The report identifies three pathways for increasing communication among stakeholders:
Pathway 3: Start with the problem, not the technology
I would like to invite you to think about Pathway 1.
The report suggests that there are many ways and places that communication between and among these key stakeholders does not exist, or can break down, leading to less useful ed tech tools for teachers and learners, who are the user stakeholders. For example, sometimes administrators don't consult teachers when considering new edtech purchases, or the teachers whom they consult in turn don't consult -- or perhaps even know how to consult -- learners about their use of ed tech products.
Regarding Pathway 1, the report has two good recommendations for administrators:
- Seek out research to support purchasing decisions.In the absence of research or data, look to testimonials and end user feedback.
- Support necessary professional development for users to maximize benefits of edtech.
However, we have very little independent research in our field to support ed tech tool purchasing decisions, and we don't have a systematic way for teachers and administrators to find and use testimonials or end user (learner) feedback. This needs to be addressed.
Also, there are no recommendations for administrators; teachers; or national, state or local adult learner organizations about how to get adult learners involved in this process. It is not surprising that this recommendation is missing , but it is another challenge that needs attention. As a field, adult basic skills education needs to figure out how adult learners and knowledgeable teachers can inform the development of ed tech tools for our field. We haven't yet.
Perhaps there is an opportunity to change that. First, perhaps you have thought about this problem, or could think about it now, and you have some possible solutions to offer. If so, let's hear them.
Here are some questions that may need to be addressed:
1. Learners. For adult basic skills (including ESOL/ESL) learners who are using technology for learning (i.e. computers and portable digital devices such as smartphones), either as a sole source of instruction, or to supplement their face-to-face classes, or in a blended (online and face-to-face) learning model, "What do learners say they want or need in the ed tech tools they use?" Should researchers offer focus groups to adult learners identified by adult basic skills programs to answer this question? Should the national adult learner organization, VAUEUSA, in partnership with an adult basic skills researcher, organize this study of learners at local programs? Should the National Coalition for Literacy, or its partner organizations such as ProLiteracy or COABE, organize a research effort of this kind? Should the U.S. Department of Education provide funding for such research and seek out a qualified research organization to help answer that question? Should a national, state or local adult basic skills program seek funding to do this research?
2. Instructors. For adult basic skills teachers or tutors who use technology, (some of whom may already carefully observe how adult learners use ed tech tools, and/or ask learners about the ed tech tools they use), what would help them answer the question, "What do your students need in the ed tech tools they use?"
3. What do we want developers to know from teachers and learners about ed tech tools? Specifically, what are the features learners and teachers like or need in the tools they now use; what tools do they wish they had; what training/professional development do teachers say they need to use ed tech tools well, and how should the training be provided? What else?
Finally, I suggest that before "Creation to Adoption" of new edtech tools, we need to know more about what adult learners and their teachers have found is -- and is not -- successful in current edtech tools, and what might be missing from the vast array of current edtech tools.
David J. Rosen, Moderator
LINCS CoP Integrating technology and Program Management groups