There are 16 specific groups that are part of the larger LINCS Community of Practice. Some might feel that 16 is already too many, that they cannot keep up with all the email. (If you feel that way, consider cutting down your subscriptions to the one-to-three groups that you care most about, or reduce the frequency of emails from some groups by choosing a "digest" subscription option.)
However, some people here may feel that they cannot find their interest represented in these sixteen groups. I am wondering if you feel this way. For example:
- No group is devoted specifically to adult secondary education/high school equivalency preparation or adult diploma preparation. Would you like there to be such a focus somewhere in the larger LINCS Community? If so, what would you want to see discussed there?
- No group is focused on the craft of curriculum development. Would you like to see this as a focus someplace on LINCS, for example in Professional Development or Program Management? What would you like to see discussed there?
- Would you like to see a group whose focus was the needs of community-based adult basic skills programs that do not receive public funding? If so, what would you like to see discussed there?
- Would you like to see a group whose focus was volunteer literacy programs? If so, what would you like to see discussed there?
What other needs, goals, questions, interests or topics would you like to see discussed someplace within the LINCS Community of Practice?
Of course, some of these needs might be included in existing groups, or new micro-groups of existing groups, but as an active LINCS group user, and as a moderator of two LINCS groups, I am interested in knowing more about what LINCS users' professional needs are that might not now be addressed.
David J. Rosen
I feel there are many wonderful discussions in the many groups out there and opportunities for individuals to share successes and questions with others. What I think we are lacking, is a group that centers on collaboration. The collaborative group would start off with individuals learning to work together to create and process wonderful things. In fact, it might be prudent to have the collaborative group strive to first create PD type experiences others could use to learn more about collaboration and the skills/methods that make the process so efficient and effective.
Once the foundation group has been established and training resources have been made available, this group of collaboration really becomes a critical piece of the LINCS network. In all of the discussion groups, there are "Gee it would be nice if we had ..." or "Do you think there is a way we could ..." type inquiries or requests. Wouldn't be wonderful to turn our very own team of collaborators on to some of these topics. It is a natural progression from talking about changes and challenges to establishing ways of our talented pool of individuals to work together to create the change we all love from discussions. We have so many talented and innovative people (yes lurkers I am pointing as some of you in the shadows that never say a peep) doing wonderful, INDIVIDUAL things in their region. How much more powerful could some efforts be in a good collaboration effort? I propose that a LINCS collaboration team could not only address many challenges or needs, we could offer the field solutions no other industry or entity could possibly produce, they just don't have the types of talent we have in our subscriber list.
Many hands make light of work, many talented hands can make substantive change.
Hello Ed, and others,
An online LINCS group or micro-group that collaborates well is an intriguing idea.
For you, Ed -- and also for others here -- what would good collaboration in an online community look like? Imagine that there were such a collaborative group, that it had been going for a couple of years, that you and all the participants were deeply engaged in collaboration, that you wanted to check in on the group every day and frequently wanted to engage with others in the group, that you were very pleased with what the group had been able to do. Describe what the group was collaborating on and what made the group so successful.
When I collaborate, face-to-face or online, it is around a specific goal, a defined area of interest, a question I am interested in getting help answering, or something I want to create or make with others. It is hard for me to imagine "collaboration" in the abstract. Collaborating to do something in particular, on the other hand, is often motivating for me..
For example, many years ago I realized that technology was beginning to offer adult basic skills teachers and administrators some useful tools for solving common classroom or tutoring teaching and learning problems. I wanted to create a project -- to produce a resource document -- that would organize and describe free, online or digital tools by the common teaching/learning or education administration problems they could solve. I used LINCS groups to reach out to teachers and administrators to describe online or digital tools that they believed were helping them solve an adult basic skills teaching/learning problem. Then I organized their short descriptions of the problems and tools for solving them into one document. Over the years Ihave periodically updated it by reaching out again to LINCS members for new tools that solve common teaching/learning problems -- always organized first by a description of the problem the tool helps to solve. From the beginning, the idea was that an adult basic skills teacher or administrator could go to the document, look through the problems to see if there were any that they also had and find technology-related solutions for them. (Of course technology is not the solution to all problems!)
This document (available free and online) is called Harnessing Technology to Serve Adult Literacy. Again, I invite those reading this to take a look at it and to consider emailing me a description of an online or digital tool and the teaching/learning problem it has helped you solve. (Ed, I know you are familiar with this, and that you have recently contributed to it.) The Harnessing Technology to Serve Adult Literacy project is one kind of collaboration although not an ongoing collaborators group.
Ed, tell us more about what you think a collaborators group might focus on. You mentioned creating "PD-type experiences others could use to learn more about collaboration itself." In the abstract I cannot imagine what that might look like. Could you describe one or two examples, perhaps in content areas like math, science or writing teaching collaboration, perhaps collaboration around building curriculum in one of these areas, or collaboration to research/investigate and recommend strategies to solve a problem in one of these areas?
Perhaps others could weigh in on this, too with ideas about how to create a successful online collaborators group.
David J. Rosen
If one were to visit this collaboration effort sometime in the future to see what is going on and how it is working, the observer would see the following:
- There exists a Challenge Board: this is a posting of challenges, needs, requests from other LINCS discussion threads. From day to day, the list may change, specifically in position of items. Items that are currently receiving more focus by the collaboration team move towards the top so the community can instantly see where efforts are being spent and jump into active processing. This goal setting and tracking tool is quick and easy for the collaboration team to update and for the general public to see progress or current efforts.
- For every challenge, there is a discussion thread in which ideas, solutions, questions are all offered and discussed. Ideally, there should be weekly/monthly audio or video connections open to all to highlight discussions from the week/month and to discuss options for the next week/month. These audio/video check in don't need to be long or hugely detailed. They are simply a reminder that we are all working with wonderful humans that we can hear or see often to form those vital human connections and feel connected to the efforts that are ongoing with any specific challenge.
- Collaboration tools are efficiently and comfortably in use by participants. Additionally, new people wishing to jump into the collaboration efforts have PD resources (probably mostly asynchronous videos and activities that get the skills and methods at least introduced). New members are assigned a mentor from the collaboration so that everyone has a 1:1 person they can reach out to with questions or discussions when posting to the whole group does not feel appropriate (EX: "How do I up load a picture again?"). Within the collaboration tools (I am thinking Google Docs and other tools within that suite right now), observers can comment, but collaborators all have editing rights. In this way, collaborators can be doing their work, but observers can interject valuable input with comments and questions during the process instead of our typical end of production reviews. Changes and additions can easily be made in this way during the process rather than after the fact.
- Products that are polished enough to use are all shared in an organized online resource (there are many options available that might best facilitate this). Of course solutions generated by the collaboration are shared in the forums that originated the challenge/need/request in the first place. Anything shared to the community will have feedback forms available and the collaboration may need to pull items back in for refinement based on the ongoing feedback that comes in.
As for what the collaboration really works on, I feel that a needs assessment will need to be done by the group. While that process is going, it would be important for members to study what collaborations are and are not, what tools might be best to use and a series of activities that gently get everyone comfortable with the process will need to be established. With the needs assessment done and the collaborators standing on at least shaky legs with the basic skills needed, the group is ready to dive into a short project to really get a feel for the process. Because PD for our ever fluid staffing is ALWAYS a concern, a nice first challenge for the collaboration might be to create a short PD experience that supports a PD need expressed often in many threads. The idea is to have something important enough to work on, but not a huge project. A good goal would be to have the first project take about a month or two so participants really get the feel for the process. Of course many hands make light work so time can vary quite a bit based on how many collaborators are efficiently working together. The collaboration's efficiency will not be a given, it will need to be fostered and refined for some time. Better still, with many of us on any one project, individual time is not a huge barrier. How many of us would donate a hour of time a week/month to build something we might all need and want in our educational work? Seems a whole lot cheaper than paying some company that advertises paradise but only produces an educational "Happy Meal".
Within the first year, I feel the collaboration should have been able to create at least half a dozen resources for the field as well as firmly establishing protocols and supporting resources for new and existing participants. This is my conservative view of first year goals. Optimistically, I feel more like 10-12 useful products/solutions/resources have been provided by the collaboration. This would take those people out there already doing great collaborations, joining this group to help grease the skids and get momentum building quickly.
Do these thoughts and perspectives resonate with anyone? Other suggestions for how this might look or feel? Would there be other areas of focus for the group?
David, I feel that it is very important to have a group particularly dedicated to issues that affect adult education programs offered by agencies and organizations that are Community Based, such as community centers, libraries and non-profit agencies.
In this way the staff at these centers could be invited to join and share their ideas, resources and also learn from others. And educators in the formal sector could have a better understanding of the needs of the community,
Using ESL students as one an example, I see close collaboration between community centers and community colleges evolving such that working adults could learn the basics at a community center well enough to be able to attend an English Only class at the local CC.
Also, currently Home language literacy classes are offered throughout most communities, but not in CCs. Literacy in one's native language has proven to be a vital issue for ESL. If there were collaboration in this area we could promote Literacy throughout the entire community much more effectively and create real Learning Communities, including Family Literacy.
Paolo Freire was a professor in Brazil and was employed by the government to promote literacy among the rural populations. So he started walking throughout the country, teaching as he went. I think that developing a separate group here would be a good model of how to do the same …but using technology.
I like this idea and want to get a clearer sense of what this group would look like and do. Imagine that a community-focused, national LINCS online practitioner group included educators from faith-based literacy programs, volunteer programs, library literacy programs, small not-for-profit organizations that have basic skills programs for adults, or small family/intergenerational/two-generation literacy programs, programs that are not primarily funded with public funds. Imagine that the group has been going for two years, and that you and other members believe that it has been very successful.
Would the group's focus be English language learning? Basic skills for adults regardless of first language? Would it include a broader focus on adult basic skills? Would the group have a particular philosophy or approach, a Freierian approach for example, or would a wide range of philosophies and approaches be welcome? What would the activities of this group look like? Would it discuss issues? What might be some of the issues or topics discussed? Issues of concern to classroom teachers? To volunteer tutors? To teachers and tutors who use online or blended learning models? To program administrators? To other kinds of adult basic skills practitioners? For you, what would be some evidence of success? Would it produce products for community-based programs? If so, what kinds of products? Would membership be open at any time, or only in quarterly or annual cycles? (How would you handle the problem of new members getting "up to speed" in the group?)
How would you imagine educators in the formal sector would have a better understanding of the needs of their particular community as a result of this group? For example, would this group look at a range of community needs assessment tools; would members from the same geographic community then use one of these tools to conduct a community adult basic skills needs assessment? Would a report on the needs they found then be shared locally with formal educators? Perhaps also with policy makers? Would the needs results be synthesized from several communities to share nationally? (I know that sounds pretty ambitious. Perhaps you have something simpler in mind.)
Thanks for sharing your ideas, Paul. I hope others will also jump into this discussion with their ideas of what such a community-based group might look like and do.
David J. Rosen
David, these are good questions and I would like to try to answer briefly here and perhaps continue later with more in-depth discussion.
I see the collaboration between formal and informal programs as the basis for improving adult education in general and for finding a way to serve the interests of the community as a whole.
The group that could be set up could provide information and dialogue concerning a wide variety of issues, such as curriculum, use of technology, training of teachers and tutors, fund-raising, and – in general – creating a community wide environment for the advocacy, promotion and advance of literacy.
I see the entire process as a conveyor belt so that an individual could begin in a community center and be guided on toward the local community college and even university. Many professional immigrants would benefit greatly in this way.
It is possible that through the group discussion ideas and information can be shared so that funding resources could be accessed in joint partnerships.
Let me give a hypothetical example based upon some personal experiences:
ESL and a Computer literacy programs in a library are run by a few volunteers, using available library resources.
The head librarian reads about a non-profit agency called Computers for Families on the LINCs page and contacts a group to solicit donations of 30 laptops for the library for the computer classes and for the ESL class.
At the same time the local Community college is offering Blended ESL classes, and leaves flyers off at the library.
The head of the library at one point reads about applying for joint grants on the LINCS page, and eventually the library, the Computers for Families and the CC write a joint grant for funding to solicit for and also to purchase more used, refurbished computers, textbooks, and other materials that could be stored in the library, to be made available to the library patrons and to the students in the CC program. Actually used laptops could be loaned just like a book. Or students could borrow the computers on a pay-as-you go basis, similar to the Lend Lease program started after WW2 for European countries.
Part of the funding will also be used to distribute flyers to all the community centers in three languages, and to place ads in local newspapers, also in three languages. A multi-lingual citywide directory of classes could be maintained.
The program proves to be not only successful but also popular, so that the head librarian writes up an article for NIFL Lincs, providing information for similar efforts in other cities.
LINCS could then sponsor a workshop or webinar, basically encouraging everyone to find ways to collaborate in community-wide adult literacy projects.
It stands to reason that community support for the above type of Community Based and Community College based collaboration would grow, including financial support from local businesses, and that the influence of our discussion groups could play an ever-widening role. Through reporting on these success stories, adult literacy can begin to assume a more important place in our communities.
Even if it didn't grow and get funding and what have you, it would be a good thing in and of itself.
People like me, who don't already have connections in the community, could seek advice from LINCS community and contact those folks at the READY school (alt ed high school) and the New Canaan SAFEHouse (Substance Abuse Free Environment) people and I could pull fliers from things LINCS people are sharing and adjust it to my needs, etc, and when I'm finished my little negative number math app I can share with everybody and get feedback...
I can see also how you would be able to show your work at workshops and seminars where everyone could share information and expertise.
Apps are the future!
This is an opportunity to weigh in on how LINCS communities might better meet your needs. As Ed Latham put it recently in an email to me, ""Discourse with others helps us all formulate ideas, refine language and we all are richer for it.”
I want to encourage you, if you have not yet participated in this discussion, to do so now. Several of us are interested in hearing from you.:
What professional needs, goals, questions, interests or topics would you like to discuss in the LINCS Community of Practice, but for which you cannot find the right group?
- No group is devoted specifically to adult secondary education/high school equivalency preparation or adult diploma preparation. Would you like there to be such a focus somewhere in the larger LINCS Community? If so, what would you want to see discussed there?
- No group is focused on the craft of curriculum development. Would you like to see this as a focus someplace on LINCS, for example in the Professional Development or Program Management groups? What would you like to see discussed there?
- Would you like to see a group whose focus was the needs of community-based adult basic skills programs that do not receive public funding? If so, what would you like to see discussed there? Some people has said it is important to have this. Do you agree? If so, let us know.
- Would you like to see a group whose focus was volunteer literacy programs? If so, what would you like to see discussed there? No one has spoken for this yet in this conversation. What are your thoughts?
What other needs, goals, questions, interests or topics would you like to see discussed someplace within the LINCS Community of Practice?
David J. Rosen
Note that as of Saturday morning, 12.5.15, there were over 4,700 views of this thread, but only a handful of people have weighed in. I would like you to weigh in. There are two ways to do that:
1) Reply to one or more of the posts in this discussion thread, and/or
2) "Like" (select the Like button) one or more discussion posts that you agree with.
If you have trouble doing either of these, please let me know, and I'll try to get you some technical help.
Thanks in advance for your thoughts. It would be especially wonderful to hear from LINCS community members who are replying to a post here for the first time! Is that you?
David J. Rosen
Although there is significant overlap among the different topics, community-based adult basic skills programs and volunteer literacy programs do have needs and problems that do not fall within the scope of discussion of the other threads. In addition, rural community-based volunteer organizations are faced with a different and possibly more difficult reality than urban and suburban ones, who potentially have more and better resources available. I don't know if these types of organizations merit their own group(s), or if their realities can be addressed in the context of other groups, but the ability to informally collaborate and share solutions through this forum could be useful.
I wonder if you could suggest what some of the needs and problems are, especially of rural community-based volunteer organizations.
David J. Rosen
Because the Internet and computer-related technology now permeate virtually every aspect of our lives, and will continue to do so at an increasing rate, the definition of basic literacy has expanded to include not only knowing how to use these tools, but also having the critical-thinking and other background skills needed to use them productively. This exacerbates a number of problems, a few of which are:
(1) As difficult as it always was to find and retain good volunteer tutors, these volunteers now also need to be computer literate. To teach someone 21st century skills, it helps to have those skills yourself. Potential volunteers with these skills are rare in an impoverished rural environment.
(2) Because it is difficult to find facilities with Internet access for volunteer training, and because many volunteer tutors do not have the background skills and knowledge to quickly learn many ordinary software tools, training them becomes an additional challenge.
(3) Most teaching sites don't have Internet. EveryoneOn coverage is non-existant for most of the region and other hotspot solutions are prohibitively expensive. For many learners, their smart phones are their only computing device and means of Internet access. There are ways to work around this, but this requires a certain level of technical expertise on the part of the tutors, which brings us back to (1) and (2) above.
There is more, but this should do for now.
I second Robert's comments. In the Rocky Mountain region, you have the additional problem of no cell phone reception in some areas. (I live in Colorado but lived over 20 years in the mountains of northern New Mexico.)
Robert and Dorothea, you've listed several challenges that relate specifically to learners served by nonformal programs in, specifically, rural areas. Like Dorothea, I work with programs that serve students in the vast multi-cultural, multi-lingual Four Corners region in CO. The challenges here are radically different that those faced by learners in urban areas.
We are hoping/planning to implement a micro-group within the LINCS Diversity and Literacy Community in February, if not earlier, focusing on the needs that you have described here and more. Our rural volunteers do lack experience and digital skills. Moreover, instructors hired to work with adult in this area are no different. Like their students, they are usually overworked, underpaid, and under-prepared to deal with the challenges we are listing.
One program in this region, a non-profit, lost all of its staff within a month or two this fall. Teachers simply had to get better-paying jobs! The director has replaced those folks for now, but some have little experience teaching adults and have to keep other jobs as well in order to make a living. The program cannot offer FT positions or benefits. Yet, CO requires that the programs that it funds through federal money have their teachers complete or be in the process of gaining a certificate (12 credit hours of college work in Adult Ed) to remain in compliance. No wonder students, instructors, staff, and programs in this region come and go in the struggle to meet federal and state requirements to stay open!
Keep your fingers crossed that we are able to start this micro group soon, dedicated to the interests of nonformal providers and their learners, as we have discussed a lot in the past two or three months! I will certainly keep you posted on that progress! Leecy
I’ve been a volunteer with my program for nearly 10 years. One of the things that keeps me there is that I am able to do something socially useful while keeping my skills current in a region with very few opportunities to do so. Even though community-based nonprofits are generally small, understaffed, and underfunded, the range of responsibilities is comparable to that of a medium- to large-sized business. This makes them an ideal place for students and displaced workers to simultaneously do a good deed and gain skills and experience that prepare them for the 21st century workplace. I never hesitate to point this out when the opportunity arises.
A few months ago, in an attempt to get a conversation around this started, I brainstormed a mind map showing some of the advantages of volunteering and shared it with my executive director and a few others. I think it’s a good starting point for a LINCS discussion on the topic, so I’m posting it here as well.
I don't seem to be able to attach a PDF to this post, so I inserted a screenshot of the mind map in a Google Docs doc and will share it that way instead. Zooming in on the image makes it easier to read. Here's the link:
I like your mind map of how volunteering offers preparation for professional opportunities and have sent it on to colleagues who work with volunteer adult literacy tutoring programs. Can you tell us more about the conversation about this at your program? What did volunteers think of this mind map? What did administrators think of it? Is it being used there in some way to develop volunteers' professional development opportunities?
One of the people I have sent the mind map to is Kevin Dean, Director of a volunteer tutoring program in Tennessee who has developed an interesting (free) smartphone app for his program's volunteer tutors. (To download it: Apple store, "Literacy Mid-South"; perhaps also at the Google Store?) It helps the volunteer program and volunteer tutors efficiently handle administrative tasks like recording and tracking volunteer hours, but it is also a professional development tool for volunteers. Take a look, and if you have questions post them here and I'll pass them on to Kevin -- or perhaps he'll join the conversation here.
David J. Rosen
To answer your questions:
Administrators loved the mind map. In fact, the executive director printed multiple copies, which she posted on bulletin boards at the community college, hoping to attract college students as volunteers. There were no takers.
I’m pretty certain she also shared it with tutors, but I’ve had no feedback on their reactions. That’s mainly because we’re spread out over roughly 600 square miles of rural peninsula, and it’s difficult to find a convenient time and place for more than two or three people at a time to meet. The same is true for for classroom-type PD for volunteers. Office space is two roughly 10X0 and 5X10 rooms. The larger one is for the executive director, and the smaller is shared by the 3 part-time employees. Classroom space -- both for PD and learners -- must be borrowed, and the larger the group, the more difficult it is to find suitable space.
As a workaround, I’ve been trying to repurpose a blog I’d originally set up to contain tutorials to support some technical training I gave to tutors last year. The new goal to have volunteers use it to exchange ideas, but they need to be trained on how to use a blog, which puts us back in the above paragraph.
And echoing Leecy’s comments above, except for the administrative assistant, whose position was created about 10 months ago, there has been a 100% turnover of the other staff -- including the executive director -- since May. It’s difficult to set up PD opportuinites while you’re in the midst of learning your own job and trying to replace your staff. We have a few people, paid and volunteer, who are working themselves to death, but that is not enough to meet a very real need.
In the past, when there were places in the economy for low-skilled and low-literacy adults, it was tolerable to treat volunteer organizations as an afterthought. Now that technology has raised the bar, that is no-longer acceptable. New jobs are replacing the unskilled ones that are being lost (I’ve heard that the Internet of Things alone is projected to create 1,000,000 programming jobs), but the educational requirements of these are high. In light of some of the disruptions going on in the world today, it is dangerous for a society to have too large a class of unemployables, a serious effort needs to be made to bring everyone up to a minimum level of 21st century competence. Treating community-based literacy organizations as an afterthought is not a serious effort.
The Literacy Mid-South app is in both the Google Play and Amazon Kindle store. I've sent it to my Android and Kindle tablets and will take a look at it later in the day.
I also have BlueStacks (http://www.bluestacks.com/) installed on an old PC I use for testing. BlueStacks allows you to run Android apps on Windows computers. When I have a chance, I will see if the Mid-South app works on that as well. If it does, it will be one more way to get apps to learners on whatever devices they have available.
I had a chance to look at Literacy Mid-South’s app and website. The app is essentially a reimplementation of their website in a format (app) that is more suitable for mobile devices. I think both the website and app are good. It’s clear the developers took the time to understand what they wanted the website and app to do before they decided how they were going to implement it.
The app developer appears to have used Como, which is an app builder that allows you to generate apps for iOS, Android, Kindle, and other platforms. It’s a subscription service, but if a program’s budget and need justify creating apps, it’s a much cheaper route than hiring a programmer to code them from scratch. The site and app use another third-party service called MentorMe for its time reporting and a local marketing and digital design company for a lot of the website work.
I recently reimplemented my program’s website in Weebly, which was a breeze. After a short time spent learning it, it took me 3 hous to reimplement the site. After I had finished the design work, it took me 15 times longer to code the original site in HTML. I suspect Como or something similar would be a little more complicated (I couldn’t find a demo on how to create an app with it when I looked at the site), but if it delivers anywhere near this kind of efficiency, it could be very useful to organizations that have the money to afford it and the infrastructure to support using it.
If you can persuade Kevin to join this discussion, I think it would be useful from a program management perspective to learn about his experiences and insights gained from this project.
Leecy, Dorothea, Robert et al.... I did not realize that the situation in rural areas was so bad. It is a big challenge to improve things, and I know that working together via the micro-group and other ways will improve things. I look forward to being a part of this effort in any way I can.
Leecy – as part of the discussion on resources, we can also start a list of foundations that provide grants to programs in rural areas, and also perhaps do some webinars on grant writing and fund-raising.
There is a form called the Common Grant Application, which is short and can serve as an initial template for the final grant application.
Once I attended a grant writing workshop and the first thing the moderator said was something like this: “What do you think is the single most important reason non-profit organizations do not get grants? It is – because the grant application is not sent in! Write it, send it in, and if you get rejected –well you did not lose anything! But you might get accepted!” The name of the workshop was KISS – Keep It Short and Sweet, meaning foundations will read a concisely written application first, and are more likely to accept the application.
The moderator also pointed out that Joint Grants are more fundable than if a single agency applies. For example, a library, a church and a low-income housing complex could write a joint grant for literacy projects that would provide funds for mutual efforts to bolster GED classes, or Job training.
Support from the community is an important ingredient in fund raising, along with events such as concerts.
I remember years ago buying some cake from a bake sale sponsored by the students of an ESL class who were raising money for dictionaries.
Businesses can be approached for donations, especially if the program is involved in job training.
Plus businesses would probably donate their “old” computers for students to use. And if there is no internet service, perhaps companies might donate CD Roms of programs such as typing, ESL, etc. Many lessons are on disc or can be created by the teachers and volunteers.
A rural program needs a vehicle – why not find a dealership that might donate or lend a – Literacy Mobile!
By the way, foundations also like to donate money to organizations that have fund-raising progams.
Well, yes, I dream. But as my mother used to say: “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”
Paul and All, you bring up good points. I believe that offering training and compiling information on funding sources is an ideal service to share. I write grants throughout the year and train others to do the same. Unfortunately, there are very few foundations that fund operational costs.
For example, one program which I support continually begs me to find operational funding. I have been successful in finding funding for instruction, but I have consistently drawn a blank when it comes to funding those who manage, supervise, administer, house services, maintain equipment and connectivity, provide clerical support, and cover other operational costs for Adult Ed programs. The program mentioned receives federal funding through the state, but it can only claim 5% of its award to administration. In other words, the administrator must volunteer her time while working 2-3 other jobs to make a living and keep the program open. In the past, PPOR funds helped cover operational cost, but school districts are now finding ways to not share the cost of serving their dropouts!
If anyone here knows of foundations or other sources that fund operational costs for non-profits, I know many would appreciate hearing about it! Leecy
LEECY, let's put together a data base of foundations that can provide funds for operational costs. Here is a model that should give people some ideas:
Verizon Awards $125,000 to English as a Second Language Technology Programs
Fourteen Nonprofit Agencies Expand Reach of Literacy Programs Across Massachusetts and Rhode Island
WORCESTER, Mass. – September 9, 2010 –
The Verizon Foundation will help thousands of adult learners across Massachusetts and Rhode Island improve their literacy skills through innovative, technology-based literacy programs.
At an awards ceremony today at the Worcester Public Library, officials announced that the Verizon Foundation has awarded a total of $125,000 in grants to 14 nonprofit organizations that offer English as a Second Language (ESL) literacy programs throughout the two states. The grants will enable these organizations to expand their reach into diverse communities through the use of broadband and video technologies.
"Verizon is committed to helping people in the communities we serve gain the literacy skills needed to participate in and contribute to our economy more effectively," said Donna Cupelo, Verizon region president of New England. "Literacy is a critical component to helping people succeed in the 21st century. We are proud to support organizations that provide immigrant learners with the necessary tools to lead happy and productive lives right here in Massachusetts and Rhode Island."
Laurie D'Amico, director of Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester, said, "Every year hundreds of immigrants and refugees come to the Worcester Public Library seeking English language classes that will provide them with a life line to new opportunities. Verizon is a national beacon in the advancement of literacy and a very generous supporter of our organization. The entire Worcester community is enriched by Verizon's commitment."
The 2010 ESL Technology Grant winners are:
- Asian American Civic Association (Boston), for its Adult ESL project.
- Center for New Americans (Northampton, Mass.), for its English through Conversation and Technology program.
- College Bound Dorchester (Dorchester, Mass.), for its ESL Technology Integration project.
- English at Large (Medford, Mass.), for a program called Learner and Volunteer Networks - Using Technology to Build an English at Large Community.
- Friends of West Springfield (Mass.) Public Library, for its ESL program.
- Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester (Mass.), for its Rosetta Stone training.
- Ludlow (Mass.) Area Adult Learning Center.
- North Shore Community College Foundation (Danvers, Mass.), for its North Shore ESL Community Partnership.
- Operation Bootstrap (Lynn, Mass.), for its Operation Bootstrap Online English program.
- Quincy (Mass.) Asian Resources, for its Adult Education program.
- Top Floor Learning (Palmer, Mass.), for its ESL for the Future program.
- University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Foundation, for ESL technology solutions classes.
- Community College of Rhode Island Foundation (Lincoln), for its ESL World of Work program.
Progresso Latino (Central Falls, R.I.), for its Progresso Latino Self Learning Expansion project. 440
It appears as if funding is being cut a lot these days or is more and more hard to get. It also seems as if there is too much competition between agencies for funds. I suspect that the agencies that need it most get the least, such as those in the rural areas.
I would like to make the following suggestions for non-profit agencies:
- Create an ongoing fund-raising, grant-writing and donations program run by a coordinator who could be a volunteer or a member of the board of directors.
- Sponsor fund-raising drives, concerts, benefits, etc. throughout the community.
- Publicize the activities of the agency in all the media, including newspapers and periodicals in languages other than English.
- Use PSAs in radio and TV, and also utilize Public Access or Community TV to air programming or announcements.
- Conduct a door-to-door campaign to announce programs and also to solicit funds.
6. Etc. and etc…
Agencies that have an active, ongoing and energetic fund-raising program are more likely to get support from the communities they serve and also from foundations.
Perhaps you could sponsor a webinar on fund-raising and grant writing? Let’s talk about this vexing and serious problem!
Thanks, Paul. I hope others join us here.
The rural program that I described earlier does all of the last three items on your list. Unfortunately, given the characteristics of residents in this area, the program has not been able to find many volunteers at all, especially a volunteer with the skills and time to coordinate grant writing efforts. That would be a huge help if the right person came along. The keep looking and hoping! I can see that in urban areas, that person would easier to find.
As for fund raising through events, again, dedicated volunteers are needed on a regular basis to plan and implement events. In urban areas, I know that such events provide helpful funding.
If another CoP were considered, as David proposed for consideration, I believe that a group dedicated to rural issues in Adult Ed might take off. Just thinking.
Any other rural folks out there? What do you think? Leecy
Leecy, definitely there needs to be a group dedicated to rural issues. If I could, I would fly out there and pitch my tent to help out! But in the meantime there may be a grant specifically to pay a Volunteer Coordinator's position, maybe we can find it.
The more I think about it the more I believe that fund-raising is the key to adult ed programs. To give an example, 5 years ago I set up a table at a CATESOL conference and noticed that the attendance was about half of what it had been the year before. The moderator mentioned this in his talk, but the crisis in cut-backs was not dealt with or mentioned in any of the speeches or workshops. I was a little perplexed. Many people I talked to at my table told me they might not be returning to their classes at the end of the term.
Now I imagine that on the whole it is worse. One of the negative affects is a lack of confidence in the program felt by the students.
I understand the role of "Professional Development", etc., but ...if there will be no job to come back to in two or three months, then what? I recently watched a video of the plight of adjunct teachers, and one aspect was the cut in salaries. This really cannot go on, mainly because it is not only bad for the teachers and the program but hurts so many students.
Well, as my mother used to say: Where there's a will, there's a way. Si se puede!
More is involved than just finding a volunteer who has the skills and time to coordinate grant writing efforts. Also needed are an understanding of the environment both inside and outside of the organization needed to effectively manage the use of these grant monies once they are obtained. This requires a volunteer with either (1) pretty good busines skills and experience who is willing to make a long-term and probably full-time comment of time and energy, or (2) who recognizes the opportunity to gain real-world experience in what is essentially a mid-sized business, which again requires a willingness to make a long-term, full-time commitment. “Given the characteristics of residents in [my] area,” finding such a volunteer is highly unlikely.
To further complicate matters, this needs to be coordinated by the program, whose paid employees can have as much turnover as its unpaid volunteers. In my program, the three part-time support positions are paid only slightly more per hour than they would in a less stressful job at the local WalMart, and have no benefits. Too much institutional knowledge is in the heads of a few volunteers who have outlasted the program staff, a problem which is exacerbated by the communications difficulties created by being spread out over a large, rural area.
The costs of low literacy on all levels -- personal, economic, and societal -- are higher than they’ve ever been, and combatting it requires a higher level of long-term commitment and continuity than ever before. In rural programs, there are more than a few committed and dedicated individuals who are willing to go the extra hundred miles, but they are working within an infrastructure designed for a different time and a different set of realities. This infrastructure needs to be reexamined in light of the world as it is today and in the near future.
Robert, Your remarks paint a picture that is true to the extent of grappling with the negative side. In discussing these issues, my inclination is to seek solutions to problems, using models and examples, which we can find and investigate and hopefully emulate.
In my opinion, this comment is particularly true: "...but they are working within an infrastructure designed for a different time and a different set of realities. This infrastructure needs to be reexamined in light of the world as it is today and in the near future."
Many of the new realities revolve around the use of Technology. Distance / Blended learning, mobile learning, etc. are absolutely necessary not only to develop good programs but also....to get grants and other funding. I am doing some research on the issues in rural areas, and there is an interest in funding programs that "Bridge the digital divide" there. I have read reports of Tech ed projects being funded for programs in remote villages in other countries, so it seems reasonable to assume that we can also have success here.
But we have to begin somewhere and with what we have. If I throw a used, ten year old computer in my car and deliver it to someone, along with CDRoms of different programs, my own CDs included, well then I have at least taken a step.
Anyway, and in the meantime, I look forward to a good New Year, and I wish you and everyone the same.
Had Gutenberg’s movable type had to rely on vellum and town criers, we would be living in a very different world today. Alone, this transformational technology would not have had much effecct; it needed an inexpensive source of paper and a means of distribution to have any meaningful effect. This is true for all transformational technologies: certain preconditions need to be met before they can become truly transformational. Pointing this out is not being negative; it is being realistic.
I couldn’t find the article I was looking for, but this one does a good job of what happens when the prerequisites aren’t considered in advance: http://www.wnyc.org/story/why-hoboken-throwing-away-all-its-student-laptops/
And I have thrown “used, ten year old computer in my car and deliver it to someone, along with CDRoms of different programs, my own CDs included.” I’ve cannibalized 10 junk computers and built minimally-functioning computers of the working parts. I’ve used up a tank of gas and two afternoons driving around my region with a trial version of EveryOne on to see if it worked at any of our sites. (We returned it, because the best we got was 2G at only 2 sites.)
Recycling old computers sounds great in theory, but that too comes with a number of preconditions. For example: Not only are components of older computers (hard drives, power suplies) more likely to fail, but even if you could afford new replacement parts, it might be difficult or impossible to find them. This would require keeping an inventory of spare parts, a place to store this inventory, and someone who can repair the older computers as they break down. Even in urban environments, the last might be the most difficult to find, because people generally want to learn how to use the new technologies, not the obsolete ones. Pre-Internet solutions are better than nothing, but the real power of computers is the access they provide to the Internet. Even if the learner does have Internet access, older computers are likely to run Windows XP, which is n-longer supported by Microsoft. An alternative would be to install Linux, but you’ll need to find someone who knows how to do it (it’s not hard), and, because older computers are likely to be 32-bit and have less than a gigabyte , you’ll also need to a 32-bit version of LInux that runs on low RAM, which is becoming hard to find. And then there’s all the hand holding that needs to be done. It’s like trying to print on vellum.
To add to my previous comment, you can do many things with an older computer as long as it’s in good working condition and has adequate RAM and processing power. Even without the Internet, you can do a lot. For example:
Even though many businesses use Microsoft Office, a figure I see often is that 80% of users use only 20% of the features. Any good office suite will have that same 20% of features. They may seem different because they have different user interfaces, and if you understand what you are doing in one office suite, switching to another is mostly a matter of finding the locations of the various tools in the menu bars. In other words, 3-year’s experience with any other office suites equates to a little less than 3-year’s experience with Microsoft Office. This means a learner can use free software to develop the skills associated with using an office suite.
Software for audio creation and editing and for photo editing can also be used offline
IF COPYRIGHT RESTRICTIONS ON A WEBSITE DO NOT PREVENT IT, you can use something like HTTrack Website Copier (https://www.httrack.com/) to download websites. The site can then be burned to a CD and run offline as if you were actually connected to the Internet. I’ve grabbed sites from the local schools and governments to use with learners.
WordPress blogging software can be installed on a computer and run offline, and, for learners who are really advanced, you can even develop and use entire websites offline.
Of course, the prerequisites to doing this are having volunteers with the skills (which increase dramatically as you go down the list) and a place and a place to do it. Having reliable Internet access would be much simpler.
I'm wondering whether we should consider putting into our "Community Education" repertoire a workshop on just how to take advantage of open source things with the computer you have. It's not *that* easy to figure the stuff out if you're not tech savvy but a little support can go a long way.
Programs and instructors might consider installing the free OpenOffice suite on refurbished or low cost computers or laptops. Several years back, I was part of a transition to college project that purchased low cost loaner laptops. Part of the laptop's low cost was due to the limited number of applications that were preloaded. We used OpenOffice for most of the student assignments. Files could be set to save using the more familiar extensions so that others with MicroSoft Office could open them up: .doc, .xls, ,ppt and so on. It worked like a charm.
Postsecondary Completion Moderator
I have used the OpenOffice suite for years and consider it a good option. Two other options are LibreOffice (https://www.libreoffice.org/) and SoftMaker Office’s academic license (http://www.softmaker.com/en/education), which is free to educators and schools, their definition of which includes tiny nonprofits and their tutors.
LibreOffice is the only software besides Publisher that opens .pub (Publisher) files, which comes in handy when you have no need to buy Publisher and someone sends you a file in .pub format. Softmaker Office’s presentation software allows you to embed multimedia (audio and video) into a single .pptx file, which can be viewed in PowerPoint, PowerPoint Viewer, as well as SoftMaker and a few other tools. This is something I find highly useful.
Rob, we are covering a lot of ground in this thread, so I should be a little more specific.
The question is:
Where the adult students are poor, and where there is no Internet service in the area, and the adult education agency has no money and no staff…what steps can be taken to start the process of bridging the digital divide? And here I am talking about non-formal programs run by community based agencies that do not receive government funding and are not obligated to maintain certain standards.
My experience is limited but worth writing about. First, I worked as an independent teacher in a city not a rural area.
I taught classes in peoples’ houses. I used my Pumarosa website or a CD-ROM of the site, and my texts, CDs, DVDs and audios. Pumarosa is a good introduction to computer basics, mainly because there is no typing or registration, and all the student has to learn to do is use the mouse.
At one point I had 50 students, all adults between 25 and 60, all low-income.
About 10 students had no computers, so I went to a local Second Hand store and bought used computers for an average of $50 each. These computers had been cleaned up and were guaranteed for 30 days.
I then brought them to these students to use. I think one computer did not last long, so I brought it back to the second hand store and donated it and then bought another.
Eventually some of the students reimbursed me for the computer, some returned the computers to me and then bought new computers from a store on a payment plan.
If I had been working with an agency I would have made a “deal” with the Second Hand Store, which also provided ESL and Citizenship classes in one of its facilities.
There are programs called Computers for Families which donate used, re-furbished computer to low-income families. Once I tutored at a library, which had a connection with a CFF program that donated 20 Laptops to the library that I could use in the class.
The organization called Techsoup.com is very helpful.
I would call the above as an example of what can be done minimally to start a Tech-based adult education program, especially ESL. We all learn everything from the ground up, from the simple to the complex, and slowly but surely this kind of program can grow.
TechSoup is a great organization.
In Idaho, we have a group called Computers for Kids (cfkid.org). They provide (and warranty) systems for an essay (or pictures depending on age) by the student on how it will be used and a $35 processing fee (waived if on free lunch program). Their program supports K-14 (college fees are higher for newer desktop/laptop). All systems are licensed with software (Win7/Office 2010/AntiVirus) through the Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher program (another great operation).
I make the contact information and details available to the offenders that I work with, so they can let their people (or in a few instances themselves) know about the program.
Paul and All your contributions to this thread are helpful and creative. We have, apparently, developed a mini- discussion on the topic of nonformal services and the challenges faced by programs in rural areas. Along with lack of funding is the challenge of finding local talent and skilled people to offer services. Thanks for continuing to share your ideas on the topic! Leecy
Leecy, You are very welcome,and actually I thank you for providing a forum for me to share some of my ideas, research and experiences. I am very interested in working with people to develop, strengthen and improve our ability to provide worthwhile programs to the immigrant population that all too often is marginalized and isolated from needed services. I have archived a lot of research and articles which I can make available to anyone who sends a request to my email below.
The Pew Research Center has been tracking some data on who has Internet access at home and how they are accessing that Internet. Here is some data from 2013 and if you look through it you will see that there was a shift starting two years ago to more and more Internet access is shifting to smart phone use, primarily because data packages today are so much cheaper than home access. See this report from this year...68% of Americans have a smart phone of some sort. It turns out that cell phones have much better data coverage areas than broadband as well. Perhaps all of our discussions in this thread about getting more funding for hardware may be missing the trend of more of all of our population finding easier access to the Internet through cell phone technologies. I am curious if we think adult educators are more knowledgeable of computer use (desktop/laptop) vs smart phones? In talking to adult educators I work with, I am finding much more ignorance and discomfort with smart phones than with computers. The divide between the materials people are gaining access to and the comfort level our educators have with those technologies seems to be growing and that is an alarming trend. In some states and some programs, the ideas of tech integration in education is still in the discussion phase while learners are running around texting circles around educators every day. I am not convinced that we need more money or more hardware access. We may need more support for our educators to not only learn about these technology shifts (over 35 - 45% population shift in smart phone/ tablet use in only 3 years...) but to learn ways we might adopt and easily use these shifts to increase learning opportunities. In short, our rate of adopting technologies is creating a larger divide between the technology our staffs are comfortable with and the technology our learners have access to. Internet access may actually be increasing across all technologies, but broadband seems to have hit it's plateau in the last few years and may be suffering soon unless costs drop dramatically or we in some way get smart and call it a public utility.
In reading all the wonderful comments over the last week on this thread, I just wanted to share this Pew data indicating some changes in Internet access that we might all be able to appreciate as increasing learning options, if we are aware of them and ready to use those methods effectively.
What do you think about these shifts in Internet access vs our ability to shift educator comfort and pedagogy quick enough to "keep up"? Perhaps we need more money invested in our people instead of hardware to increase learners' abilities to benefit from the Internet?
I am writing this reply on a 7" tablet -- 1 finger. I could also probably do it on a phablet. My smart phone screen would be too small.
As opposed to a few years ago, when the choice was between Windows and Mac desktops and laptops, we have a much broader range of choices. And among those choices, different devices are more suitable for some uses than they are for others. Mobile devices are good for content consumption and light content creation. (Typing this out on a tablet with one finger is a real pain, although a Bluetooth keyboard would help some, but not completely.) Desktops and laptops are better for content creation.
I think the reality is that we will need to know how to use a variety of devices. Sometimes smart phones will be appropriate. Sometimes, tablets. And sometimes traditional desktops and laptops (and maybe Chromebooks).
Personally, I use my tablet and eBook reader more than I use my desktop and laptop.
I will end now because it's difficult to develop ideas when typing on a small screen with one finger. This would be better done on a PC.
I had a chance to read the Pew reports on a larger screen. As I suspected, they address raw computer and Internet usage (what kinds of devices do people own and what kinds of Internet services do they use), not the purposes for which they are used. The reports themselves acknowledge this.
This topic reminds me of an article that appeared on the BBC site about a month ago. It’s entitled “Tablets 'eroding' children's digital skills,” and discusses how “[t]ablets and smartphones [are] making children competent at using many forms of online communication . . . at the expense of those other skills emphasized by the curriculum.” The link to the article is: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-34866251
Each type of computing device has its strengths and weaknesses compared to other types. They are tools, and like any other tool, if used appropriately, they can amplify your abilities, but used inappropriately, can become major time wasters.
The article you share really brings to mind many discussions I have had in the last couple years. Does our curriculum change and if it does who is in charge of those changes and further how do those changes align with current "real world" events or opportunities? This may upset those of us over 30 years old, but skills like cursive writing, spelling, print hand writing, multiplication tables, exact operations with fractions, and many of the topics we spend the majority of our time trying to help learners struggle through learning, may all just not be functionally useful in the society available today or in the very near future. The argument often goes along the lines of highlighting both the technology available everywhere to perform many of these "archaic" operations and the shift in society that is relying less on those skills. To counter we get the argument of "What if the electricity is cut?" and similar rationalization that the more skills our society let go dormant the less resilient we will be in time of crisis. Things then shift often to "Well, if the electric goes everyone will be in a massive panic and chaos will ensue further enforcing how useless it would be to be an expert in any of those typical curriculum studies. People will be way too busy trying to survive..." I think there is much room for discussion on how we determine what skills are really needed, or useful, or just nice to have in our society today.
Are our curricula really just being dictated by textbook companies today? If so, what interest does any of those publishers have in trying to align those resources with a world that shifts weekly and monthly in some areas of growth and opportunity wile the publishing cycle may take half a year or more? Is it even possible for text resources in print to keep up with the exponential changes occurring daily today?
The article mentions the eroding of skills. Perhaps what we often perceive as student skills eroding is really our failure to observe what skills our students are mastering today and how our offerings are out of alignment with those skill sets? As an example, most teachers would have little to no knowledge of what World of Warcraft players can do as the players slog through 6 hour raids of highly coordinated activities with at least a dozen critical input streams offering information that must be processed in nanoseconds to effectively adapt to the violently changing digital situations. They do this for hours, constantly learning, adapting, communicating, coordinating and processing at a level that would make all of us have a headache after only a minute or two of just watching this happen. Then we have the audacity to declare these students challenged when they enter our learning environments and we start judging and labeling them because they can't process the way we are comfortable processing. This disconnect may be a major contributor to our lack of retention, persistence, creativity and motivation in some of our educational programs. The article aims to point out how we can't just leave important learning of skills to technological play or resources and I agree. We need educators that are well supported in discovering what is possible and an arena that is rich in the sharing of ideas on how to use what is possible in creative ways to help individuals have more learning opportunities. Does this take a technology to fix or is it a matter of getting more support for our teachers to discover and tap into those skills and experiences that seem just as foreign to us as our curricula seem to some students?
I agree that each device has some easy applications that seem more efficient. I am always learning neat tricks that are busting down my assumptions of what a device may be good for. As an example, I have felt that tablets are nothing more than consumer devices for most of a year. I was a bit jaded by the apple products and how their marketing is all around "buy this cool stuff" rather than helping students "make some cool stuff". Then I got an android tablet and started really pushing to see what I could do (for free) in terms of creation. As an android device I was pleasantly surprised to see all of my google resources already synced up at any time (documents, calendars, presentations, pictures, music ...). Then I got to play with the speech commands and the speech to text capabilities on my tablet and I immediately wondered why any student would feel the need to learn to write any more. In fact, I brought my device to a gentleman that has been illiterate for over 50 years of his life, but he really wished to read and write. I set my tablet up to read any text he clicked on and I taught him 10 minutes of how to speak clearly to get the voice to text working correctly. BOOM! Like a kid in a candy shop he was on fire and as giddy as a new parent may feel when their child is born. He dove into his passion for story telling and was composing his stories in a google doc he could share with his many grandchildren. In less than an hour, I had helped to give this man the gift of some form of literacy he had longed for for 5 decades; finally, the technology and support were there to help him unleash his wonderful stories to share with his family.
I will agree each device seems to have advantages over others, but I would counter that the more we get to play and experiment with any one device, we may be shocked by what we discover as possibilities. Asking our learners to share what they know can often help us discover these precious nuggets as well. If we wanted to share our nuggets with each other, is there a "best way"? Would it be just text in forums like this? Would we want/need video demos and where would those be shared so they are easily accessible and sort-able?
Personally, I've become so accustomed to reading on devices (computer monitors, tablets, and e-readers) that reading printed text has become a mildly unpleasant experience. However, as comfortable as I am with using technology, I often find it more effective to use printed books an dictionaries when working with learners, whether or not they are computer literate. When making a choices about which technology to use (and I include printing as a technology) context and learning objectives are as important as all the other considerations.
Wow! Thank you for sharing this amazing story, Ed! Experimenting with our digital tools is something that will likely never end. Doesn't the ipad do speech to text, too? There must be an app for that. We have some ipads in our programs, so I need to check.
Cheers, Susan Finn Miller
Moderator, AELL, Assessment & CCS CoPs
Susan, I believe the speech to text is available on every platform now.
On Apple (ipad, Mac OS, ...) there is Siri and it may just be toggling an option to turn that feature on
On Android (Chromebook, android tablets/phones...) there is OK Google built in with a microphone available in any keyboard ready application
On Windows (Surface, windows tablets/phones...) there is Cortona included in most of the newer operating system. Again this may need to be toggled on
On any system, the chrome browser now has voice to text capability when using Google drive. Of course this is only really effective if your learners are using Drive or the other Google tools. Anyone that has read any of my posts probably gathers that I think we should all be taking advantage of the huge power withing the Google suite of free tools, this voice to text feature is just another reason we all need some support on getting into this system more.
Also, I noticed that so far all but one of those who have replied are men. It would be great to have more women weigh in too.
David J. Rosen