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ADULT EDUCATION DROP-IN CENTERS

Technology in education has evolved to the point where anyone can study for anything online, usually at a low cost or for free. In addition, the Smart Phone is replacing the Laptop, so learning “On the Go” can become an integral part of anyone’s educational strategies.

Many “Blended” or “Distance” classes are offered to adults for their continuing educational needs, and an excellent way to improve and develop these classes is to create “Drop-In Centers” for all adults to use.

Professional adult educators who would staff these centers would also wear several hats: teacher, tutor, reference librarian, mentor, guide, and translator.

As part of their day-to-day work, they would also be involved in outreach to the diverse communities, publicity and volunteer recruitment and training.

The center would be equipped with a computer lab and…real, old-fashioned textbooks!

The classes offered could include:

  1. Computer Basics
  2. Language literacy
  3. ESL
  4. GED
  5. Citizenship
  6. Job training
  7. Test preparation
  8. Etc.

Students would walk or ‘drop’ in, register and request a class or information and then be guided to an appropriate lesson or class on a website or in a text- or "live'.

The above scenario is perfect for the working adult who may need one class or a whole course of instruction. 

Childcare should also be offered.

For the past six months I have been involved in developing a Drop-In center in a library based on my ESL program. The program includes lessons in textbooks, two websites, videos on YouTube, lessons via Facebook and WhatsApp.

I can see how this approach can be made available in many different locations, such as community centers, churches, etc. From this a network can grow that would make it easier for adults to meet their educational needs.

I also believe that it is an approach that is very fundable through grants.

What do you think? Are you interested in developing Drop-In Centers in your city?

 

 

 

 

Comments

Edward Latham's picture

I have been playing with a part time variation of a drop in center. The library has hosted these sessions and has helped to advertise through their social media pages and through word of mouth. Every Saturday morning, I have been facilitating the needs of whomever shows up asking for help. This has ranged from a young 5th grade student who comes from a migrant family needing some math help to a 70+ year old lady asking for help in getting her phone to stop beeping at her. The sessions have been consistently attended by 1 to 5 people and over two dozen different people have attended for at least 3 hours. New people continue to pop in as word spreads slowly every week. 

Paul shared a list of roles that accurately define many of the hats I have had to wear in this work. I look at myself as a navigator. People show up with questions or needs and I then invite all present to share what they know about the topic and invite them along as we explore more. I purposefully show participants how I go about finding information that helps me find solutions, especially for some of the very technical questions that have shown up. I often ask questions that get them sharing their thoughts, guesses, and suggestions for where we might find solutions as well. Participants have appreciated that they end up learning so much more than they thought they might when they come in, often on topics they did not even think they had interest in at first. Our time together is all very specific to the needs people bring in with no set lesson plans or course write-ups and participants share that they appreciate that it feels all about their needs. 

People may have read a few other posts I have had about these Saturday sessions as part of a community building experience. Almost every week, those that attend are meeting members of our community they did not know before. People end up sharing with each other surplus goods they have or services they can offer in appreciation for the help they receive and the new friendships that are created. The concept that our relationships with people is a sort of currency has started to germinate through these drop in centers and it is quite the experience to be a part of!

The drop in center concept that Paul describes seems much more focused on adult learners. Having a focus on a specific demographic (adults) can be very interesting and I look forward to reading more about your successes as you get this started up, Paul. 

I have had some in education fields ask me, "Yea, but what do you do when you don't know the answer to the question someone asks?" My short response is that I then share I don't know and I offer to show them how I go about learning something I don't know. Through the process of my learning about the topic, I think out loud and often ask questions out loud so the participants can hear my thought process and they often end up doing the same. Our verbal sharing of thoughts as we start processing has been such a rewarding experience as we are constantly learning how each of us approaches different things we find along the way. After a little more than a year of doing this, we, as random collections of people interested in learning about such a variety of things, have yet to be stumped or been in a situation in which we could not find a solution. We have explored Technology, Biology, Spanish, English, Careers, Math, Taxes, How to shop for a computer, How to evaluate local Internet Service Providers, How to read, and even when is the correct time one needs to salt a stake before grilling to optimize for a nice juicy steak. Most of all, we have learned about the power of our people resources and how important it is to have a free community center people can feel safe coming to to integrate with others. It may only be for a few hours here or there, but those connections made to the learning and to each other persists into other areas of the community. I am constantly bumping into community members that have stopped in or have heard about our drop in program. Some in education have expressed interest in joining us, this next year to help with content they are comfortable handling in the fall. 

If people want to play with a drop in concept, I would like to share that it may be ok to just jump in and start working with your community. They will help define the needs, the goals, the directions and the reason you are there. No prep is needed, it does not take money, and every session is exciting because you never need to have expectations. You do need a safe, public place available that will support discussion, gathering, has at least Internet available, and is a place located central to the community you live in. Of course you also need the time and passion to fuel this kind of start up. You may show up and have only one person pop in for an hour or even worse, no one shows up for a few weeks when you start. The fact that you are there, ready to help navigate with people is noticed by those coming in and out of the public space you are in and that helps to get the ball rolling. Once going, there is a momentum that builds and after a successful year or so you may see a community expectation that your public space drop in is there and available, even when you may not be. 

I had to call in sick one Saturday, but two of my "regulars" still met and they were able to help each other. Although their focus was different, one was working on college math while the other was learning to read after a lifetime of being able to speak, and their ages were different; he was 58 she was 21, they were able to help each other out and support each other. It was not complete support and they both ended up with a few questions jotted down for me the next week that they could not resolve together, but the fact that they worked on it at all together was impressive to me. We educators who are passionate about helping others learn have the power to create infectious learning in so many ways. It is exciting to read about Paul's efforts and those of others! I hope the ideas we all share and the experiences inspire more of you talented and passionate people to reflect on how you might spread an infection of learning in your own way. Share your ideas, thoughts and experiences with others here to help us all learn as a community of learners. Don't be afraid to digitally drop in and share here. 

Paul Rogers's picture

Ed, this is great! I also work through the libraries and with your permission I will copy and send your post as part of my proposal to set up drop in centers and to write grants.

If we share ideas, information and resources, we will form a network that will grow exponentially, and eventually we will accumulate enough information and resources so that it is no big thing if one person does not know an answer, we just ask someone on the network.

This is very exciting and it is also something that will be beneficial to libraries and other agencies that are in need of funds because there are grants out there plus...local support becomes a lot easier if it serves the community like this, including the business community. If you have Public access television, you could start your own program or even have a radio program locally. 

Anyway, it is grreat!!

Edward Latham's picture

Please feel free to include anything I post in any proposals. 

I love the idea of networking, Paul and I feel educators do not network well. In fact we have much we can learn from teenagers. Stop for a minute and think about some serious situation just suddenly happening and you need some advice or help. What do you do and who do you contact? I have asked some teachers this and I get many responses that indicate they reach out to people they know like family members, friends, church members and a few others may post on Facebook because it is such a huge thing here in the county I am in. Other than that last option, there is a good portion of teachers that rely on a very close circle of people for support. We are not comfortable sharing with strangers and certainly not comfortable sharing our challenges with them. 

In contrast, look at how a typical teen handles now knowing how to do something in a video game. They hit up forums, they text or video chat with their gaming buddies from all over the world, they hit up their favorite you tube streamers and very often they will hit up more than one of these resources to get different perspectives. 

LINCS is, of course, a sort of networking and I am very happy to say I have added some people here in the LINCS to my social networking platforms (FB, G+, Gmail Hangouts...) I know there are so many others in here that would be awesome to connect with but I don't know that we have an easy way of posting or sharing with each other who would be willing to join with others and what their focus is on. Heck, I will add everyone here because I find that everyone has a perspective that is unique and I can always learn from that. Likewise I would offer others can add me (ohgeer@gmail.com) for the same reason that sharing perspectives is healthy in our profession. Do we have any sort of networking board within LINCS? Would that be helpful to have? 

Are there elements of a drop in center that would further complicate networking? I had one concern pop up as I started thinking about the wonderful suggestions you offered to network. Aproachability is a big thing in most communities. Even though I have only been in this local community for two years, I am considered "safe" and approachable while sitting there smiling at the local library, a safe and approachable site. Complete strangers feel embolden to sit down with me and a crew of other strangers to just talk, ask questions, or even offer to help others. I have concerns about how digital networking could be done in a way that does not jeopardize some of the very intimate trust needs our public has?

I personally have no problem, after a drop in session or even during a session, getting on my computer and hitting up my network to get help. In fact I think it is an awesome skill for people to learn how to do well. I just wonder how TV, radio, and/or live streaming live events might work. I do think I will try to video some of my sessions and then edit up short videos that help demonstrate what this really looks like and feels like. That could be helpful I think. What do others think? Is networking an individual thing or are there ways to safely have groups connecting and reaching out to each other as a group without compromising the trust levels that are established face to face with each group?

Paul Rogers's picture

Hi, all, good discussion here and I just want to briefly report that after a meeting today with a Mexican American Leaders council in the city of Oxnard, which is 75% Mexican-American, I have been given the ok to research and write the grant proposals for at least two drop-in centers in different parts of the city. I also will be talking with the libraries in Ventura county where I have already started my own version of an ESL drop-in center, on a small scale of course.

The actual set up and structure will vary from place to place, and actually there can be a whole big variety of places. Yes to Grocery Stores!

In any case, I will share the grant information to all by the end of the week.

Paul

 

 

Leecy's picture

Paul and Ed, you are only two, but your contributions are many! Drop In Centers make perfect sense in this day and age, as least where connectivity through libraries or schools is available. I spoke to the Adult Ed provider in my area, and she wants to explore this further. You two provide wonderful examples of how those can work.

To take this a step further, I would like to start looking for funding (probably foundations), to pay for the equipment, connectivity, and any other expenses involved. In addition, I have worked very closely and diligently over the years to recruit, train, and manage volunteers. I would like to find funding to pay either a Volunteer Coordinator or a Drop-In Center Coach or coaches to handle questions posed by those learning at a distance.

As for "classes, " in this region, providers want to add Integrated Job Prep segments to that list, which would prep students to handle the basic concepts, language and math expected in very entry-level occupations.

Let's talk more. How about others out there. What would you add to this concept? Thanks! Leecy

Alison Ascher Webber's picture

Hi all, I think it makes a ton of sense- and libraries, churches, k-12 schools, etc all make a ton of sense as where to hold them- even grocery stores! I'd love to explore more and think about the grant writing for this! Alison, EdTech Center, World Education

Paul Rogers's picture

To clarify a few points concerning the concept of a drop-in center, I would like to add the following: First, the center would be focused on online lessons, classes and instruction, so that each person would be shown and encouraged how to study independently, with support from staff. Self-study is the goal.

At the same time, texts, cds, dvds and other educational materials would also be made available for the students to borrow or purchase to study at home.

Second, the center therefore would accommodate those people who normally do not attend adult education classes.

Third, funding for the center would come from grants and local support, enough so that additional staff would be hired and also so that a library, for example, would be open for more hours, especially in the evening. No funding – no drop-in center.

My own free online ESL course operates as a drop-in center through the WhatsApp Smart Phone App, plus two free websites, YouTube videos, and Facebook groups. I have been “teaching” students at all levels for more than one year, and it has proven to be very successful and beneficial.

I think that classes on computer and cell phone basics would be integral to the drop-in center and at the same time, in a library, Smart Phones could be acquired and loaned out just as a book is.

It has been estimated that adult education classes offered by community colleges and other agencies, like libraries, include no more than 10% of the population that could benefit from classes. The Drop-In Center acts, in my opinion, as a way to reach the other 90%.

 

Edward Latham's picture

Paul and others, I appreciate the focus on Self-study as a goal and we all wish our learners to be able to independently accomplish what they wish in life! You mention the 10% benefiting from classes leaving that huge majority available for drop in support type services. I wonder how many of those 90% will be comfortable or competent with many of the self study options available today. Many of the self study options are designed, maintained or curated by academic type people and the variation in learning styles and methods of exploring learning are often limited. Just a few concerns or challenges that came to mind as I read your post and started thinking about the benefits and challenges of that model.

This got me reflecting on my mini drop in center and some of the contrasts. No money is involved. The library just gave me the keys to open it up any time I saw fit. All the resources we have needed so far have been already in the library or our collective group knew someone that had a resource to borrow. Most importantly, almost all of my drop ins have been people looking for "just in time" information. They came in with specific lists of needs and wanted an educational navigator to help them find solutions. All but two of my drop ins would not have attended anywhere near enough sessions to constitute a class. Yet, the librarian is getting feedback from those drop ins that only showed up for 3-6 hours that they learned so much about how they can find answers to their problems. They appreciated the small group time to get ideas, find out how others process and learn, and to discover how to use resources available in ways they were not familiar. None of it is scripted but my focus in all the work I approach is to connect individuals together as a community of learners. I want people FEELING what it is like when we all learn together rather than the near constant feeling today that we are stuck alone in almost all of our challenges. 

I love Paul's set up for developing independent learning drop in centers and I can see that service helping many of that 90%. I wonder if there might also be a demand for "just in time" educational navigation that aims to promote independent learning but starts with a ton of hand holding? I have only been experimenting with this little drop in for a year or so and my numbers per session are nothing any grant would gush over and yet the diversity of population served and the trust that is spreading in the community have been noticeable. Maybe it builds into more formal subject offerings down the line. There has already been some clamoring about having some sort of computer "classes". When pressed for details though, those requesting computer sessions wanted question and answer sessions so they could learn what they wanted to learn :) What has been so cool in my little drop in sessions is that someone can ask their specific computer questions and the others present love to learn those same things but were not focusing on that until it came up. The community and it's individuals can drive so much, but we need to give them the space, support, and time to build the trust equity that this can work. 

I am thankful we have Paul, myself and others willing to share drop-in thoughts and experiences because I feel they all have value and have not been experimented enough with. I look forward to seeing what successes Paul's model has. Is anyone else out there conceptualizing or experiencing some variation of drop in type educational experiences? How are yours structured? What challenges do you face and what successes are you seeing? 

Paul Rogers's picture

Leecy and group, although a Drop-In Center is particularly suited for a library it can also be located anywhere, such as a place of business even. Libraries can provide what I call "Learner's Corners" which are basically spaces located in the book stacks where books, CDs, DVDs and other learning materials, like flashcards, can all be situated for anyone to use t study any subject. I am a firm believer in using technology but also at the same time many people like books, etc. to take home and study. Often in ESL classes, for example, there are no textbooks, or they are too expensive. Well, we can set up an "English Corner" to include a lot of materials for anyone to learn English at their own speed. Needless to say, the grants needed for the Drop-In Center would include funds for staff as well as the materials needed for the Learners' Corners.

Leecy's picture

Yes, Paul. I agree that libraries, where they are available, provide ideal places to house Drop-In Centers. And where they are not, as is the case in part of this vast rural region where I live, other community centers can work IF there is connectivity. And if connectivity is not available, that could be entered in grants as well. If I find viable funding sources, I'll certainly share them here so we can start a list. Does anyone else have ideas or sample proposals to share? Leecy

Paul Rogers's picture

Leecy and members, I have made some progress in setting up Drop-In Centers in a few libraries and a community center.I will probably start a Saturday session, like Ed, and just begin with the basics. Then later add things and do a lot of publicity.

I expect to get grants for staff support and to purchase materials like....books!!! Lots of books, cds, and dvds. 

And I will share grant information to anyone who is interested. Just email me below.

paulawaynerogers@gmail.com

Leecy's picture

Thanks, Paul! Leecy

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