Inspiring work


After hours of backbending shoveling of the powdery white debris from the Nor'Easter Juno, our East Coast Snowmageddon or Snowpocalypse, I need some inspiration, so if you have a minute, what is the most interesting (and fun) thing you currently are doing in your work? I'd like to hear from teachers, counselors, program and state administrators, researchers, professional developers, trainers, curriculum developers, librarians, and others.

I also hope that this will be a way for all of us to gain some inspiration!

David J. Rosen



So far I have learned about an inspiring workplace education blended learning project in Texas, which I am very excited to know about. I am eager to hear about what work projects or activities are inspiring -- or fun and interesting for -- you. It would be great to have those shared here so others can benefit from hearing about them, but you could also email this to me if you prefer.

I'll set an example by sharing a project I am excited about. I am writing a new online guide to blended learning for adult education teachers (ABE, ASE, ESL/ESOL, Transition to College) and tutors. I am particularly excited by some terrific descriptions from adult educatioin teachers from around the country about what they are doing with blended learning in their adult schools and programs. I will be presenting the guide in April at the national COABE conference in Denver, and it will be available free online sometime after that. I'll post that information in the LINCS Technology and Learning CoP when it's ready.

What work is inspiring you -- or is at least fun and interesting?

David J. Rosen


The most fun thing I've done recently is certainly not the most inspiring -- I had a lovely dispute with a colleague over a grammar point.  Maybe I don't get out enough...

What I'm working hardest on at the moment is reducing my 30-hour facilitated differentiated instruction course down to 5 hours self-paced for the TEAL set of courses.  It is a challenge! Especially having to learn APA-style citations when I am stuck back at ancient MLA rules. As I facilitate the existing  TEAL DI-Writing course, I hear a lot of "I'm struggling!" so I hope this new course will help people make good differentiated lesson plans. 

Hello David and All,

What a fantastic question for a cold and snowy January!  I'd like to share that I am currently working on the Open Education Resources STEM pilot and it is an amazing learning experience.  I've been familiar with OER for several years through my affiliation with The WiderNet Project.  In compiling resources for the WiderNet's digital eGranary collection we always first sought open resources for the simple fact that you don't have to chase down permissions to modify, remix and/or reuse them.  This newest foray into the world of OER is a wonderful natural progression as I am now learning not only how to facilitate a training around finding and using OER, but also how to develop or modify my own.  Quite exciting!

-- Heather Erwin, Correctional Education Group SME

Hi David,

I have been taking part in a project through the American Institutes for Research with Heather Erwin, Brooke Istas, Kaye Beall, Jessica Adams, Tara Fry, Leecy Wise, Danielle Miles, and many others, to become a trainer helping teachers use OER for STEM instruction. Like Heather described, not only do we learn more about the OER resources available, but we get to build our own course! It promises to be lots of fun and what I like about it most is that it sparks creativity. 

Another area of work (volunteer) that inspires me is COABE. COABE has grown from 1,300 members in 2009, to over 13,000 members today. COABE has also developed a new conference model which is being used for the first time for the Denver 2015 conference. COABE is undergoing strategic planning because of our tremendous growth. Many ideas are coming from the field that hold promise for the future. It is inspiring to be part of what appears to be a movement in our field for adult education and I'm honored and humbled to be a part of it.

Jackie Taylor, SME

Evidence-based Professional Development COP

Advances in technology have changed just about everything in our lives. In particular, education has been drastically improved due to the many courses, classes and information available to students.

Available to everybody except those who need it most – low income adults, especially those from the emerging immigrant population.

In particular, working women with children have basically been deprived of the benefits of technology.

Years ago this problem was called “The Digital Divide” and thousands of articles were written and speeches given talking about how to “BRIDGE” this digital divide.

Unfortunately the problem still has not been solved.

BUT the solution is staring us in the face! Let's call it  Mending the Digital Divide.

All that is necessary is to provide:

  1. Low cost or free internet service to communities
  2.  Low cost or free computers.
  3.  Instruction in computer basics
  4.  A list of free or low cost classes, programs, and information in Spanish and other languages that adults can use.
  5. Funding through grants and fund raising events.

Any non-profit organization can start up Home Study or Distance/ Blended Learrning programs based on the Internet as long as there is an interest on the part of the staff.

Some programs use a “Blended Learning” approach, which includes meeting with a teacher or tutor in a computer lab, and then doing lessons at home.

Now there are also more and more lessons available through cell phones, which greatly increase interest and “attendance”.

There are many lessons and classes that teach native language literacy, particularly Spanish, English as a Second Language, GED, Citizenship, Math, Science, Driver’s test preparation, information concerning social and legal services easily accessible via the internet, etc., etc.

Through this kind of program we can provide classes and assistance to millions of low-income immigrants who are becoming more and more important in our society.

The US offers wonderful educational opportunities to Exchange Students from all over the world. But these students will return to their native countries once their education has been completed.

On the other hand, most immigrants who come to our country work and raise families here because they want to stay.

Shouldn’t they be the priority?

For more information:

Paul Rogers


Thank you, Paul,

You're right, there are plenty of ways that we can begin to fill the gap.  Many times the gap is left open not for lack of wanting to fill it but for lack of resources.  In my case, the chance came when our director finally got funding to purchase laptops for our adult ESL students. 

For the last three years, I worked in an Adult Ed program as an ESL teacher.  Most of our students are middle aged and low income.  Just last year, the director was able to acquire funds to purchase laptops for use in class.  During the short summer session, we added 1/2 hour to the normal class time in order to include basic computer skills instruction.  For this, I recruited one of my intermediate ESL students who has a degree in computer science and had taught for a few years in Mexico before coming to the US. 

'Marisol' is a single mother who is living with her parents.  She was eager to get a job to help with family finances.  I encouraged her to begin by working for those few weeks as a volunteer.  I explained that this experience added to her resume would help her get the position to teach the Bilingual Computer Skills Class that my boss was planning to offer. 

Marisol was a great help.  She was very patient in teaching the students, many of whom had never even turned a computer on before.  The class went well and all of the students learned a lot in a short time.  There were two success stories that I learned about.  By the end of the summer, one of the younger students was able to get a data entry job and Marisol started teaching the first Bilingual Computer Skills class in January!  There may be more, but I am no longer with the program.  These kinds of results are the icing on the cake for teachers.  More importantly, they represent a solid first step for our students who are struggling to improve their standard of living. 



Your program is a good model for us to follow. You solved the digital divide problem by first getting the funds and then buying the laptops! If you need  information on getting grants, please contact me.

Also, tell me a little about your program, how many students, etc.

I run a similar program using my website,, which you may be interested in adapting for your classes.

Then we need to look into and other avenues to provide internet service to our students.

Computer Literacy is very important and  needed for a lot of reasons, such as studying for the Drivers' test.

This is a "solid first step for our students who are struggling to improve their standard of living" and I look forward to learning more about your classes.

Paul Rogers



It really is inspiring!

And make sure your teachers and students enter using our Adult Education partner page at  (You should see a welcome page that says, “We’re working with the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education …”

If not, they will not be pre-qualified as you are when you enter through our partner page. In this way, teachers and students do not need to live in a low-income zip code to get access to some offers. For example you will not be able to access the Mobile Beacon USB modem offer that many teachers and students have found to be a great deal. 

Steve Quann

World Education, Inc.


     EveryoneOn seems to be the best place to get connected. At the same time we need to find ways and means to supply low cost or free laptops, etc. is good for this, as is Goodwill Industries and other agencies.

     Many  low-income immigrants live in housing complexes, either run by government agencies or for profit or non-profit companies. Here it would be a good idea to get a discount if the whole complex is wired.

Some cities offer free wi fi, just Google: free wi fi cities

a. Municipal wireless network - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

b. Free Wi-Fi Service - City of Santa Monica

     Eventually it will be possible for everyone in any city to sign up and attend different classes while still at home. The importance to Family Literacy cannot be underestimated.



Hi Paul and all,

Those are great tips Paul. EveryoneOn does also offer inexpensive refurbished desktop computers, lap tops, and even some tablets.  There are no income requirements/restrictions and programs and program staff are eligible--as well as students and others of course!

Remember to go through the Adult Ed Portal




A response to a post by Miriam Burt on the Adult ESL list:


This, of course, has been a problem for a long time. But I feel that the advent of technology offers a solution.

By now I would imagine that every class can be equipped with computers. And nearly all students have a cell phone.

There are very many lessons and classes online and it should be easy to divide a multi-level class up, so that everyone can work at his or her level or lesson.

In addition now may be a good time to discuss including native language literacy in ESL programs, sometimes called Pre-ESL.

Often low literacy beginners need a bilingual phase of instruction at first as a transition to an English Only class.

I have been teaching in the above manner for over ten years, and I have found it very successful and also extremely interesting. Now I am making short videos that I put on YouTube.


Paul Rogers


Although computers are still the way of life in much of education,  tablets/iPads are far more user friendly for adults with no experience with technology-- and are also easier to obtain, store, etc.    I learned from one teacher who used them with low/nonliterate adults that the tablets avoid the problem of using a mouse and go directly to touch technology.   There are a zillion great apps for getting started on simple language, the picture resolution is dazzlingly good, and the apps, often designed for children, are easy to use.  Plus many of them have audio components or features that read to users.   This is an avenue BARELY approached by adult ESOL as yet, and I hope there will be literally a stampede as teachers figure out how much easier it is to have students on tablets than on computers!!  

Robin Lovrien


Hello all,

Thanks for this discussion! Two colleagues here in St. Paul, Susan Wetenkamp-Brandt and Janet Sparks, presented a wonderful workshop last year on this very topic of integrating technology into lower levels of ESL.  I'll list some of the resources and websites they recommended here:

  • Northstar Digital Literacy Standards

  • Janet’s Low Literacy Class Website

  • Spelling City        

  • Learning Chocolate for Vocabulary Practice

  • ESL Literacy Readers

  • Marn Frank Phonic Stories

  • English Express Albert Lea Adult Website

  • Recording Website


  • World Clock, Calendar, Time Zones, Weather, etc.

In addition, colleague Jen Vanek published a very useful article in the Minnesota TESOL journal recently on using OERs in Adult ELL classes. That can be found here:  and is titled "Open Educational Resources: New Technologies and New Ways of Learning."


Patsy Vinogradov

ATLAS Director

Robin and Patsy,

I agree that Tablets and IPads should be included, and can they be obtained? I was focused on programs that just about give away desktops and laptops these days.

We also should include videos, short lessons of about 5 minutes can work well, which can be found on YouTube. I use songs.

Included in the list of sites and resources, we should also include bilingual sites and programs. I recommend my own website, PUMAROSA.COM, for Spanish speakers, and Larry Ferlazzo has a very long list of great sites for other languages.

As I mentioned a few times, for beginning students, especially adults whose literacy level is low, a bilingual approach is very helpful.

Paul Rogers


Currently I have the enormous pleasure of tutoring about 10 individual adult ELLs in everything from basic conversation to a college course in world history.   I am in a fairly rural part of eastern Maine, so I go to students' homes as often as they come to me or we meet somewhere else.  It is a great privilege and joy to do this-- and often a terrific challenge.  I have written a bit about this --calling it "tutoring in the trenches".   Doing a lesson on pronunciation and accurate perception of numbers while holding a baby, smiling as other family members tromp through the room, trying to hear over the TV, and having no place to set anything down or surfaces for a paper to write on is darn challenging!!  But my students are so friendly and eager to have me come help them with English that I do not care!  Also,  I speak very selfishly, I have NO supervisor or program to be accountable to, so I can work at the necessary pace with one student who is severely challenged in hearing English sounds, or another who, while understanding her course, is really clueless on how to do assignments for it.  It is the BEST  work I have ever done in ESL-- and I am soon heading for 50 years in the field!   Even better, I am getting to be wonderful friends with most of these students, and often get fed and invited to their homes for meals or events--frankly something that doesn't happen too often here among immigrant and non-immigrant residents. 

Adding to the joy with the adult learners is fun with several 11 year-old girls whose parents are migrant workers and whose English really needs bolstering for 5th or 6th grade work.  They are lively and funny and LOVE that they get to play GAMES to practice English (our latest effort was what I call "instant" bingo-- where they look for answers among their cards for questions using the simple past tense of irregular verbs--questions about them, their families, the book they are reading, our town, etc.).   Their sessions book-end my week and I just love that!!  And third, I get to do Skype sessions with four absolutely adorable, charming, smart children (9-15 years old) of a Somali friend from my days at American University.  These are amazing kids-- living in two cultures and excelling at school.  Their dad just wants me to monitor their school work in a way he can't, and we are having so much fun getting to know each other.  One of the girls, the fourth of five children, is absolutely LOVING it that she gets an adult's attention for long stretches!!   I am having to bone up on The Wizards,  " In Cold Blood", GMO's and all kinds of other topics to keep up with their homework and interests!   Truly I am fortunate to have such fun, challenging and rewarding work at my age!!




On the east coast and esp. Boston, we continue to slip and trudge through snow as the cleanup continues. 

The most fun thing I am doing right now is to make some slight changes to a mentoring toolkit as it was just piloted in a peer mentoring project with three Boston-area adult education programs. You can read more project details and outcomes at and an interview with a mentor-mentee pair at  The Mentoring Toolkit will be a free resource on the NCTN website in February.

~ Priyanka Sharma 
SME, Postsecondary Completion 


David, Thank you for inviting us to respond to this question. It's especially uplifting during the dead of winter here in the north -- even though, call me crazy!--  I truly love the snow and cold.

What's been most inspiring to me, as always it seems, is teaching a group of adult learners. We just started our new semester this week.

Quite a few LINCS members have been participating in the very engaging books study on Reading Apprenticeship. This discussion has been inspiring to me, especially as I look to implement the Reading Apprenticeship process with the students in my class.

Cheers, Susan

Moderator, Assessment CoP


I'm am tiptoeing into the world of blending classes this semester.  I have taken 4 of my ABE Science classes and added some online work that will enhance what we're doing in class.  We're only 3 weeks in (and one of those was filled with snow), so it's hard to judge the level of success.  Some students have really enjoyed the online work and return with questions and idea that have lead to good discussion.  But other in the class haven't done any of the online work, so they sit quietly during the discussion.  They seem to feel left out, which I hope leads to them doing the homework next time.  We will see.


I've also added an online component into my College Transitions class which has only met once.  We spent part of that day exploring the online class, and they seemed very excited about it.  I hope to have more to report soon.  Fingers crossed.


Steven Reid


Hi Steven,

As you may know, adult education science education and blended learning are two things I am very excited about. I would love --  in the Science CoP -- to hear more about what you are doing. I have lots of questions. What are you using for the online work? A proprietary web site? Free web sites? Videos (if so which ones)?

Have you surveyed your students to see who can regularly and easily access the Web, and how, to do their homework? Do your students have computers at home? Do they use computers in a public library? Do they have access through a smart phone? An electronic tablet? Are you looking for a good way to survey your students about their technology skills (if so let me know and I can recommend a couple, one on computer skills, another on cell phone use. Perhjaps others here have some recommendations on good surveys for adult learners' technology skills?)

I would like to hear from other teachers who have faced the common problem of adult learners not doing homework. Of course, there are many (often good) reasons why they cannot, but some teachers have more success with this than others. Why? What do they do that we all can learn from? Let's hear from teachers who have had some success. What strategies have you found effective with your students?

Steven, we eagerly await hearing more about how this is going for you.

David J. Rosen




I believe that OER (Open Educational Resources) has been mentioned earlier but I use these in my classroom for Science instruction.  I have been successful with getting learners to do these at home - the bonus they have their families help.  One of the ways is to ask your learners what do they wonder about? Do they wonder why tornadoes form?  How do microwaves work?  Why can't a car stop on a snow-packed road?  I list all the things they wonder about at the beginning of a session.  This list is ever-changing and continues to grows throughout the session. This allows the learners to have a vested interest in the Science we will be discussing and learning about.  Then using the scientific method (Ask a Question, Do Background Research, Construct a Hypothesis, Test our Hypothesis by doing an Experiment, Analyze the Data/Draw Conclusions. and Communicate the Results) we learn about the items on the list.  We do some of the questioning in class, the research is often a homework assignment.  I ask learners to bring to class one website that they found about the topic or in my online classes I ask them to post it to the discussion board.  Everyone discusses what information they gained from their website until we create a hypothesis.  Then comes the fun part - the experiment.  Learners usually do the experiments at home using household products.  They bring the results back and we gather everyone's data and discuss the experience as a group.  It is very interactive and the learners seem to really enjoy finding out about the world we live in.  That's how I have been successful with at home scientific learning.

Brooke Istas

Hi Brooke,

Thanks. Are there particular OERs that you have found effective for science instruction with your adult students? If so, could you share your recommendations in the science CoP, perhaps with URLS (web addresses) for the OERs?

I like your approach -- asking learners what they wonder about and then, to the extent possible, linking the session content to their questions, interests and concerns. I would be interested in seeing your students questions about science -- this would be a great new topic for the science CoP: "What do your science students wonder about, what questions or concerns do they have about science?" If that discussion gets going there, I would be willing to archive the questions in a new science area of the Adult Literacy Education (ALE) Wiki.

David J. Rosen




Thanks for sharing your story of your venture into blended learning. Personally,  I (I think others might, too) would love to hear how this "story" started and get a regular update. Okay it might not be a story that develops like the compelling podcasts on, but I really would be interested in being a fly on the wall to hear your successes, struggles, and reflections as you move forward. It would be great to hear on a regular basis what works and how it all ends. I think we all could gain from entering into this with you.  Aside from learning what motivated you to take the leap, I am interested right now to hear more about their online work. What are the assignments? How do you track what they do? Are you using a learning management system? 

Do others care to share stories of their leap into blended learning?


Steve Quann

World Education, Inc


Your progress with blended learning will definitely be interesting to follow. I tried adding online content to my GED classes, one year with a wiki, another  with a Weebly website, and found the same thing you have so far: some liked it, some didn't. And of course the work had to be optional, because some didn't have computers at home or couldn't wrest them away from their children. I also now work in a distance learning program in which most of my students are online only, and again the results vary: a few seem to blossom in the online environment, others manage fairly well, and some just vanish after a week or so. There is so much promise here -- how can we make it work better for students?

Wendy Quinones

Hi Everyone,

I have to say I'm kind of excited to see that people are interested in my work.  Since there seems to be some curiosity about it, I'll go into more detail.


My initial interest in adding online components have been with me for a few years.  We had attempted to take our College Transitions class statewide through an online hybrid model (but funding nixed that idea... but it's not dead).  Then, last fall, our local community college asked us to add something that resembled their work with Blackboard.  I'd already gotten familiar with Moodle as an online education learning platform, so we decided to use that since it is similar to Blackboard.

Then, in November, I attended an inspiring workshop at the National College Transitions Network conference in Rhode Island about flipping a science class.  I had long felt that students were bored with the traditional GED/HiSET model of learning science (read the book...and the book...answer questions...repeat until we all fall asleep).  The emphasis had been on reading skills, not science (because the test emphasizes reading skills, not science). But, I wanted to teach science.  So I took what I learned in the workshop and ran with it.  I added science classes on Moodle with videos and quizzes.  They also have access to handouts and other useful information.

One the first day of class, I surveyed the students access to computers.  Almost all of them have access at home either via computer, smartphone, or tablet.  There were only 2 who did not.  Our school has a computer lab that is open from 8:30AM to 7:00PM, so those students have access before or after class.  One of those has really taken advantage of the resource and has completed everything so far.  The other....  less so. 

The experiment is still in its infancy.  I'll keep everyone up to date on my progress throughout the semester.  I'm very excited about this, as are some of the students.  I hope it's successful.



Hi Steven:

Ideally, it is helpful for students and their families to have online access at home, via cellphones, etc. (see EveryoneOn/adulted) but your comment reminded me of a strategy that many working students (myself included) find helpful.  I used to call it "Come Early, Stay Late."  Students who came an hour early or stayed an hour after class were able to get so much done...undisturbed.

Cynthia Zafft

World Education

Hi Cynthia,

I think "undisturbed" is the key to that.  I have seen several students, who I'm certain have computers at home, working in the computer lab after class.  But in the lab, they don't have to fight their kids for access or get up and cook dinner or any number of other things that distracted us when working at home.  We're lucky that we can provide access to a lab for our students.


Steve I would love to hear more about your attempt to offer college transitions programing using Moodle. Our state (ME) uses Moodle for its technology PD courses and we have used it with some ESOL offerings we've done. Some of our college transitions programs are using Moodle but not to full capacity. I'm interested in how you were using it. Were you creating a hybrid course where you held face to face and also extended the work through use of the Moodle platform or were you creating an online course with facilitation or perhaps even one that was strictly self-paced and not facilitated? I’m curious. We encourage our college transitions programs to use Moodle or a similar platform so that students can get the experience to support their readiness for college courses which often utilize Blackboard or similar programs.


Thanks for inviting us to share interesting work, David. Our agency is participating in a Professional Learning Community(PLC) as part of a PD initiative in PA. Since I saw a real need for our students to be comfortable with technology, I wanted to see it being used in the classrooms. I realized that not all of our teachers were comfortable doing this. We contracted with Steve Quann to head down to our neck of the woods in November and provide some training and resources for our teachers to use. They were given assignments to come up with standards aligned lesson plans using any type of technology they were comfortable trying. After trying it out in the class, they came back together and presented to each other. The best part was the following week. The teachers all sat together and tried out the technology shared by others using each other as resources. They were able to try out new things with the help of others and will now go back to their classes and use the new technology in their instruction. During our session break in April, we'll share again and see if the comfort level of using technology in the classroom is improving. Hopefully the teachers will also be able to report an increase in technology use by students, as well.