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SPECIAL DISCUSSION -- Opportunities for Implementing Technology in Secure Classrooms

Hello Members,

I am thrilled to welcome you to the special LINCS discussion around Opportunities for Implementing Technology in Secure Classrooms.  Our esteemed guest contributors for this discussion are: Dr. John Linton, Ms. Michelle Tolbert and Mr. Brian Walsh (please see their extended bios below).  

There has been much recent buzz around the introduction of new technologies into correctional education classrooms. Connectivity and access to tablet technology have been the focus of several recent conferences, most notably the Correctional Education Association's Annual Conference titled "Education and Technology: The Pathway to Re-entry" held last month in Washington DC.  At the CEA conference the members of our panel presented an overview of a comprehensive policy report on which they have been working.  The report will address the need for technology in corrections classrooms as well as how such technology is already being safely and securely implemented in some areas.  Our experts will post comments for consideration and discussion throughout this week and next.  Please join the conversation with comments and questions.


Dr. John Linton is the Director of the Office of Correctional Education in the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office of Career Technology and Adult Education (OCTAE), and a member of OCTAE’s Adult Education team.  He provides leadership for ED’s work involving educational services to U.S. correctional populations.  John also represents ED on the workgroup supporting the cabinet level federal Reentry Council.  Prior to his federal appointment, John was director of the education and library programs in Maryland’s adult prisons, working first in Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and then in the Maryland State Department of Education.  Trained as a reading teacher, John began his professional career as an adult education teacher in a correctional setting.

Ms. Michelle Tolbert oversees adult education projects focused on improving policies, programs, and resources targeting under-skilled adults. She conducts qualitative research and analysis and provides technical assistance to states and programs in the areas of correctional education and reentry, transitions to postsecondary education, workforce development, community partnerships, and state and federal policy.  Her extensive experience in correctional education and reentry includes evaluating postsecondary education reentry programs, providing technical assistance to programs bridging the gap between institution- and community-based education and training programs, and developing a guidebook to support the collection and analysis of correctional education data at the national and state levels. She has also authored a broad array of guides, online tools, policy briefs, research reports, and literature reviews on correctional education, transitions to college and careers, industry recognized credentials, and community partnerships.

Mr. Brian Walsh, M.A. leads the offender education program for Peninsula College at two state prisons in the northwest corner of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. Brian believes that by providing quality college education, offenders will be less likely to return to prison and be better prepared to care for themselves and their families. As Education Director for Clallam Bay and Olympic Corrections Centers, Brian started the first prison-based Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program, a nationally recognized curriculum for adult education in Washington State. He has led the effort to expand the use of technology in the prison classroom and worked to develop secure ways for faculty within prisons to deliver offenders the same technologically enhanced courses available to the public.


Ted Oparnico's picture

Good morning-

Will this session be recorded for future reference?

Thank you,

Ted Oparnico

ccharboneau's picture

Hi Ted - This will be a discussion thread, not a webinar, and so yes it will be available to all group members at any time. The discussion is asynchoronous - and should be starting shortly. So it's not technically a "live" event. As our moderators/guests are available they will be monitoring the conversation and posting to the thread over the next two weeks.

Suzanne's picture

The monthly cost of having a secure line for internet based software, the installation of materials to conduct the secure line, and security issues, has made it somewhat prohibitive in correctional education.  With exception of Smart Horizons, which is an online high school, our regular classroom teachers have a difficult time with the newest in technology being available for the classroom. We have Smart board technology and educational software, but our correctional educators are very limited as to what they can purchase as we have to purchase CD ROM based software.  At the FETC, I was struck about how many technology programs were available, but all of it was online with IPAD/Tablet style delivery. More and more companies are leaving the CD ROM style delivery behind and this exodus makes it difficult for our teachers to find new software. It would be wonderful to have the newest and greatest, yes, but security is the main concern.   How do we go about overcoming the daunting security issues involved?

Heather Erwin's picture

Hello Suzanne and other Florida instuctors,

How is Smart Horizons administered in your classrooms?  Is the online HS something in which the students are required to participate or do they self select?

Suzanne's picture

Smart Horizons comes in on a separate dedicated line that must be purchased and set up and has a monthly fee for use. Students can only access the Smart Horizons content. The line is exclusive to Smart Horizons and no other educational access sources can be added to it. It has been used at several prisons in Florida.  It is an online high school, so students receive a High School Diploma and not a GED.

Twito's picture

Wasn't this supposed to start by now?

CJHarris's picture

I'm new to this am I in the right place.  Corrections Education?

Suzanne's picture

I would like to know how to access the stream.  Thank you so much,  Suzanne Greene, Florida Department of Corrections


misschristine's picture

Me too


CJHarris's picture

Hi Suzanne.  I have the same question as you do. Have you been sent a response?

Suzanne's picture

Hi CJ, See the latest post

Twito's picture

In the descriptor it mentions tablets.

What kind of tablets?

How secure will they be?

Will they be able to block access to wifi?

Will we be able to add apps from a central "hub"?

What is the projected costs per unit?

Will there be grants available for these tablets?

Suzanne's picture

Tablets would also need to be secured in a very well made protector box.  Our students like to rip apart things if they have the opportunity.  I checked with some vendors as far as locking boxes that could contain the tablets, but the companies I checked with at FETC( Florida Education Technology Conference) did not have such an animal, but perhaps we can develop something for corrections ourselves.  I know without a doubt that this technology can be damaged by an inmate that is having an episode and decides to smash the device.

Heather Erwin's picture

Hi Suzanne,

APDS (American Prison Data Systems) has developed a ruggedized, military-grade case for their 7' education tablets.  You can see more of the case and device at  Some of what we've seen in tablet deployment is that students value their tablets, and the privilege of having them, so they are taking good care of them, and not damaging them.  Obviously, there will likely be times when this does not hold true and devices are damaged.  I believe that most tablet providers have a replacement policy that covers this type of incident.  I know that APDS operates under a lease agreement, so your contract is for a device for the duration of your contract, not a particular, singular device, so if one is damaged, another is sent to replace it as part of the lease agreement.  I think that Union Supply and other tablet companies have similar assurance clauses in place to address this issue.

-- Heather

Suzanne's picture

Heather, Thank you for this information.  I believe this is a great solution to be able to utilize the most up-to-date technology in a prison classroom setting.

Heather Erwin's picture

Hello All!  Apologies for the delay here.  This is the correct discussion thread.  We will work from one thread in an asynchronous discussion.  The thread will remain at the top of our Correctional Ed Group Discussions board for the two weeks allotted for the event, so it will remain available and then be archived as other discussions are.  

Our experts will join the discussion and contribute shortly.  To get us started, let's consider ED's recently released Technology Mythbuster (excerpted below) regarding technology in juvenile facilities.  As educators -- in adult ed classrooms, juvenile facilities or adult facilities -- what have your experiences been incorporating the types of technologies described below into your classrooms?  Is this a fair representation of what's happening "on the ground?" 



On Education Technology

MYTH: Juvenile correctional facilities that want to expand youth access to technology must be willing to compromise the security of the facility and the safety of detained youth.

FACT: Many juvenile correctional facilities have successfully used technology, including the internet, to broaden the scope of education programming while maintaining appropriate and effective safeguards for detained youth.

Education technology has become commonplace in classrooms across the country. Teachers and students can now take advantage of a world of digital content from curricula to training materials. Both formal research and anecdotal evidence have shown that, when properly used, technology can “enhance the achievement of all students, increase families’ involvement in their children’s schooling, improve teachers’ skills and knowledge, and improve school administration and management (National School Board Association, 2000)." The use of educational technology in secure justice facilities, however, has presented challenges.

The use of technology in correctional classrooms offers many advantages such as: providing opportunities to students most in need and perhaps most able to benefit from such access; addressing a broad range of learning styles and academic readiness; reaching isolated or geographically remote populations; and leveraging limited instructional resources via virtual dissemination. Yet, concerns over security and youth, staff, and community safety often outweigh the perceived benefits and typicaly prevent faciliteis from pursuing options (Borden & Richardson, 2008). In recent years though, States and jurisdictions have begun to explore options for offering their students and staff opportunities to use education techology while maintaining security and safety. Below are a few examples (links will be provided to program profiles on NDTAC’s website—text below)

  1. Indiana: State-run Juvenile Delinquent Facilities, Statewide
    Textbook Online Supplemental Materials via SMART Boards
  1. Loysville Youth Development Center (LYDC)
    International Computer Driving License
  1. Oregon: Juvenile Corrections and Detention Facilities, Statewide
    Oregon Virtual School District (ORVSD)


Borden, C. & Richardson, P. The Effective Use of Technology in Correctional Education. John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Reentry Roundtable on Education, May 31–April 1, 2008.

National School Board Association. (2000). Technology’s impact on learning. Retrieved from

CJHarris's picture

This dicussion seems to be about Juvenile facilities.  What about adult corrections?  How willing are the adult facilities to let technology in the classroom?

Heather Erwin's picture

Hello CJ,

There is also an adult focused technology mythbusters that we can discuss, I just chose juvenile first randomly.:)  There are a couple of interesting points regarding tech implementation in both adult and juvenile facilities.  Obviously, in adult facilities the students are more often higher level offenders, or have been in the system for a longer period of time and are considered potentially a more sever security risk. So adult facilities are much more apprehensive  about allowing connectivity into their classrooms without some major security assurances.  However, It has been my experience that, as in many other aspects, there are some individual decision makers at the adult facility level that embrace access to web-based resources in their classrooms as an extraordinary opportunity, and the security risks that come with it as an inevitable, but not insurmountable, obstacle that must be overcome.  As evidenced by work at facilities such as The Montgomery County Jail and prisons in Ohio and Washington State, there are ways in which to securely allow these resources in.

In juvenile facilities, on the other hand, because of our current age of exponential explosions of new technology, which occur pretty much on a daily basis, the younger students in juvenile facilities are emerging as "digital natives" and so have a far greater capacity to work around security structures. But juvenile facilities also more readily recognize that their students, who will most likely be returning to high school classrooms within their communities, will be at a marked disadvantage without access to at least similar technologies to those they will be using in their public school classrooms. So its a choice, a balancing act, between recognizing that technology is fast becoming a necessity to succeeding in our society and maintaining security requirements, and facilities are going to have to find secure means by which to allow its access.

rchamberlain's picture

I am working on a project with the Illinois Department of Corrections deploying an internet-based curriculum in 33 institutions around the state. We have been piloting this deployment in 7 institutions since December 2013.

We revised our internet-based GED/HiSET prep curriculum, i-Pathways (, to make it more corrections friendly (secure), which means we took out the links to the broader internet resources, disable the email functions, etc. To connect to the 33 institutions, we carved out a secure network within the institutions and then using similar technology created a secure connection to the servers in our central data center. Essentially, we created a very large local area network (LAN) utilizing the internet.

In the GED classrooms, students can only access the i-Pathways website, but that includes all of its resources. Currently that includes pre-GED and GED instruction, and a consumer education module. But, we will be able to add other instructional components as they are indentified and developed, and then will be available in the classroom. Our curriculum is aligned with the GED test and gives students a chance to work through this new rigorous curriculum in technology similar to what they will see when they take the test.

We chose the internet-based model versus a server-on-site at the institutions to facilitate updates and additions to the curriculum that can be managed centrally for all the sites.

It was a major initiative to get the institutions set-up, but in the seven months of the pilot there were zero issues related to security.

The feedback from both students and instructors is that they are excited to have access to a technology-based instructional resource, both because it is engaging for the students to be using technology in the classroom, but also because it is going to assist when they transition outside the institution. Feedback from students is that they know they are going to have to be able to use computers when they get out, almost every job requires touching a computer, even if is only to fill out an application.

amy g's picture

This is a very encouraging experience. With all the myriad of ways to control live internet and configure LANs to allow in only approved sites and their necessary plugins and drivers - which it seems that K12 districts have been doing successfully for some time - there is every reason to expect that correctional facilities be able to implement the same configurations. 

Heather Erwin's picture

Hello and thank you for your post -- I've been hearing great things about illinois's quest to bring in web-based resources for some time, but had not heard any first hand accounts. Can you give any other background on how this project began and what steps you went through to get to this point? Did the project start in a single facility, or with a single advocate (teacher, administrator etc) and grow from grassroots, or was it more of a top-down process? Do you anticipate broadening the applicability to post-secondary coursework and career certification? 

Thanks again for sharing this great achievement!

-- Heather

rchamberlain's picture

Great questions. This effort is an interesting combination of ground-up and top-down support, and patience. I apologize for the long post, but this project has spanned several years, and there were many lessons learned.

We began exploring using i-Pathways in a corrections environment several years ago at the request of an institution-level education administrator. He knew of the i-Pathways curriculum as it was being used in adult education centers around Illinois, but because it was web-based, was not available for him to use in his institution. We explored technical options with him for his site, developed a plan that we thought would provide for the needed security, and that was presented up the chain for review. But it was not approved.

Fast-forward three years or so, there is a new leader in corrections technology and a new education coordinator at the state level. This time, I presented the plan to the state-level folks and they agreed it could be done and would be a benefit to both the students and teachers. I cannot address all of the considerations that influenced the decision process at the state level, only my part in the process. Our alignment with the new GED test and the fact that we were using technology to prepare students was certainly a factor. We were given permission to pilot in seven institutions with seven instructors.

There was some technical set-up that was required both on-site at the institutions and in our data center. That set-up was relatively straightforward. From the time we were given permission to start to the time we started piloting was approximately four months, but that included buying new computers and shipping them out to the seven institutions.

The critical part of all of this is training and supporting the instructors. We have a phone support desk for teachers and students for our state and national deployment of i-Pathways (non-corrections), the question was how do we train and support instructors in a correctional environment (The support for students is going to handled by the instructors on-site).

For the pilot, we provided training on-site, and used a combination of on-going email support and peer mentors sharing best practices. Instructors could also call our support center. We have also brought instructors and administrators together to provide feedback on best practices, offer suggestions on effective approaches to training and support, and to continue to look for ways to keep communication lines open.

Based upon lessons learned in the past six months, we are rolling i-Pathways out to 26 additional institutions starting in two weeks. We expect to have between 3,000 – 4,000 students using i-Pathways on a daily basis starting in September, frankly, it rather exciting to finally get to this point.

For our statewide deployment, we will continue with onsite training, and have region-based peer mentors that will be available to work with instructors as needed. Instructors will have email and phone support as needed, and we will continue to pull instructors together to share best practices. We also have developed a package of materials that we will provide on the i-Pathways website and in a packet of hard-copy materials that we provide each institution. This includes instructional best practices, the basics of navigating and using the system, and a variety of other instructional materials (handouts, worksheets, etc.) that can be used in the classroom in addition to the computer-based curriculum.

We have already started discussions internally regarding offering post-secondary course work, and other tracks or pathways. As i-Pathways is based in a university setting, it seems a natural fit to continue expanding to meet this additional need.

We are hoping to perfect a model of deploying i-Pathways that can be securely housed and robustly supported, and replicated outside of Illinois.

Heather Erwin's picture

Thank you so much for this fantastic information!  You guys have done an extraordinary amount of work that looks set to make a significant impact in many other facilities across the country. Do you work closely with other Adult Educators (not necessarily Corrections based) in Illinois?  I would bet there are lots more potential cross-over resources that you could utilize once this system is in place.

rchamberlain's picture

Our Illinois corrections deployment grew out of our work with non-corrections adult educators both within Illinois and nationally. i-Pathways has been available for use by adult education programs in Illinois since 2002, and we started our national outreach in 2005. We are currently working with programs in 13 states, in five of those states we have a statewide deployment.

Our goal is to continue to add resources to the i-Pathways project, so it is not just a GED or high school equivalency project. In conversations with programs across the country, both in corrections and not, we have been asked for curriculum to work with non-English language learners. We have discussed developing an ELL program that would be a hybrid curriculum utilizing computer-based activities coupled with strategies and activities for the face-to-face classroom. While there are several great curriculum guides and resources available, we see a need for a comprehensive package for the ELL classroom that provides a guide or roadmap for time-challenged instructors.

We have also considered a pre-reading curriculum working in the same manner, a hybrid curriculum utilizing computer-based activities coupled with strategies and activities for the face-to-face classroom. And given we already have framework setup to deliver content, we can add any variety of instructional resources and practice activities that could be used either in corrections or non-corrections settings.

One key feature of i-Pathways that has new relevance in reference to the use of tablet devices in corrections is that when revised the curriculum and technology in 2013, we designed i-Pathways to be mobile-ready. We use a technique call “responsive design” that allows what we develop to function the same regardless of the device it is viewed on. It works the same on a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone. Obviously, a phone deployment would be inappropriate for corrections, but as noted by the post yesterday from CEA, there are several initiatives underway now using tablets in corrections. A secure wireless environment can be deployed in corrections and curricular tools like i-Pathways can be offered securely.

Donna Brian's picture

One thing I really like about your work is the way you have collaborated with other areas to get things done.  Great work!  I also like that you seem to always be open to new possibilities and that you don't give up on ideas just because you come up against opposition within your system.  Do you use any measures to evaluate your effectiveness that you could share?

rebker's picture

Here in Virginia, there has been an investment made in Smart Board Technology. All teachers have access to the Internet either in the classroom or in a nearby office. Information can be downloaded onto a USB drive and utilized in the classroom. Many teachers also have "Take home" laptops which they can utilize at home to download whatever they need for their classroom, especially as it relates to smart boards. I teach Business Software (basic computers, Microsoft Office, and Basic business (entrepreneural approach) in a women's facility. Using USB drives and a take home laptop, I am able to administer Microsoft Specialst exams for Microsoft Word. While the students' donot have meaningful access to the internet, we have workarounds that bring the outside capabilities to the classroom.

CJHarris's picture

Where do you get your financial support from?  I work in a small adult correctional facility in southern Utah and funding is always a problem.

Heather Erwin's picture

Hello CJ,

Funding is most definitely always an issue.  Fortunately, the government, specifically the Depts of Education and Labor, are issuing RFPs and opportunities for access to greater amounts of funding for programs supporting technology in reentry and job placement efforts.  Many states are also re-organizing line-item budget specifications away from say, the purchase of CD-Rom style learning programs, to the purchase of an entire tablet or desktop-based solution like the WiderNet Project's eGranary digital library collection, Education Portal's post secondary coursework collection or Union Supply's ABE tablet package. It seems to take creative solutions that move current budgetary funds around to enable the purchase/acquisition of some of these new resource technologies to get a "foot in the door" as it were, and until the benefits of the new resources can be accepted.

Heather Erwin's picture

I think this is currently the most common way in which technology is accessed in secure classrooms.  There are some innovative states and/or specific facilities that are allowing white-listed sites to be "cached" through a secure server or Local Area Network, but this USB transfer system does allow for students to have access to web-based resources without the security risks of allowing actual internet access.

As the number of resources accessible only via online sites grows, as it inevitable will -- and is already doing as evidenced by Suzanne's post below regarding access to CD-ROM based resources, facilities will be forced to find other ways in which to bring these resources in.  The idea of transferring increasingly large amounts of data via USB will eventually become untenable and other solutions will be required.

Below is an example of how Ohio currently allows access to resources:

Ohio's Approach to Restricted Internet Connectivity:  

␣ Whitelisting␣blocking  all  internet  traffic  except  approved  from   approved  websites  

␣ Websites  are  vetted  by  staff  before  they  are  approved  for  inmate  use  

␣ There  is  no  need  to  update  content.  The  website  owners  maintain   the  content  

␣ New  content  can  be  added  simply  by  adding  a  web  link   ␣ Minimal  Hardware  and  Software  requirements   

(Information taken from CEA Connectivity presentation 2014)



dscrawley's picture

Hello rebker,

I am in a Florida adult institution and do have a SMART board, as well as internet access in my office but not in the classroom. We are not allowed to use a thumb drive, barely are allowed CD-RW/DVD-RW but luckily I do have both. I also teach at a women's facility and we have switched our mission to a Faith and Character Based facility. The department is wanting to be able to have our students certified by a national agency but most certification tests are web-based. I have been working with CIW who has offered to have the instructor as proctors of these tests. The academic education has switched to a web-based GED test, so our vocational administrator is trying to allow us to give the certification tests utilizing the same connection. I have not heard of any resistance to the idea as of yet but from my understanding there may be.

How can we educate and prepare our students for the real world if we are not trusted to provide the proper technology? Desktop machines are acceptable and I provide a LAN environment within the classroom, complete with a domain name for a intranet website. But this still does not provide the resources that are available for my class. I currently teach Digital Design and will be switching over to Web Development. In the real world they will need to know how to design and program for SMART phones and tablets, as well as desktop/laptops. How can I teach accurate information when I do not have the resources or ability to provide server-side applications like PHP or ASP.NET or MySQL and so on? I know how to program in these languages but I am not completely savvy on setting up the server to simulate a real world environment. There is a learning curve that I must have, as well as other teachers in the system, and we must do this on our own as there is no training funds for the instructor.

I teach my students to learn to find information for themselves instead of relying on aides, mainly because they will need to know how to find information on their own in the real world. I came up with an idea that I hook my SMART board up to my Internet connection and show some of the resources but it still isn't the same of doing it themselves, although it is better than not at all.

Heather Erwin's picture

You are right on in your comments!  Innovators like you are discovering what works, and by sharing your discoveries in forums like this one where government agents and state administrators are listening, you provide a template to those following in your footsteps, and assurances to those government agencies and state administrators that the changes they are making and challenges they are addressing are WELL WORTH THE EFFORT.

rebker's picture

I too have a lan environment that I use to provide a web type experience. Unfortunatley, there is no email simulation that really works, A lot of the information that I deliver is via webpages that all students have access to. I try to utilize technology in everything that they do. They access all their files through the server of course, but a lot of the actual information for various topics in the class are Web pages and various links off the web pages. In a sense they are getting used to dealing with Web pages and hyperlinks. This is especially useful to my older students who have limited coputer experience. Even the younger ones, I am finding that their actual Computer experience is limited to social media. Can't bring that in, however, they are getting MP4 players and will have limited email ability, at first within the institution only, and then maybe outside the a later date. It is still in progress. We are doing the new GED 2014, where the results are uploaded outside the institution. Any major downloads that I need for the class have to be done as the state computer system will not let us download anything through their firewall. Unless you are teaching A+ or systems management as part of a state mandated program, it is not prudent or cost effective to teach inside a correctional institution. I feel your pain about having them do their own reasearch. We have colege classes here and they can't do their own research, so it is definitely a conundrum. The Best answer I have found was in Texas where a youth prison partnered with a University to provide a dedicatedT1 line from their digital publication library. The students are able to do their own research yet only able to access the library and not venture out onto the net. With more and more businesses moving to the cloud it is doubtful that office programs will continue to be placed on CD/DVD Roms. Office 365 is very popular, I use it at home, but it requires an internet connection.It is only a matter of time until our classes are connected to the internet, albeit with limited access. Proper filtering and creative firewalls are the true answer.

andreastephaniefarmer's picture

Hi, I'm a GED teacher in a correctional facility in Cincinnati. We have internet access in our offices, but not in the classroom.

We're looking for a secure-environment (non-web-based) PRACTICE GED software.

We cannot use web-based software, so it would need to be something that we could put on the server.

Does this even exist, yet?

Thanks so much,

Andrea Farmer



andreastephaniefarmer's picture

I just looked up Union Supply (thank you to the person who mentioned this) and it looks as if they have secure educational programs for corrections.  I will call them to find out if they have a simulated practice GED test.

Brian Walsh's picture

There are a couple of options.  If you look on GEDTS's website you'll see a list of publishers (most of whom do not have offline options).  Two of the publishers that do have offline options are Aztec and GED Academy.  Many of Washington State's adult prisons use one or the other. Both incorporate practice tests and instruction.

sbarati's picture

GED Testing Service provides a free practice test that can be downloaded and installed on a PC or Mac.

evitale's picture

I do NOT teach in a secure environment, and so there are no restrictions against USB or other technologies - but I joined this discussion because I do not have internet access in several of the classrooms where I teach.

Has anyone in this discussion researched how to access a website without having access to the internet?  Since so many study tools seem to be accessible online, this may prove a more direct route than trying to ask companies to release software in CD-ROM or USB formats...

I know that some browsers allow archiving a website for future offline visiting, but I have yet to find one that allows a Flash or interactive element to be viewed offline.  Anyone have luck with this?

rwessel51's picture

Excuse me if this is a duplicate reply -- my Internet connection "burped" when I tried to post my original reply, an I'm not sure it took.

I volunteer technical support for a community-based literacy organization in a very rural region of Virginia, where decent Internet access is limited to the "larger" (i.e., 1500 residents) towns.  Virtually all of our classes and tutoring sessions are held in donated sites without no Internet access.  To compensate for this infrastructure-caused digital divide, I use the free, open-source HTTrack Website Copier ( to download literacy-based websites.  After downloading, I burn the website to CDs/DVDs, which tutors are then able to use with their learners at locations without Internet access.  The software is not perfect -- there are "holes" in the downloaded websites -- but it does allow tutors/learners to navigate the majority of the website as if they were actually connected to the Internet, download media files (e.g., MP3), etc.  This has been a lifesaver!

rwessel51's picture

I should add that if you are going to download websites for offline use, you should first familiarize yourself with the fair use limitation of U.S. copyright law, which allows educators to copy copyrighted works for non-commercial, educational purposes.  A discussion of fair use can be found in U.S. Copyright Office Circular 21, "Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians."   A PDF of the circular can be found at this link:

Aliesd's picture

Copyright has long been a problem due to the limited funds available. has many free classes developed and presented by major universities around the word.  The recently started a 4 week class on "Copyright for Educators and Librarians".  They are specifically instructing and giving tools to help you understand and apply the US copyright laws as you consider available resources.  It specifically discusses "fair use" as well as the "loopholes" provided for educators. 

evitale's picture

Thank you very much for this link!  I will see how it works in our setting here - have you tried it with any Flash-based websites by chance?  That seems to be a slight concern for interactive websites, many of which are no longer HTML-based...


And thanks for your comments about Copyright issues, I will certainly need to take this into account.

rwessel51's picture

I haven't tried it with flash-based websites, but as I haven't been able to play embedded flash media in sites I've downloaded, flash-based websites might not work. However, because the website data I downloaded was more than adequate for my needs, I didn't bother fussing around to see if the problem was caused by a lack of features in HTTrack or if it was something I could fix by playing around with the settings.  There are also several commercial products which offer a free trial period.  If you do a Google search on "website downloader" and "website ripper," you'll come across a few that might work better for you.

dscrawley's picture

I have entertained the idea that I could have a router within my classroom to add an initial layer of security to block access. I think that cloud technology could be utilized (if programmed efficiently and effectively) to provide some kind of access to needed resources. The curriculum that I have suggested for using in the Web Development class is by CIW but many of the benefits they offer students on the outside is by providing study aides, hands on lessons, and reviews online. I can get the information from them but will need to install some kind of CMS like Moodle within my classroom LAN. I think this would be beneficial in many ways but again I have a learning curve for the actual installation process. Our local OIT person is not educated on providing or setting up this type of service either. I am very technologically inclined but I only administer my Windows 2003 Server and provide a few services, like POP3 email. Most of the web based technology that I use at home is on hosted servers that offer the additional software (like a LINUX server with PHP and MySQL and the ability to install pre-packaged services like Moodle or Joomla or WordPress.) I am capable of learning and will have to set this up once I get the new servers for the new class.

With the cloud setup we could also benefit from the cost of programs, such as Adobe Creative Suites, being on a subscription basis; servers being provided with the necessary hosting management software installed as well as CMS. As you say with proper restrictions in place it is feasible to utilize the available technology within our fences. 

If the DC could go a bit further and begin some segregation of inmates (i.e. do not place a 3 year sentence with a lifetime sentence -- if the inmate is looking at being released within a few years then they should be receiving hard core rehabilitation and behavior modifications in order to become a productive citizen) then perhaps recidivism would decrease instead of propagating further criminal behaviors just to survive the environment. 

Brian Walsh's picture

At Peninsula College we have developed a local area network (LAN) that is completely disconnected from the internet but runs Canvas Learning Management System (similar to Moodle).  Faculty build their classes in the Learning Management System and students are able to access the courses anywhere in our prison education classrooms.

Just to define some things: we use web resources like Khan Academy Lite,, and others in a disconnected non-internet based classroom.  While students use Firefox or Chrome to access the web resources they are accessing local copies of the web sites.  Widernet's eGranary is another example of this.

This summer and fall we will be introducing Canvas and other web resources at all Washington State prisons.  We will have a shareable version of this server quite soon.

Heather Erwin's picture

Below is some additional information on the platform Brian currently uses in Washington State.  He can extrapolate, but this is information that was shared through the CEA presentation last month. 


Washington  State  Corrections   Education  Technology  Initiative  

By  Fall  2014,  all  12  Washington  state  prisons  will  have  offline  Internet   networks  with  web  servers  and  learning  management  systems  that   host  valuable  web  and  software  resources  serving  1500+  offender   students  per  week  at  less  than  $90,000  for  the  entire  state.  

Current  Content:  

␣ Canvas  Learning  Management  System   ␣ Khan  Academy  Lite   ␣ phET   ␣ Gutenberg  

␣ CASAS  eTests   ␣ GCFLearnFree   ␣ TEDTalks,  Podcasts,  etc.   ␣ Open  courses  from  edX,  etc.     


␣ Faculty  teaching  on  public   campuses  can  import   courses  into  Canvas.  

␣ Over  time,  using  Open   Educational  Resources   (OER),  prison  networks  will   have  a  wealth  of  content  at   low  cost. 

amy g's picture

Could you clarify "offline internet networks"? Does that mean that offender students are not working on a live internet connection when they are accessing this content? Thanks!

Amy G

Heather Erwin's picture

Hi Amy,

Brian can respond in more detail, but my understanding is that Washington uses cached content and distributes it via a Local Area Network (intranet) system.  The WiderNet Project's eGranary works much the same way, and Brian utilizes a small external eGranary hard-drive for some of their content, but on a larger, and less specifically curated, scale.

You can learn more about eGranary at  It is an offline collection of a little over 30 million resources that have been collected and compiled over the last 14 years.  The librarians ask for permission from the resource owner/creator to include the website (or resource in whatever form it takes -- video (mp4), audio (mp3), pdf, eBook or Word doc, to name a few possibilities) in the collection, then go through the process of "scraping" or copying the site and putting it onto the eGranary server.  The IT folks then copy that collected content onto hard-drives/server towers that can be hooked up to thin client stations or aligned with another server (internal) to go out over a LAN system.

David J. Rosen's picture

Heather and others,

I am familiar with the WiderNet Project's eGranary and think it has a lot to offer corrections institutions that cannot have inmates connected to the Internet. It uses actual internet resources without having inmates connected to the Internet. Another resource I learned about today, that may be useful, is Rachel. Like the eGranary, it is used in countries where Internet access is unavailable, unreliable or slow. I don't more about it than what I read on their web site, but perhaps some people here would like to look into it.

David J. Rosen

lynnbaylor's picture

You mentioned that at your correctional facility you are offering the GED 2014. Can you offer any feedback as to how your curriculum has changed?  What professional development has been offered to staff?  What software company are you currently using?  How are you pre-tesing, on-line or paper?  

andreastephaniefarmer's picture

Dear Lynnbay,

Hi! We're a correctional facility in Cincinnati. We've had about 10 students take the test since March, and only 3 have passed. The new test demands TABE scores of 12.9 in reading and language, and math, and also includes:

Science:  New information covered includes: Balancing Chemistry Equations, Genetics, Heredity, and students have two short answer written questions, and often they are asked to develop a hypothesis and explain how they would set up the experiment and interpret the data.

Social Studies:  45-minute essay requires students to know the reasons for WWI, WWII, the Cold War, Bay of Pigs, Gulf of Tonkin, Vietnam, as well as the results of each war. Students are asked to analyze two quotes from different authors and discuss the quotations in the context of a historic event - i.e. Quotations about freedom of speech from Thomas Jefferson and a copyof an editorial written by a 1970's newspaper editor.  Students are asked to discuss these quotations in the context of publishing of The Pentagon Papers.  Another one asks students to analyze two quotes about freedom of the press by John Milton in the 1600's, and a quote by Robert LaFollette, in the early 1900's, regarding free speech during wartime. Students are then asked to discuss the two quotes in the context of the US's entry into WWI.

Math:  Algebra, algebra, algebra. Lots of FOIL Method and "Age" problems:  If Bob is twice Sue's age, in 12 years, how old will Sue be?

Reading has changed only that there are no poems.



Andrea Farmer, Teacher, River City Correctional Center

Cincinnati, OH





andreastephaniefarmer's picture

We are doing our GED practice testing with printed screen shots of the practice GED tests, but we are going to ask our IT person if we can download the tests onto the student PCs in the computer lab. We have found the KAPLAN GED preparation book to be the most useful thus far. I've also been putting together content guides for WWI, WWII, chemistry, grammar, etc., using MS Word and cutting and pasting from the internet.

Our education coordinator is currently just starting to work with Pearson Vue to become a test site, but we don't anticipate offering the test before Christmas.

Thus far, we send students to the GED if she has:

Scored 12.9 on TABE reading, math, and language
Completed pre- and post tests in all four areas in the Kaplan
Written practice essays
Taken all the 2014 print outs of the online practice tests in reading, math, ss, and science,
Completed the advanced level on the ITTS software

At this point, even all this cannot guarantee a student will pass the test.  I like to offer the opportunity to take the test after they've put in this much work over the four months they are with me in education classes. 


lynnbaylor's picture

I would like to thank you for sharing.  You have given me so much to think about (curriculum development).  I would like to know what is ITTS software?  We currently use Programmed Logic Automatic Teaching Operations (PLATO).



Suzanne's picture

For Title I, I tried to find software that we could use for the classroom utilizing the Smart Board Technology.  I found Boardworks, but it is CD ROM based.  We are trying out the high school level math in an effort to prepare the students for both the new GED 2014 and for college prep.  I purchased about 10 more Smart Boards for our Title I sites.  The FETC (Florida Education Technology Conference) opened my eyes to what is out there.  It still boils down to that we have to have a safe and secure institution and with adult prison systems, it is vital that security is not breached. I like the Egranary idea. This may be a way to have simulated access for content you build inside.

Heather Erwin's picture

Hi Suzanne,

WiderNet's eGranary is a great off-line tool, and it utilizes a secure browser developed by the founder over the course of the life of the organization that is a really good simulation of an on-line browser.  The librarians at WiderNet have also done a good job of curating content and offering the resources in a very Google-esque way that teaches digital literacy tools while also providing access to resources and information.

The RACHEL system that David recommended above is also pretty cool.  This was the first I'd heard of the resource and at first blush it appears to be a really good collection with very specific education-based materials much like what is offered on the eGranary (or COEP for corrections classrooms, standing for Corrections Off-line Education Platform).

rwessel51's picture

Donna Crawley,

Have you ever used XAMPP ( or WampServer (  They allow you to emulate a server environment on a single desktop or laptop PC.  I used XAMPP to develop and test my program's website (HTML with a small amount of PHP) offline before uploading it to the web hosting service.  I also use it to apply and test changes to the website before uploading it to production.  In the past, I've also downloaded and installed WordPress and Joomla on top of XAMPP, but never had a chance to experiment with them much.  This may be a way for you to simulate a large piece of a real world environment for your students on standalone PCs.  There are a lot of possibilities.

And I agree 100% with your statement that students need to know how to find information on their own.  The real world demands this.

dscrawley's picture


I, too, have used XAMPP at home to test my websites before uploading to a live environment. I initially had thought that it would be a wonderful asset to use here in the classroom -- that is until I tried to access Our filters block the website due to it having the word "friends" in the URL. Yes, I rolled my eyes too. I had not looked at WampServer but am able to access the URL and will give it a try. Thank you for the suggestion. 

Suzanne's picture

USB drives are not allowed on the compound in Florida Adult Prisons, so they cannot be utilized by staff. We have purchased Smart Board Technology, but the software is CD ROM based with no internet connectivity to the Smart Board.  The Egranary looks interesting.  There could be possibilities there.

Dan Hescock's picture


It sounds like Virginia is much like our facilities in Vermont. Many of our classrooms have SMART boards and all our instructors have access to the Internet. Several of our instructors will connect their Internet-capable computers to the SMART board to bring the Internet into the classroom. All of our instructors use a USB drive in one way or another to bring additional materials into the classroom.

My main concern is that the students (inmates) are not allowed access to the Internet. Sure, the instructors implement it in their lessons, but the students don't have any form of authentic research. Our only form of research are old encyclopedia volumes and outdated encyclopedia CD-ROMs (some facilities still only have Encarta--something MicroSoft stopped supporting years ago!).

MBautista's picture

Hi everyone,

    We've been using the RACHEL project for a number of years now and one of the pieces is a vetted version of Wikipedia ( that we use for research topics.  The current version has 6000 articles.


Heather Erwin's picture

Hi Marshall,

Can you share anything else about your experience in using RACHEL?  WiderNet's collection also includes all of Wikipedia, although not necessarily vetted for corrections classrooms, but you can "quarantine" information you want to restrict.  WiderNet also has Khan Academy, the straight site, not K.A. Lite, which is actually a separate organization, which I noticed that RACHEL also has (Khan, not Lite).  WiderNet has MIT Open Courseware and a lot of other open source materials, which is essentially the same set up from which RACHEL works.  They both seem like great potential solutions.

I've always said that off-line caching of web-based resources is much like manned space flight.  It's awesome while it's needed, but even better when we get to the point where it's no longer necessary... 

MBautista's picture


    the folks at World Possible have a 'live' version of RACHEL on their site ( so that people can see how it will normally work (we're still working with the previous version - I haven't gotten around to downloading the latest version) .

    They are currently using 'Khan on a Stick' (which is how I found RACHEL originally), it is a group of compressed videos from Khan Academy (KA) with a web page wrapper to allow for navigation (to see this 'live'  World Possible has been working with the folks at Foundation for Learning Equality (FLE) on either including KA-lite or using FLE's web server to host RACHEL (both of their visions are similar).  FLE is also working on adding additional content to it's system (KA-lite and FLE was created from a core of KA developers and interns) so they're added a method to include content in the KA-lite server.

As far as use in the offender classroom...

  • We've removed some of the files from the base installation (as we did with KA-lite).  There is a LOT of material (@ 32GB of compressed data and video) that is designed primarily for a third-world public audience.  We've removed much of the medical information (we've had issues in the past with offenders self-diagnosing and then going to Medical...).  In KA-lite we removed some of the physics videos (building a motor for example).
  • There are ebooks that can help support offenders working on their reading
  • There are e-textbooks, videos and software to support math from basic skills to calculus
  • As I mentioned in my earlier post, I use the Wikipedia for Schools as part of having students doing research (part of my computer literacy class has them producing a presentation on a subject that they have to research).  After looking over the material again, they also have some other pieces of Wikipedia that had been developed for the One Laptop Per Child project.
  • There are some e-textbooks and videos to support science education


mtolbert's picture

I'm really interested in learning more about Virginia and Vermont's use of Smart Boards to provide students with access (although not direct access) to Internet content.  Do DOC/facility staff have to review the downloaded content before it's shared with the students?  How did you get permission to use this approach in the classroom?  What are the benefits and challenges with this approach?

John Linton's picture

Thanks for starting this discussion, Heather.  Thanks also for the honorary doctorate.  (I guess it must be honorary since I know don’t have an earned doctorate!)  I am delighted to be able to participate in this discussion because I believe it is both an interesting and productive topic. 

Let’s start with the point that technology is key for re-entry in the broadest sense – for education and for the many other reentry related activities.  I believe that educators will be more successful in opening doors for technology in corrections (particularly in getting past the security issues and in finding funding for technology) if we approach this as a multi-disciplinary imperative. 

Our correctional education team at the Department of Education was successful in getting a “reentry myth buster” approved and posted to the Interagency Reentry Council web site last month.  Heather provided some companion information in a prior post related to a myth buster on technology in juvenile justice education.  There is also an adult focused technology myth buster and it can be accessed at:  We think it makes a pretty strong case.  But please take a look and let us know what you think.  Will this be useful in working with corrections on technology expansions? 

This myth buster will be followed late this year by a Department of Education publication on technology access with a more specific focus on correctional education.  Please stay tuned.

An exciting application of expanded technology in corrections is the establishment of “One Stop Centers” in correctional facilities.  Toward this end, the Attorney General of the United States and the U. S. Secretary of Labor yesterday visited a correctional facility which pioneered a One Stop behind bars.   Who doesn’t think that it is important to connect incarcerated individuals with employment opportunities as they prepare for release?  That’s an easy sell.  And our contemporary mechanisms for connecting job seekers to employers are now technology dependent.  (Secretary of Labor Perez was quoted as saying yesterday that a grant competition will be announced this fall to implement one stops behind bars.  See:  

Lot’s more to come…

Donna Brian's picture

This grant competition would be a great opportunity for career pathways members to get funded to be involved with corrections facilities and personnel.  Please see the link in John Linton's discussion above for more information.  Apparently Labor Secretary Perez will announce the grant competition later this fall, so you have some time to do some preliminary exploration of the educational and job preparation activities in your local corrections facilities to see where collaboration might be welcome.  Mr. Linton (or should I honor your honorary doctorate and say Dr. Linton?), could you keep us informed as to any more information that comes out about this grant competition?  We appreciate your letting us know about this possibility.

Donna Brian, SME Career Pathways Community of Practice

Heather Erwin's picture

Hello Donna,

Thank you and yes!  This is a great cross-over opportunity for agencies and organizations involved in Career Pathways.  There is so much potential for good work to be done serving a lot of heretofore unreachable people.

-- Heather 

John Linton's picture

Following up on my earlier comments about the importance of on line resources for re-entry preparation, I'd like to provide two examples that I have learned of through our inter-agency reentry work group.  These are both examples of on line resources that came available only this year offering resources that could make a huge difference in reentry.  Useful ammunition to those trying to make the case for the importance of on line access in correctional institutions?

For those persons who need to get back on disability post release, the Social Security Administration has a great new web site with clear information on this topic intended specifically for the reentry population.  It is titled "Benefits After Incarceration, What You Need to Know."  It has detailed information about how incarceration impacts various types of social security benefits and guides a former or potential recipient preparing for release.  The site also serves as a reentry preparation portal with links to other reentry related information sources.  Check it out at: 

Another example of a new and critical resource is from the Office of Child Support Enforcement.  Many previously incarcerated fathers have had great difficulty getting back into the labor market due to arrears child support payments.  Often, persons in this situation could have had payments suspended or adjusted due to incarceration if they had known how to do so and been able to make the necessary contacts.  The Office of Child Support Enforcement published to the web the "Guide to Changing a Child Support Order" which includes 54 modules -- for specific States and territories.  The State by State information is detailed and even includes fill-able forms to apply for suspension or adjustment due to incarceration.  See:  

So while most people have already recognized that on line access is critical to post release employment -- we can also now make a strong case for the importance in multiple domains.   

Heather Erwin's picture

Thanks John, these are amazing resources and more evidence of how important it is that access to resources like these is available PRE release in order to provide the greatest possibility of successful re-integration. I'd like to know whether cached versions of the Child Support enforcement modules -- for example -- are available in order to help transition the resources to facilities nationwide. I also imagine that these resources could be provided via a secure tablet by either placing the resources directly onto a hardware memory, or by whitelisting the sites through a securely connected platform.

mtolbert's picture

First, thank you Heather for asking me to participate in this discussion.  I’m sorry to be a day late to the party!  As John Linton mentioned in his post, OCTAE has provided funds to RTI to develop a report to inform federal, state, and local corrections and correctional education administrators as they explore ways to securely and cost-effectively provide IT and the Internet in corrections facilities to help strengthen and expand educational services.   Specifically, it will examine the current status of these technologies in corrections and correctional education, existing approaches to providing such services in facilities, and the successes and challenges of early implementers. 

I am developing the report with the support of three subject matter experts—Heather Erwin, Brian Walsh, and Stephen Guyton.  The report is being drafted as I write this and we’re still in the process of collecting more information, particularly about the successes and challenges of early implementers.  So, please share your experiences with introducing technology and Internet access or content in your prison-based classrooms!

I also wanted to direct you to findings from a recent survey of state correctional education directors completed by RAND (, which found that while most states provide some form of access to desktop and laptop computers, only one-fourth of them allow inmates to use tablets, such as Kindles and iPads.   In terms of computer networking, more than half of the surveyed states reported that their computers are part of a local area network (LAN), 26 percent are part of a wide area network (WAN), and only 14 percent allow their students to have restricted access to the Internet—the largest WAN available.  However, nearly 40 percent of states use simulated Internet programs and most (63 percent) give their instructors access to live Internet technology in the classrooms.  Only a handful of states, though, use interactive or one-way Internet-based, video, or satellite instruction.

I look forward to reading more of your posts and continuing the conversation.

Donna Brian's picture

A couple of years ago, I was helping with an evaluation of the technology grant that a very rural high school had received and how the technology was actually being utilized.  What we found has applications to the discussion here because, although the teachers had the technology in their classrooms such as white boards,  student computers,  and internet access, they were limited by what they were allowed to access on the internet.  They were being stymied by administrators and school board members who were fearful of what students, and also the teachers themselves, would access.  I am wondering if this same problem doesn't apply to what correctional institution instructors are allowed to do with the (limited) equipment and access the RAND survey found was provided in each state.  It may well be that actual access is more limited than would be permitted by the states in many facilities because of the fears of other gatekeepers who come between the state correctional education directors and the instructor in the institutional classroom setting.  Do others have experiences that let us know what is actually happening in the field?

Donna Brian, SME Career Pathways CoP

bauerka1's picture

Most definitely...the fear of what would be accessed by both the inmate students and any/all corrections staff (both security and non-security) is probably the biggest reason that internet access is not allowed at all for inmates and limited to staff access. The internet is the best source of free information (free is big because there's never any money for technology or education in general). This free information is not accessible due to the security restrictions. In our institution (an adult, all male maximum security correctional facility in Wisconsin) our inmates are not allowed any internet access, period. We do have an ED LAN for some very old outdated programs specific only to the DOC (which is no longer compatible with the state job site for re-entry purposes). Our legal computers are standalone's with data that is updated daily by staff (not on the internet).  Teachers have some limited internet access but are often blocked from websites and are not allowed to download anything, ever.  We do not have access to smart boards. Everything is done on standalone's which is extremely limiting. Even if you come across free learning tools they all require internet access. This has been very frustrating for us since all of the new GED testing is all internet based we can't even do pretests yet.  With all of the new useful tools that are currently available but not allowed in our school many teachers are frustrated and feel helpless.  Our guys are not getting what they need to prepare for testing (no books, no pretests and definitely no technology).  One juvenile facility has received tablets for the first time but so far no feedback as to how that is going.  Realistically, I try to get stuff online at home bring it in and try to do the best that I can. Even so, due to all of the resources needing internet access (like for our new GED testing service) most of what I'm able to get is non-interactive.

mtolbert's picture

This is a great point, Donna.  Perhaps there are lessons to be learned by the experience of education programs outside the walls.  They too have had to face the challenge of embracing technology and providing Internet access to students in the classroom. 

Stephen J Steurer's picture

I have read over many of your comments and suggestions and found them most enlightening.  Please pardon any typos or misspellings in this message since it it very late at night and I am tired after a long day.

As many of you know there are now some secure tablets in correctional facilities, pre-loaded with materials like GED, ESL, financial literacy, etc..  Some of the videos and reading materials are from publishers and some are free from sites like Khan Academy. The tablets are not free but the costs are reasonable.  Secure tablets were verboten a year ago in almost all correctional facilities and now many correctional agencies have gotten over the fear of an inmate figuring out how to break into secure tablets and activate the WiFi capability to get onto the Internet and communicate with gang members or look at pornography and cause a sensation in the local newspaper.    Getting over the fear of tablets is a quantum leap for corrections.   States like Ohio, Michigan and Kansas corrections have recently purchased lots tablets and will be deploying them in various educational settings soon.  The next step, hardly just around the corner, will be secure platforms that can provide amazing amounts of educational resources and be accessed with tablets that are not pre-loaded but are capable of communicating with them.  There are at least two groups working on this and they are in pilot stages and/or ready for the market soon. 

Since the Correctional Education Association is involved with both kinds of tablets and a platform I don't want to turn this into a commercial.  CEA is trying to be "agnostic" with its efforts and will allow almost any quality education publisher to be part of the platform and tablet.  I have communicated much of this to Heather, John Linton (honorary doctor) and Lois Davis, among others.  CEA will be making a formal announcement at the American Correctional Association meeting in mid-August and more information about the platform will appear on our CEA webiste at that time.  Future CEA conferences will feature a lot more about technology. 

I want to thank Heather for being such as leader in technology and helping to lead corrections out of the dark ages into a more promising time.  John Linton has been our champion at the US Department of Education and has brought the Departments of Justice and Labor along as well.  Since I am a bit older than John I will take the liberty to affirm that old correctional dogs can learn new tricks. Some of us are watching and learning from the young kids like Brian Walsh.


Suzanne's picture

The news that Corrections education is looking toward the future with the use of tablets in the classroom is very exciting indeed.  Since most educational companies are developing resources for tablet use and leaving the world of CD ROMs behind, it will bring our correctional facilities up to par with the regular education classrooms in the outside world. Our incarcerated students, especially youthful offenders, who may already have classroom experience with tablets, would have a smoother transition back into a regular classroom if there is a continuum of the technology level. Successful reentry into the outside world depends upon how we have equipped our incarcerated students with the education, technology skills, and life skills necessary to become productive members of society.

Heather Erwin's picture


rchamberlain's picture

This is great news. I think the use of tablet devices in corrections has great potential to add benefit by providing new and additional educational offerings, providing younger offenders a technology they are familiar with, and also provide a rather cost effective way to utilize technology.

Do you know what kind of materials are going to be available on tablets? Are there going to be collections of resources that instructors can pick and choose from, and then incorporate into the classrooms? Are there going to be packages of materials that are purchased and loaded on the tablets? I think I read that some of the tablet vendors are offering music, video and other non-education resources on tablets.

Do you have any information on how the programs in Kansas, Ohio, and Michigan are going to use tablets? Are they going to be used only in the classroom? Do you know if the tablets are working in a wireless network, or are the materials loaded on the tablet?

One big question is what kind of support will be necessary for instructors using tablets in their programs, both technical support to ensure the technology works and professional development support?

Heather Erwin's picture

The short answer to this question is that there are currently a handful of tablet developers/vendors in the corrections market and that there are just as many ways of purposing and distributing those tablets.  Several of them -- JPay, Union Supply and Keefe Corporation, for example -- are commissary providers who are expanding their available commissary items to include tablets.  Some, like Union Supply and JPay, already have electronics in the market.  I know Union has mp3 players, radios and televisions among other things, available for inmates and their families to purchase.  I believe that their education tablets, loaded with educational content (for use in classrooms or libraries), are only available for purchase by the facility.  Please visit for more specific information.

I have just begun to learn about JPay's foray into providing tablets for educational use.  JPay currently is a more tech-focused commissary company, offering secure messaging, music and other media services on a pre-loaded 8GB mini-tablet.  They are, I believe, developing a connected tablet for use in correctional classrooms.    You can learn more about their offerings at

I know less about Keefe Corp. and IDS, which are other players in this arena.  Keefe has long been held the "giant" of commissary providers, but has been slowest to embrace technology offerings.  They explored tablet tech for several years, but I don't know what, if anything, has come of that exploration. IDS is somewhat of a wildcard in this market and I don't know much about them at all except that they will soon have eReaders in California prisons.

APDS Corp. is the only primarily education focused company currently in the tablet market.  They were founded by a former education leader at Scholastic and have developed a device agnostic platform delivered through a 7" tablets.  The platform is driven by best-in-class educational apps and offerings as well as a video communication and messaging service called, respectively, APDS video and Gatetime. While APDS markets a particular tablet to showcase their platform, it can ostensibly be delivered on any Android compatible device, such as a ChromeBook or Galaxy tablet.  They are also the only company that utilizes a secure 3G/4G dedicated Verizon line to deliver their services, instead of relying on a broadband connection.  This has proven very secure and effective. You can learn more about APDS at

I'll let program personnel in Kansas, Ohio, Michigan -- and elsewhere -- address the question of how those programs, pilot and otherwise, are going. Lastly, I believe for the most part that companies are providing their own training and tech support, or are working with facility IT personnel to ensure proper use and service when necessary. Hope this info helps and that others more in-the-know will chime in!

Stephen J Steurer's picture

The content on the Union tablet includes GED 2014, ABE, ESL, financial literacy, reentry and other areas.  The tablet has been used in ABE/GED as well as college classrooms.  I am personally involved with the teachers at Montgomery County Correctional Facility, a jail in Maryland where we have 30 tablets being used.  Ohio and Michigan have recently purchased their tablets and they will be deployed soon.

There are materials which can be purchased such as Essential Education's GED, TASC and HiSet books, ESL by Langvid and a problem-solving reentry book by CEA.  But the tablet is also filled with over a hundred "freebies" from Khan Academy and other sources.   Please check out the CEA website for more specifics and a downloadable brochure.   The JPay tablet will have all these materials and more within a few months. It will interact with the cloud.  CEA is working with various publishers to make their materials available electronically. We are talking with ProLiteracy, for example, to make their publications available.  Videos, pdfs and ebooks all run on the tablets.  Interactive college level courses will also be available.   The possibilities are endless and weare working with agencies to put on their own proprietary material as well. 

andrewp's picture

Hi all,

Thanks for the great discussion. Some of you may be familiar with Learner Web, a web-based learning platform designed for adult learners. The Learner Web has been incorporated into a variety of projects to support adults and has been implemented by a variety of partners in a diverse array of settings. At least two of these settings are secure correctional facilities: The Onondaga County Justice Center and the Orleans Parish Prison.

The Onondaga County Justice Center has a computer lab within the facility. Select individuals are allowed access to Learner Web via the internet in this lab and provided with tutor support. They use learning plans designed to help improve family literacy and improve the learner's ability to support their child's learning. The Southern Central Tier Regional Adult Education Network, led by James Matt, produced an excellent video that has testimony from corrections staff and participants in the Learner Web program there. I will see if I can get permission to post and share the video.

In New Orleans, Leo Hayden, Director of the Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) ReEntry Program, incorporated a self-paced, tutor-facilitated digital literacy training program into his reentry program. This was done as part of Learner Web's Digital Literacy Partnership, a three year Broadband Technology Opportunities Program project that focused on digital literacy acquisition in hard to serve adults. OPP had great success in implementing this program and Mr. Hayden saw great value in providing participants the opportunity to catch up with what has been going on the outside. Mr. Hayden gave a presentation with Dr. Jill Castek (the leader of the LLTR research group that developed and continues to operate Learner Web) at the most recent COABE conference. You can view a recording of that presentation here.

We at LLTR and in the Learner Web network see great potential for web-based technology to provide a bridge for adult learners reentering from a period of incarceration. We would love to be part of a project that developed digital skills, holistic support and educational opportunities in a pre-release setting  and allowed for continued uninterrupted access to these support materials during transition and after release. It would provide a valuable continuity and help stretch limited resources.

Security concerns are real but they are manageable as our two partners have proven. Much credit is due to the Sheriff's in these two locations for being forward thinking and being open to understanding that technology inside has great potential to reduce recidivism. 

Thank you.

Drew Pizzolato, Learner Web project manager

Heather Erwin's picture

Hello Drew,

This is fantastic!  It almost sounds like a virtual campus-esque set up, or maybe similar to the Smart Horizons online High School out of Florida? I will definitely be looking at the additional information regarding the Orleans Parish Prison Reentry program you provide.  I was about to ask from where Learner Web is based, but I just clicked on the link above and I see you are out of Portland U.  I believe Steve Reder was a founder or director at one time?  I've spoken with Steve on several occasions, but not for a while now.  It sounds like you are fulfilling the founding vision of providing regional web-based support for adult learners.  I'm looking forward to learning more. Thank you once again for sharing this information.

-- Heather

David J. Rosen's picture

Heather and others,

Learner web is used through carefully-monitored, live, real-time access Internet these two jails. In the Syracuse, New York jail, for example, they use software that monitors every inmate's screen in real time. If Drew gets access to the video he mentioned, you will be able to see how this works.

You are right, Heather, that Learner Web was created by Steve Reder and, until recently, he directed the project. I have also been a consultant Implementation Advisor and, more recently, Research Advisor to Learner Web.

Those who are interested will find more information about Learner Web at

David J. Rosen

andrewp's picture

Hi Heather,

Yes, Learner Web was developed by a team led by Steve Reder here at Portland State University. It grew out of the findings of the Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning

I hope you get a chance to watch and listen to the recording of Mr. Hayden at COABE. He is a very compelling speaker and makes a great case for using technology in secure facilities.

I'm not yet familiar with Smart Horizons. You're right on target about Learner Web when you say it's about providing regional web-based support of adult learners. I would add that we are trying to improve the ability to customize shared materials. Also that we see Learner Web as a tool for cross-organizational coordination to wrap services around learners.

Thanks for facilitating a great discussion!


Heather Erwin's picture

Thanks Drew -- I'm very much looking forward to learning about what's new since last I spoke with Steve.  This seems like an extraordinary tool!  I'll definitely take a look at Mr. Hayden at COABE, I was disappointed not to be there this year, and hope to reach out to him as well as to learn more from you.  Thanks again for the great info.

Stephen J Steurer's picture

Heather, you did a very concise and clear overview of the tablet and platform market in correctional education.  Let me add a little more detail about what CEA is doing with a tablet and an agnostic platform with an explanation of why.  CEA is the only national professional association for educators in correctional settings.  As such we really need to be open to all education publishers,material and software providers and trainers.  We are also a strong advocate for teacher-centered instruction and appreciate technology as a supplement to effective teaching, not as a stand-alone or a substitute  for teachers.   If CEA excludes any teachers or vendors we would no longer be a professional teacher association.

JPay is a premier prison technology company.  They provide telephone, financial and other services to inmates and their families.  JPay provides these services in 48 states in one way or another.  They currently have 50,000 handheld devices in use by inmates in a number of states These devices connect to networks and kiosks in these institutions.

CEA and JPay signed a contract to develop a cloud-based learning management system with a 10" tablet for use by any education program interested in offering digital education to the their students.

Educators will be able load their coursework at work (if they have internet access) or from home and push it to any of their student tablets.  Students will then be able to download coursework to their tablets from a kiosk or from a secure wireless network in their facility.  They will have access to selected sites and video or print materials.   They will be able to type and save work for their teachers. Tablets will be used in classrooms or living areas, depending on security policies of the institution.  JPay and CEA are seriously following up on recommendations from the May White House meeting on technology for correctional education at which a recommendation was made to develop an agnostic platform open to everyone.  This will allow CEA to work ith all educational software and print providers, colleges and technology companies.

JPay came to CEA with a pledge to make correctional education one of its companies top priorities.  Profit is not their focus, so costs will be kept at reasonable levels.  JPay and CEA are building the cloud and the best tablet possible. We have a five year joint commitment with CEA as their exclusive content selector.  JPay and CEA have been meeting since late June and will have specifics out to the field within a week or two.  CEA and JPay will make a public announcement to the correctional and educational worlds  The goal is to have the cloud and tablets operational by the end of the year.

If anyone has any suggestions or would like to be involved please contact me at

Heather Erwin's picture

Hello All and thank you for a fantastic discussion!!  It is obvious to me that there is much interest in this topic as well as in many tangential topics extending from it.  Thank you to our esteemed guests -- John Linton, Michelle Tolbert and Brian Walsh.  These leaders in correctional education should be considered powerful resources, advisors and educators as the use of technology in secure classrooms pushes forward.  Thanks also to all of you who joined in the discussion to make it so interesting and informative.

Let's keep this conversation flowing in an effort to learn and share even more of the discoveries and innovations of which we've had a glimpse these past couple of weeks!

-- Heather