch of standards in their own subjects. 




Thank you David and Jo, for sharing such great resources around standard for digital literacy.  The European Commission's Science and Knowledge Service has also developed DigComp 2.1: The Digital Competence Framework for Citizens with eight proficiency levels and examples of use applied to the learning and employment field, which can be found here: https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/eur-scientific-and-technical-research-reports/digcomp-21-digital-competence-framework-citizens-eight-proficiency-levels-and-examples-use

Google has also developed a G-Suite Certification which covers the skills need to use Google Drive, Gmail, Google Doc, Google Sheets, Google Slides, and Google Hangouts Meet .  I've been using the checklist of skills required for the certification with teachers to help them identify the skills they want to develop and deepen themselves.  They can also use the checklist with their students. Here's the checklist I use http://bit.ly/GSuiteChecklist72619.   Google's Applied Digital Skills Lessons include lessons specifically geared towards G-Suite Certification.



Hello David and #AdultEdu #EdTech colleagues,

I am not as closely connected to the technology integration in the classroom as I was previously in my decade-long job as the Technology Project Coordinator. At this point, I cannot share well the most recent concerns regarding that aspect of our work.

However, I can share concerns and information from a perspective of someone facilitating the work of adult education entities in the Sacramento Region. I recently received information about a regional initiative, The Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion (SCDI), consisting of more than 40 organizations.

SCDI will publish a report later in September 2019 to guide the City’s Inclusive Economic and Community Development strategy, as it relates to increasing digital equity.

SCDI facilitated four community workshops in Sacramento County to collect community feedback and direct service provider insights on digital equity needs within the County. The workshops were held between July and August 2019

SCDI Report Findings and Recommendations

The emerging themes that translated throughout the community workshops included:

  1. Digital inequity disrupts one's social, economic, and democratic life;
  2. There are digital equity deserts in Sacramento County;
  3. Digital skills are critical thinking skills;
  4. Handheld devices are limited resources for meaningful access; and,
  5. The highest priority in rural areas is access to the internet.

SCDI’s recommendations to local and regional policymakers in the report are anticipated to be: 

  1. Increase the availability of digital literacy training for residents of all ages across a full spectrum of skills development;
  2. Increase the availability of free and low-cost computing devices through surplus refurbishing programs;
  3. Increase access to public computing labs and adoption of affordable home broadband subscription plans; and,
  4. Invest in organizational infrastructure and capacity to coordinate, track, and measure progress toward regional digital equity goals.

Here is the link to the Memo with more information https://drive.google.com/file/d/1sDWAPyhHnnSuMSkEoZbveAjoPKkbgqRS/view

Hi Branka,

What a great article. I think that this sort of solidifies the need for technology in the classroom at any level and presents the overarching concern that technology has on society and the adult education community. With these findings, has your program been able to look further into technological integration tactics, visit or re-visit how technology impacts learning for students and teachers?



Thank you for the comment and further questions, Corlis. 

No, our 12 adult education programs have not had conversations around this report yet. In our regional strategic plan, we agreed that it is important to increase the Digital Skills of the adults we serve, but we have not developed regional strategies yet. Many programs do integrate technology in multiple ways, such as Web-based learning resources or online curriculum, or the use of mobile devices for formative evaluation. We are now looking at ways to plug into bigger regional initiatives with k-12 and post-secondary sectors, as well as the workforce development and community-based partners so that we are braiding resources and directing efforts into jointly serving the adult learners in our communities. Our local k-12 and community college partners are starring an ICT-hub network this year. Local school districts use Common Sense Media Resources in their Family and Community Engagement efforts. Our adult education programs have been offering Office Assistant classes and are aware of resources such as NorthStar Digital Literacy Assessment.