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"App to Speed" Learning Circles webinar on April 29th at 2:00 ET; follow-up discussion here

Hello Integrating Technology and Program Management Colleagues,

On Monday, April 29th, at 2:00 PM ET,  join the LINCS Community for a 50-minute webinar on “App to Speed” Learning Circles for ESL/ESOL and ABE programs; Following the webinar, an asynchronous discussion will take place for at least one day in the Integrating Technology and Program Management groups. To join the webinar, please register.

An App to Speed Learning Circle helps adult learners access online learning apps on their smartphones. It enables adult learners to download and competently use apps for adult literacy, ESL/ESOL, or other adult basic or secondary skills. The App to Speed Learning Circle approach can help adult learners use apps to:

  • supplement their in-class learning,
  • make progress before enrolling in a class,
  • continue learning during an absence, or
  • participate in a distance learning capacity.

Webinar attendees will learn how to organize and deliver App to Speed Learning Circles and where to find materials for learning-circle facilitator training.

Register for the webinar here!

Target Audience(s)

Instructors and program managers in ABE, ESOL/ESL, and technology-focused programs

Target Population(s)

English language learners, adult basic education, adult secondary education, workforce, and career pathways students

Presenter and Moderator

David J. Rosen is the moderator of the LINCS Program Management and Integrating Technology groups. He was the evaluator of the World Education- and P2PU-sponsored English Now! pilot project, funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, that tested and improved learning circles to help adult learners on waiting lists for English language classes in five pilot project sites, in Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island; he has also served as an advisor for the scale-up of this project. Recently David has developed a new kind of learning circle called “App to Speed” to help libraries and adult basic education programs to help adult learners, and other community members, to use their smartphones effectively for learning English and improving adult basic skills. As Moderator, David will facilitate the asynchronous follow-up discussion in these two LINCS groups.

Featured Resources

LINCS Discussion on Learning Circles

LINCS Discussion on Adult Literacy XPRIZE Apps

App to Speed Learning Circles in Public Libraries

App to Speed Learning Circles in Adult ESOL Programs

Pre-activity

One week prior to the webinar, a list of resources, including adult literacy and ESOL/ESL apps,  will be posted in the LINCS Community Program Management Group and the LINCS Community Integrating Technology Group. A thread for the discussion will be started to promote the activity and allow participants to ask initial questions.

Participation Instructions

To participate in this activity, attendees must be a member of the LINCS Community and a member of either the Integrating Technology or Program Management group. (Current Community and group members can simply log in to their account.)

To participate:

  1. Register for the webinar and join at 2:00 on Monday, April 29th, 2019
  2. Join the LINCS Community
  3. Join one of the host groups:
    1. LINCS Community Program Management Group
    2. LINCS Community Integrating Technology Group
  4. Access the group’s discussion thread:
    1. LINCS Program Management Group: Discussion
    2. LINCS Integrating Technology Group: Discussion

Participants requiring special accommodations or with additional questions can call 301-828-1526 or email Stephen Coleman 7-10 days in advance. We will do our best to assist you.

Post Activity/Follow-up Materials

A summary of the discussion, as well as any follow-up materials, will be posted in the online discussion post-activity thread after the webinar and the asynchronous discussion conclude.

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology and Program Management groups

Comments

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Hello Colleagues,

Here's a "starter list" of adult basic skills and English language learning apps that could be used in an "App to Speed" learning circle or in English language and other adult basic skills learning circles, or as a supplement to face-to-face class instruction. Note that one of the resources on the starter list of Apps, MOBILE APPS FOR ADULT Literacy, by Harvey Pressman and Andrea Pietryzk from the Central Coast Children’s Foundation, is a 36-page document describing reading, vocabulary, grammar, spelling, financial literacy and health apps that may help adults themselves, and apps that adults can use with their children.

App development team members from at least two of the adult literacy XPRIZE apps plan to join us for the LINCS-sponsored App to Speed learning circle webinar on April 29th at 2:00 EDT, and for the follow-up discussion in the Integrating Technology and Program Management groups; they may be able to answer some of your questions about their apps.

If there are other basic skills (including ESL/ESOL) apps you would like to suggest for adult learners, please reply with a short description and include a web address where we can learn more about the app.

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology and Program Management groups

 

 

 

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Hello colleagues,

Beginning on Tuesday, April 30th, I will be available to answer questions about learning circles, including "App to Speed,"  English language, and other learning circles for adult basic skills learners.

Please begin posting your questions now if you wish and, of course, after the webinar on Monday (from 2:00 - 3:00 EDT).

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology and Program Management groups

 

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Kate Lapinski commented, "Just wanted to say - I'm Kate Lapinski, from Chicago Public Library. I'm the system's program manager for learning circles. Just wanted you to know i was here."

I am sorry, Kate, that I didn't realize you were attending the webinar until afterwards when I got a copy of the questions and comments. Had I known, I would have asked you to tell the group about the CPL's very important involvement in learning circles. Please take the opportunity to do that now in this asynchronous discussion!

David J. Rosen
David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Susan Johnson asked, "How do you see participants interacting during the learning circle meeting?"

Thanks for this question, Susan.

There are many different ways that facilitators have organized their learning circle meetings. Typically: at the beginning of a learning circle meeting there are (re)introductions, as needed; a review of the last meeting; a discussion about what has happened between the last meeting and this one; peer learning activities; possibly some online work during the meeting using desktops, laptops , chrome books, tablets, or smartphones; and a wrap-up activity, This varies greatly however depending on the facilitator, the chosen online course or app, and the goals and levels of the participants,

Two organizations that can help with some suggested activities for facilitators are: 1)  P2PU http://wwwp2pu.org  They have a facilitator handbook, facilitator "activity cards" and other materials Contact nico@p2pu.org ; and 2)  World Education. Priyanka Sharma heads up the English Now! project there, and they have developed a handbook for English language learning circles that are part of their English Now! scale-up project. Contact:priyanka_sharma@worlded.org for more information.

In App to Speed Learning circles everything is focused on participants being able to download and effectively use one instructional app, and building a peer group of those who are using that app. If a short App to Speed learning circle morphs into a longer learning circle focused on the content of the app it might look more like other learning circles, a non-formal blended learning instruction model.

David J. Rosen

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Kate Lapinsky asked, "Can you share any information about a system or program who is initiating an app to speed learning circle?"

Not yet, Kate. At this point there are several people interested in trying them, various people who have read my blog articles or attended conference sessions or webinars where I have presented this idea. I am hoping to learn from them about what they are trying and to share that information here.

Everyone: If you are planning or implementing an App to Speed learning circle, please let me know! I will be glad to help -- and to learn from you -- as this develops. For example, if you are interested in applying for local funding to support these innovative App to Speed learning circles in your program or library and you need information about App to Speed learning circles for a proposal, there's a lot of the nuts and bolts in the two blog articles I have written, but I would also be willing to help with answers to questions that emerge as you plan to write your proposal.

Here are links to the two blog articles:

For adult ESL/ESOL programs, on the World Education Ed Tech Center blog:  https://edtech.worlded.org/app-to-speed-learning-circles-in-adult-esol-programs/
 

David J. Rosen

djrosen123@gmail.com

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Kate Lapinski asked, "How would the app to speed learning circle - one that focused on just learning the app for usage - be different than a one time program (similar to programs that libraries might hold to teach people how to download e-books, etc) ? "

Thanks Kate. Great question. In the webinar I answer it this way, that it might not be different for participants who were already comfortable using a smartphone for online learning. For them, a short one-time workshop or other program might be all that is needed. However, for adult basic skills (including ESL/ESOL) learners who, although they have smartphones haven't used them for online learning, more support is needed, and a well-facilitated, peer learning group focused on the app might address their need.

For example, some learners may have technical difficulties with the app they have downloaded. The face-to-face meeting each week might help them to solve the problems together, particularly if more than one person has had the problem, and someone else in the learning circle group has found a solution. The facilitator might also help with strategies or with an approach to problem solving that s/he could model for the group. If the learning circle members create an online information sharing group such as a WhatsApp group, or a private Facebook group, they wouldn't have to wait for the next face-to-face meeting; with peer support, they might solve the problem immediately. It's also possible that some members of a learning circle might have found that while the app has strengths in some areas of learning, it is not  strong or complete in other areas, that additional online learning resources are needed, The learning circle facilitator might anticipate that need and one of the face-to-face activities might be how to search online for other learning resources, for example using a search engine like Google, or going to YouTube which, as you may know is often the preferred way for getting information online for many younger adults. The facilitator might model an effective and efficient YouTube search, for example, for getting accurate information on taking the high school equivalency test, the GED, TASC or HiSet.

In the English Now! pilot project for which I was the internal evaluator, every learning circle group I met with for the evaluation said they wished the learning circle could be longer. As I mentioned earlier, typically learning circles are 12-14 weeks, but there is no rule that they couldn't be longer. There could be a learning circle that continues, that in a follow-on adaptation is facilitated by one of the participants, and that has chosen to have a once-a-month, instead of a weekly, face-to-face meeting meeting (for example, in the library or adult basic skills center where the original learning circle was offered) and where everything else is done in a WhatsApp or Facebook or other online group format.

I want to expand on this answer to explain what my vision is of what learning circles of all kinds could accomplish. I see them not only to help people complete an online course or use an online learning app, but also as a way to build ongoing community learning groups, in the way that some book groups continue for years. I see them as helping community members build strong, resourceful online learning skills so that they are comfortable, confident and courageous as lifelong and lifewide expert learners and, in some cases, as they also to help others to learn these skills as learning circle facilitators.

Think of the "under the hood" non-formal learning model I mentioned earlier that helped millions of younger -- and older -- people in the U.S. learn how to maintain and fix their cars. Those non-formal study circles were instrumental in helping community people get the knowledge, skills, experience and confidence they needed. The 21st century version of "under the hood" could be learning circles, where, for example, in an accelerated world of changing work (fast-shifting careers, gig jobs, multiple part-time jobs) nearly everyone needs to be adept at learning new skills and knowledge to solve work-related and other life challenges. For some, a single workshop, or an online, face-to-face, or blended model course will meet those needs; for many others, however, peer support as well as the knowledge and skills to become adept and resourceful learners will be needed, and learning circles can provide them..

Several years ago, the Boston Public Library -- and other public libraries -- offered a new online reference librarian service; in partnership with public libraries in west coast time zones itwas able to extend this service into what in Boston was evening time. What I especially have liked about this service is that the librarians not only provided answers to my sometimes difficult questions, but eagerly demonstrated their online searching strategies and, after our session, emailed me a transcript of the search. I learned about new online databases and journals that I could access with my library card, and eventually no longer needed the librarian's help. I became more skilled and knowledgeable in my online searches. That experience has informed my vision of what learning circles might accomplish for adult basic skills learners in our communities, modelling expert online searching and problem solving, peer support, and being an available resource for certain kinds of problem solving.

David J. Rosen

 

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Miranda Marshall asked, "Will this be available to watch after the conclusion?  I want to share with the other ESL instructor in our building...."

The webinar slides are available now. Email me and I'll send them to you. (I already emailed them to Miranda)  The video recording of the webinar will be available in a few days or weeks and, when it is, there will be an announcement on LINCS of how to download it.

David J. Rosen

djrosen123@gmail.com

 

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Cathy McCabe asked, "Are there free on-line courses that are accessible to lower-level English Language Learners?"

Yes. In the webinar on Monday I mentioned USA Learns and said I would provide a link to a list of free online low-level ESL courses and other free online ESL/ESOL resources . The excerpts I have listed below are from The Literacy List . You will find many more free, and commercial, ESL/ESOL websites and courses suitable for low-level English language learners on the Literacy List  here

ESOL/ESL

wpgzJTtCfTZzYLPFdy6C1RiNip7muSoCEpCjsQn2bab.la Vocabulary Lessons

Hundreds of free English vocabulary lessons.

wpgzJTtCfTZzYLPFdy6C1RiNip7muSoCEpCjsQn2BBC Learning English

wpgzJTtCfTZzYLPFdy6C1RiNip7muSoCEpCjsQn2Bits, English Language Learning:Listen & Read

wpgzJTtCfTZzYLPFdy6C1RiNip7muSoCEpCjsQn2British Council Learn English

wpgzJTtCfTZzYLPFdy6C1RiNip7muSoCEpCjsQn2Breaking News English

Susan Finn Miller, Moderator of the LINCS Adult English Language Learners Community of Practice, on November 23, 2016 wrote: “At Breaking News English you can find a wide range of newsy nonfiction topics -- for example, on health, technology, world news, lifestyle, environment, people/gossip-- for reading and listening. The articles are available at various levels of English -- although I would say that low intermediate is about the lowest available level. What's great about this website is that there are numerous practice activities related to each news story as well as quizzes that learners can complete online. The activities include ‘dictations, multiple choice, drag and drop activities, crosswords, hangman, flash cards, matching activities and a whole lot more.’ “

http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com/

   oNlzh-KnNja-KK75ia2Jo4djkVKvthXBsHZf6XC5Connect With English

This free broadcast TV or videotape ESL/ESOL course uses a dramatic story to teach English language skills while presenting the geographical, cultural, social, and economic diversity of America. Course components include: 25 half-hour programs (each program contains two 15-minute episodes, ) video comprehension books, conversation books, grammar guides, a faculty manual, a home viewer guide (optional), graded readers (optional), an instructor's manual (optional), a soundtrack (optional) and a demonstration video (optional) .Annenberg/CPB @ www.learner.org; 1-800-LEARNER

oNlzh-KnNja-KK75ia2Jo4djkVKvthXBsHZf6XC5Crossroads Cafe'

A complete broadcast TV or videotape program designed to teach English to speakers of other languages, by depicting the lives of six characters, their backgrounds, challenges and struggles, which are typical of many ESL/ESOL learners. Course components include: Part 1: 13 half-hour programs, Part 2: 13 half-hour programs, two photo story books, two worktexts, two teacher's resource books, partner guide (optional), reproducible masters (optional) and student assessment packages (optional) .

84afhOoY2_H1FrwuaX7tN3L_zWRPgCF99gKaTmmC Pumarosa

A free, bilingual, phonics-based,interactive (with voice) website, PUMAROSA is designed to teach English basics to adult Spanish-speaking students.

oNlzh-KnNja-KK75ia2Jo4djkVKvthXBsHZf6XC5USA Learns

A widely-used and well-developed free ESL web site for U.S. individual adult learners that is also used by English language learners in other countries. Not suitable for use in language labs where more than one person might wish to log on at the same time.

David J. Rosen

 

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Cathy McCabe's question reminded me that Michele Wallace had asked in the webinar, "Are these apps free?" and  others may wonder if the Adult Literacy XPRIZE apps are free, too.

In the webinar, I mentioned that for now at least some are free, that the Adult Literacy XPRIZE Communities competition has selected a number of teams from around the country who are eager to recruit as many adult learners as possible to use the apps and during this period the apps are free. You will find a list of these teams here.

You could also connect directly to one of the semi-finalist or finalist app teams to find out their pricing, or if, when, or for how long use of the app is free. You will find a list of all of the semi-finalist app development teams at the end of my blog article intended for libraries, and the finalist teams in my blog intended for ESOL/ESL programs. Here are links to the two blog articles:

For adult ESL/ESOL programs, on the World Education Ed Tech Center blog:  https://edtech.worlded.org/app-to-speed-learning-circles-in-adult-esol-programs/

I want to mention that, although I didn't know this during the webinar, we had Prema Nudungadi and Kathryn Davenport from Amrita Learning, one of the finalist app teams, in the webinar. Kathryn posted in the webinar that the Amrita Learning App is free now and will continue to be free. Kathryn added, "Amrita Learning App starts at the alphabetic level with 2 minute videos for each letter, and then CVC word building skills after the first 4 high-frequency letters (s-m-a-t)"

David J. Rosen

 

 

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Kelly Tyler asked, "Usually when you do a learning circle the staff or volunteer is facilitating a course. Are you recommending that everyone follow the app curriculum together or are you suggesting that this learning circle focus just on learning how to open and use the app? Many of these apps may have placement tools so not everyone will be at the same level."

Kelly, and others, the focus of the App to Speed learning circle is helping learners to get comfortable and competent in using one instructional app. I am not suggesting that everyone follow the app curriculum at the pace of the whole group as most of the apps I have seen are individually-paced. However, the App to Speed learning circle is more than just downloading the app. It's getting started, providing help or troubleshooting as learners are getting comfortable using the app, and perhaps over three weeks, getting learners "up to speed" in using the app and, as I have written in my other replies, building a community of learners who use the app and, if needed, who can stay in touch with each other for peer help in using the app.

The goal of the Adult Literacy XPRIZE Communities Competition is to get as many adult learners as possible using an app. Certainly that goal would be shared by many App to Speed learning circles, but I would add two more goals for App to Speed learning circles: building comfort and competence in using the app, and building a peer support network of users of the app. I don't know yet if three sessions would be enough time for most learners to achieve the second two goals, or if learners would want to extend the App to Speed learning circle or, to have it become a content-based learning circle that grows out of an App to Speed learning circle. We'll have to see what happens once these App to Speed learning circles get going.

I believe that many learning circle members, not just those in App to Speed learning circles go at an individual pace as they proceed through an online course or in the use of other online learning resources. The facilitator is sometimes trained to expect this, and the activities in the learning circle meeting are designed to accommodate this, for example by providing some time during the meeting for individually-paced online learning and some time for group face-to-face activities.

What are the group face-to-face activities in learning circles? They could focus on solutions to common problems that most online learners have such as: how to discipline oneself to do the online learning, how to set aside time for online learning, how to break the instruction or practice activities from the online learning into short chunks, how to take advantage of opportunities when they have more time, how to find other learning resources that could help when they get stuck or want to learn more about a topic, how to have their online course or instruction app on their smartphone be shared with other members of their family, how to build a family-based learning circle around the course or app, and many other commonly shared challenges and opportunities irrespective of where a learner is in a particular online course or app curriculum. They could focus on how to build a peer learning network, for example with social activities as well as learning support, what to do when no one in the group knows how to solve a technical problem, or how to master certain kinds of content or skills, or how to find additional help from outside the learning circle.

David J. Rosen

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Colleagues,

I believe I have answered all the questions posted in the webinar, but would also love to have questions from others who may or may not have joined the webinar. I have set aside some time today for your questions, and comments, but would also be available here in the days to come. Post your questions now, or when you can. I am especially interested in hearing from those who are thinking about offering an App to Speed learning circle and who have questions about how to do that, but I also welcome questions about other kinds of learning circles.

David J. Rosen

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Hello Colleagues,

I just learned that a third blog article about App to Speed learning circles, this one also for ESL/ESOL programs, was published in April on the ProLiteracy blog, at https://www.proliteracy.org/Blogs/Article/416/App-to-Speed-Learning-Circles-in-Adult-ESOL-Programs The article's content is similar to the blog article published on the World Education blog.

Update: Since things have been moving fast in the Adult Literacy XPRIZE world, although the blog article refers to five Adult Literacy XPRIZE finalists, since it was written two of the five apps were selected as adult Literacy XPRIZE grand prize winners, Learning Upgrade and PeopeleForWords.  If you haven't started looking at apps for adult learners, you might start with the five finalists, including these two grand prize winners.

I want to clarify that App to Speed learning circles can be offered by public libraries, adult ESOL/ESL programs, and also by adult basic skills and adult literacy programs. The 40 or so teams that completed the Adult Literacy XPRIZE competition, for example, were all required to develop apps for adult "zero to three" and beginning level adult ESL" learners. I would be interested to hear from adult basic literacy programs that are interested in exploring the use of basic adult literacy apps for native speakers of English, or that are offering help to adult basic literacy students in using those apps.

David J. Rosen

djrosen123@gmail.com

 

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Thanks to those who joined us yesterday for my LINCS App to Speed webinar. I will be posting their questions and my (extended) replies today. Everyone: please add your questions here today (April 30th, 2019) or tomorrow (May 1st) if possible.

Those who would like yesterday's webinar slides right away should email me at djrosen123@gmail.com. In a few days or weeks, there will be a LINCS announcement that they are also available on LINCS.

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology and Program Management CoPs

djrosen123@gmail.com

 

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Colleagues,

Renee Cox asked, "How are learning circles different from a small Adult Literacy or ESOL class?  Is there a focus on just one topic?"

Usually there is a focus on one topic, or one course, and a learning circle is typically only a few weeks long, generally from three to 12 weeks. Learning circles are a blended learning model, that is, an integrated combination of two components: 1) an online course or other online learning resources, and 2) a weekly face-to-face meeting, typically 90 minutes to two hours. Learning circles emphasize not only the successful completion of an online course  or other online learning resources, but also peer-to-peer learning support. Often learning circles are facilitated by trained volunteers, but they can be offered by regular paid staff. Learning circles are not usually part of a formal learning system such classes offered by a school or college or a publicly-funded adult education class; they are a non-formal model that can be offered for free by libraries, community-based organizations and one-stop career centers that may or may not offer other adult education services, and by adult basic skills learning centers or programs. 

App to Speed learning circles are a little different; their purpose is to help adult learners get comfortable and confident in using an online basic skills or English language learning app, so these learning circles probably are just a few sessions, enough so that learners are comfortable, competent and confident in using their new app, and possibly so they can set up their own online peer-support network using a free communications app such as WhatsApp , a free online group such as a Google group or Slack, a private Facebook group or something else that they already are comfortable using.

If any of my answers raise more questions for you, please ask!

David J. Rosen

 

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Julia Crawford commented, "I could see how it would be more motivating for students to utilize a particular app if they were with others doing the same thing."

Good point, Julia.

My interest in learning circles, including App to Speed learning circles, is to help adult learners become resourceful and skilled learners, in this case in both a face-to-face and online context. One non-formal learning model that is built on peer-learning, not often seen today, but the major way in the 20th century that young people (mostly boys and young men then) learned about auto repair might be called "under the hood". It was a kind of situated or peer learning where one or two people knew a lot about fixing cars, and the rest gathered around, literally under the hood of the car, to learn from them and each other. A learning circle can have some of the same qualities, such as sustained high motivation that comes from participating in a freely-chosen learning opportunity, peer support, and an opportunity to gain learning-to-learn and other problem-solving strategies and skills. Of course there are differences, for example that generally members of a learning circle don't know each other when the learning circle meetings begin, and that it's blended learning (online as well as face-to-face). As you have pointed out, Julia, learning circles are models where strengths of group learning such as sustained motivation, peer support, comaraderie, sharing meals or snacks, and others, are emphasized, not ignored. Learning circles are a technology and learning model that breaks the stereotype that learning on a computer or portable digital device is done in isolation.

David J. Rosen

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Julia Crawford also asked, "Do students utilize a variety of apps within the learning circle?"

I think "app to speed" learning circles would use only one app with each learning circle. However, using smartphone apps with learning circles is new, so it's hard to know what fabulous ways creative program coordinators, volunteer coordinators, learning circle facilitators and learners will develop to use apps on portable digital devices (smartphones; tablets; virtual assistants such as Alexa or Amazon Echo; virtual reality glasses, and perhaps other portable digital devices). For now, however, it's likely that a learning circle will try one app.

Did you have in mind a learning circle that would use more than one app? If so, tell us more.

David J. Rosen

 

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Ahuva asked, "How do you measure success?"

I love that question Ahuva! As a program planner and evaluator I frequently think about that question.

In the webinar I answered this with two examples that I will elaborate upon here:

1. In the context of an App to Speed learning circle, I would ask learners at the end if they feel a) Comfortable b) Competent and c) Courageous  (three "C's" of Digital literacy) in using the learning circle's chosen app. I would explore why they might or might not feel this way for each "C".  I would ask them about the learning circle experience, what they liked or didn't like, and what they would like to see done differently next time. I would ask if they would choose to enroll in another learning circle and, if so, why or why not.  I would also like to observe them using the app. Among other things, I would look at what they were able to easily do, what required thinking or remembering what to do, where they got stuck and what they did to get un-stuck. 

2. I also mentioned in the webinar yesterday how, as I first explored learning circles, I found a report that raised my interest; it was a summary of the first learning circles pilot project, in 2015-16 I believe, in several branches of the Chicago Public Library. In over two rounds of learning circle courses in branch libraries "there was 45% retention over the weeks, which is much higher than online alone... 90% are interested in taking another class, 70% achieved the goals they set and 70% say they were supported by their peers." https://www.webjunction.org/news/webjunction/p2pu-learning-circles.html  Compared with pure distance learning retention rates and other outcomes, learning circles' success, even at this early stage of development, looked very promising.

Those who may be interested can also download a report of a 2018 international study of learning circles conducted by the University of Washington Technology and Social Change Group. 

I also want to mention some other learning circle outcomes that I found in the 2017-2018 English Now! Learning Circles Pilot project funded by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, and for which I was the internal evaluator:

English Now! Pilot Project Findings
• Participants liked the learning circle model, but often wish learning circles were longer than 6-8 weeks
• Carefully selected and trained volunteers who are not English language teachers can facilitate learning circles effectively
• Learning circles can meet basic level ESOL/ESL needs, but also advanced ESOL/ESL needs, including to help prepare learners for citizenship or post-secondary education
• Surprisingly, the use of computers and portable digital devices was not a challenge, but providing computer access was very important.
 
Pilot Project Outcomes
• Reduced waiting lists for adult ESOL/ESL learners
• Learning circles provided a way that adult basic skills programs and prospective students can judge the fit of the student and program
• Learning circles can lead to greater learner success, including greater learner persistence
• Learners built their skills in online learning, digital learning skills, and skills needed for successful peer learning
• Teachers found that some learners who entered English classes directly from learning circles were much better prepared than others who did not.
 
David J. Rosen
David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Susan Johnson asked, "Using an app is something one does in isolation.  Aside from showing learners how to use the app, why would learners need to meet?"

Susan, some learners use a learning or instruction app by themselves, but not all; some may use an app as part of a class, to supplement face-to-face learning, and of course some may use them as part of a learning circle, for either supplementary, individually-paced instruction, or to communicate with others in the learning circle.  Apps can be used to support peer learning, in-depth dialog, problem-solving, and/or for social purposes.

When the first Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were offered a few years ago, a group of students in a large city in India, who were taking a difficult post-graduate  (edX?) online course, somehow found each other and decided to supplement their online course with a face-to-face study group. Without using the name "learning circle" or the model developed by P2PU, they were doing a learning circle. Some might call it a kind of study circle, a venerable learning model developed in the U.S. in the 19th century called Chataquas, and offered across the country, especially in rural areas, as an early non-formal model of adult education.  Study circles saw a renaissance in the U.S. the late 20th century as they were supported by two national groups, the Study Circles Resource Center in Pomfret, Connecticut and the National Issues Forums supported by the  Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio. 

Many learners can only learn effectively in groups; some prefer a model that involves individually-paced learning that they do by themselves; many prefer a model like learning circles or other blended learning models that offers them both ways to learn.

David J. Rosen

 

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