Alexandra (Thompson) Blockton
AmeriCorps Member Teacher's Assistant – Adult Education
Lewis & Clark Community College
2021 IACEA Outstanding Adult Learner of the Year Winner
Have you ever thought to yourself, how beneficial it is to provide support for students? What is the impact it has on their learning capabilities? No matter what your role is in Adult Education, whether you are in an administrative position, a pathway advocate, teacher, and/or coordinator, being able to support students matters in all areas. It may be for encouragement, comfort, and/or financial assistance.
Adult Education learners come from all levels of society with diverse backgrounds. Some individuals may be young adults and others may be much older. However, they are all here to learn and to better their future. Often, these students have left school for some reason. There are also students who enroll in Adult Ed to receive their GED Diploma because it is a requirement for their employer.
Providing support for students can assist them in reaching their personal, educational, career goals, and more. Students may be experiencing anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, have low literacy, and/or have been out of school for years, and they will need that extra push to keep them going. It really makes a difference in a student’s life when someone is there cheering them on for the next level in achieving their goals.
According to the website www.rpgroup.org, listed here are 10 Ways Faculty Can Support Students’ Success:
Our GED instructors, who are all teaching online due to Covid-19, also take time to support students in class. Before class begins, they make it a priority to ask students how they are doing, and while in the classroom encourage students to voice their opinion on learning styles that work best for them. One of the things I love the most is when teachers present their contact info, such as email and office phone numbers for students to reach them outside of class. Many times, students would prefer to speak to their instructor outside of class and this will assist them in being able to better explain themselves or any concerns they may have..
Being available to students and informing them that you are here to assist them really makes a difference because it will show them that you are willing to help them succeed. Sometimes these students may not have anyone who is encouraging them for the better, or if they do have someone, they may not be what the students are looking for. Once you take the time out and get to know your students, eventually, they will be comfortable in discussing their barriers and the goals they have set.
Michael Matos, Technology Project Manager at Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition, IACEA Region 1 Director, and COABE Region 3 Representative
Editor's note: This is Part 2 of a two-part article on innovative technology integration. Read Part 1 here.
A new learning environment for educators
How can we encourage discussions around “tech pain points” that arise when technology is introduced in education? In the Illinois Digital Learning Lab (IDLL), we focused on curating a collaborative, peer-to-peer learning environment for sharing strategies that encourage educators to take charge of their technology professional development. Core elements of the IDLL include:
Program design from this first cohort included:
- 25 educators from 22 organizations throughout Illinois.
- Five subject-matter experts (SMEs) supporting five cohorts that included a diverse set of participants (type of organization, role, curriculum, geographic location, student demographics).
- Participants committed at least 15 hours to the project including monthly virtual check-ins and bi-monthly reporting.
- The full community gathered for three peer-to-peer events (launch, mid-point, closing event)
The IDLL included a variety of traditional and innovative PD methods, including:
- Lectures by experts to launch the project.
- Peer-to-peer sharing on monthly Zoom meetings and mid-year gatherings.
- Continuous learning through social media (IDLL Facebook group).
In the first year, the IDLL successfully:
- Developed technology integration leaders who could support future professional development at the local level.
- Established the importance of assessing digital literacy skills and instruction.
- Supported educators and learners in reaching curricular and individual goals.
- Helped adult learners become more confident in using technology both within and beyond the classroom.
Ultimately, our community of adult educators in Illinois learned several valuable lessons that we are looking to build upon as we expand the IDLL into its second year. To increase the likelihood of technology adoption success, we found it’s important to:
- Adopt an always-learning culture so students, teachers, and administrators continuously build new skills together.
- Offer a variety of training methods and supports, including lecturing, modeling, and exploratory (hands-on) learning.
- Lead with learning, not with the technology. The stories we tell should focus on how our learners are better served through technology integration.
- Provide many avenues for key stakeholders to be involved, co-create, and share feedback. Giving everyone a voice ensures the conversation will be equitable and aligned with the needs of students and staff.
- Communicate regularly and keep the vision at the forefront. There are bound to be unique challenges that the team encounters; it’s much easier to stay motivated and focused if the vision for learning remains central to each conversation.
Ultimately, our goal is to help students and teachers develop the 21st century skills needed for professional and personal success. Technology can play a pivotal role in connecting us all as co-learners as we learn to navigate the increasingly complex future of work. Technology adoption can be challenging, but as long as we root ourselves in a collaborative environment and seek to reflect in an always-learning culture, we can increase the likelihood of technology success precisely because we are listening to each other and evolving based on the needs and goals we continuously refine as a learning community.
Michael Matos, Technology Project Manager at Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition, IACEA Region 1 Director, and COABE Region 3 Representative
Editor's note: This is Part 1 of a two-part article on innovative technology integration. Look for Part 2 on Friday, September 25.
In my 25 years as an educator and educational administrator, I have always looked at teaching and learning as dynamic and interactive. Simply put, I place an emphasis on innovating education and educating to innovate. Most recently, I’ve had the opportunity to lead the Illinois Digital Learning Lab (IDLL), a cohort-based professional development model supported by the Grand Victoria Foundation that helps adult educators build digital literacy skills while creating technology-rich learning environments for adult learners. As an extension, the IDLL helps educators differentiate instruction while supporting the development of 21st century digital problem-solving skills.
Because educational technology can be customizable and motivating to students, the effective use of edtech can provide some extraordinary and empowering opportunities for students and instructors. Introducing new tools, however, can be a challenging process for organizations. The barriers to using new technology have become increasingly visible in the rapid response to COVID-19 as teams quickly move to online instruction.
In the 2014 research report, Adopting New Technologies for Student Success, the Community College Research Center in the Teachers College at Columbia University identified four key areas to consider when attempting to adopt new technology:
- Technological readiness focuses on current IT systems and technology usage.
- Organizational readiness focuses on how decisions are made and communicated.
- Project readiness focuses on the training and support available to staff and students.
- Motivational readiness focuses on if key stakeholders are aligned in the vision for technology usage and the need for change.
As the report notes, the purpose of technology usage in education is not to “increase administrative efficiency or information technology (IT) compatibility, though this may occur. Rather it is to help colleagues in restructuring the student experience to encourage improved learning, persistence, and completion” (p. 1). In other words, technology isn’t used for the sake of technology, but rather to support a more accessible, equitable, and meaningful learning environment. When adopting new technology, like adding online learning programming, organizations can therefore increase the likelihood of success by considering and properly planning for each of the four areas outlined in the report.
In Part 2, learn more about the Illinois Digital Learning Lab and how the Lab experience addressed these "tech pain points" in a practical, practitioner-to-practitioner way. Look for Part 2 on September 25!
Keighty Ward (they/them), Community Literacy Program Manager, Literacy Works, Chicago firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor's note: Scroll down for a video introduction to this resource.
Hi everyone! My name is Keighty Ward and I work for Literacy Works in Chicago. I am in charge of professional development for adult educators, but before this I taught ESL and Citizenship at Heartland Alliance. I taught multi-level classes as well as levels 1 - 5 so I have a range of resources to share.
Since the shutdown, Literacy Works has been producing tutorial videos for tutors to use as their tutoring transitions into distance work. We are focusing on meeting the tutors and learners where they are and sharing resources that fit their situation. For example, we have a video where we share suggestions for lesson planning in a variety of settings, including how to tutor when your learner only has a (non-smart)phone. Please visit the Literacy Works resource page [https://www.litworks.org/resources] to see all of our tutorials.
However, in this blog post I want to focus on one that is particularly great for advanced ESL and Citizenship students, and ABE students who are practicing their reading for an HSE test. It is called CommonLit.org [http://www.commonlit.org]. One thing I’ve heard from tutors and volunteer coordinators is that tutors are running out of higher level reading material at their homes. This site offers so many texts to practice with. They are organized by reading level, genre, literary function, and grade level so you can be sure to find exactly what you need for your particular learner. They even have adapted books from a wide variety of titles.
This site is totally free to educators. You only need to have a .edu email address to create a free account. If you don’t have this, though, it’s not a problem, as most of the functions are still available to you. One of the best features is the Paired Text section. Here you can find texts related to the one you just read - these can be assigned as ‘homework’ or can help you plan for your next lesson.
Whether you’re tutoring over the phone, through Whats App, or over video conferencing, this site will be a great addition to your reading lessons. Students can read out loud as you follow along and you can practice pronunciation or vocabulary as it comes up. Also, there are built in comprehension and discussion questions to help you along the way.
I have used this resource in all my classrooms and always recommend it to those practicing reading at higher levels. While it is a website, all of the materials can be printed and shared so even when we’re back to teaching in person, you can continue to use this resource. Please be sure to watch our tutorial video on this site here. [https://youtu.be/jNRUy4z2u_4] Y
Have you used CommonLit.org with your learners? Tell us about it in the comments! Best of luck and stay well.
Bill Swiderski, Joliet Junior College
This is the second in a series of posts featuring Stanford University's free Reading Like a Historian resource page. Part 1 can be read here.
In this blog, I would like to give an example of how to organize the choice of lessons to present to students. I look for themes that span across different lessons. It will take a little time to discover what might be found in the content of the lessons, but I am sure that there are many possibilities. The first one that I found was on the issue of slavery.
The lesson on the Declaration of Independence gave the information about the main document itself, as well as the grievances listed by Jefferson against the King of England. It points out that in the original list, one of the grievances was the use of slavery by the King and the strong condemnation of the practice. However, in the final document, that item was not included and thus began the approval of the practice by omission. My student activity was to match main ideas with the grievances and to discuss the dangers in leaving that out.
The theme continued in the writing of the Constitution lesson where different arguments for not abolishing slavery in the constitution were delivered during the debate. I match main ideas in these arguments for the students to identify. We discuss how these excuses, though inappropriate for today, were the prevailing way of thinking at that time.
I also continue the theme in the Abraham Lincoln lesson, which goes into the politics of the Emancipation Proclamation. They read some of the comments of Lincoln during the debate with Stephen Douglas for the Senate position and letters that Lincoln wrote which show his inner thoughts about the subject, which would be considered bigoted by today’s standards.
I constantly remind the students about the previous lessons. We try to draw conclusions about what effect the delay in dealing with the problem had and how attitudes today have and have not changed.
With the large number of lessons available for free on Stanford's Reading Like a Historian website, there are many other themes that can be found. If you're using this resource, what other themes have you found? What themes would you like to build lessons around? Share your ideas in the comments!
Marcia Luptak, Elgin Community College
Census Resources (Click "Read More" below for Census facts and figures)
Information, fact sheets, talking points, teaching activities and resources, videos: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/sis/2020census/2020-resources.html
Information and classroom resources (including lesson plans for math, leveled ESL, reading):
If you would have asked me about the census a year ago, I would have said, “Yeah, I know it’s coming,” and I could have given you a few facts and figures in a disinterested way. However, several events occurred over the past year that have completely changed my attitude. The first event happened last March when I was talking to a colleague, John, about the possibility of doing a learning community between his college speech class (CMS101) and our college transitions ESL class. He and I had taught together in a learning community, so I was familiar with his style and thought it would be a great fit. I knew that John was big in service learning with his classes and had even formed a consulting group for students on campus, Spartan Consulting. During this initial conversation, I was hoping he would suggest integrating a service learning component. When he did, I jumped at the opportunity. The adventure began...(click "Read More" to continue)
Bill Swiderski, Joliet Junior College
My name is Bill Swiderski and I teach an HSE reading and social studies class for Joliet Junior College. The goal of the majority of students is to pass either the GED or Hi-Set test. A few are in the class to improve their basic skills in reading before taking classes for obtaining a certification in a field or another degree. The students have multi-level TABE reading scores from two up to five with the majority in the 3-4 range.
In the social studies portion of the curriculum, because Illinois requires proof of passing the Constitution Test (which many of the students have not done), I have preparation materials for them to do before taking the Constitution Test and almost all pass this on the first attempt. I also do some short lessons on map reading, geography and economics, since a few question on the HSE tests will cover those topics. The challenge for me was to find suitable materials for the history and government areas. The students have to read actual documents and answer question on those readings. My goal was to find resources for that area.
I found a free online program from Stanford University called Reading like a Historian, which offers detailed lessons to present to students that use historical documents as the primary source of material. In future blog posts, I hope to share some of the lessons I have used (their list continues to grow each year) and to show how I use and adapt these lessons for the students. Since my curriculum also requires the language arts reading, language, and the essay, I do not have the class time to make elaborate plans, so I have streamlined many of their lessons to cover them in a short amount of time.
To teach these lessons, I give them in a sort of chronological order to show the progression of the historical periods and highlight how one has affected another. During the course of each lesson, I try to give the necessary background information on the topic so that the documents will make more sense, include some visual presentation (pictures or short video), the reading of the document, multiple choice questions to answer (which I adapt from their lessons since that is the format for the tests), and discussion that may relate to today’s circumstances and their lives. I do not avoid political discussions but insist that they be done in a respectful manner.
One lesson I've used is titled Examining Passenger Lists. When colonists came to the New World, these lists may have contained the only record of who was aboard. After discussing why the passengers might have wanted to come here, I chose the smaller of the lists presented in the lesson in order to streamline the time needed. The goal was for the student to sort and organize the information into categories of gender, age, and marital status. After completing this, we discussed the genealogy of our own families and what some may have found out from using sites like ancestry.com. The lesson took about 30 minutes and seemed to be well-received.
Have you used Stanford University's Reading Like a Historian resource? Or have you used another resource for teaching social studies that was well-received by students? Leave a comment on this post and tell us about it!
Jenny Siegfried, Waubonsee Community College
Cathy Kramer, Joliet Junior College/College of DuPage
Do you find yourself using a variety of web resources and wishing you had a way to keep them all together? Do your students ask you for internet resources they can use to practice at home? Do you want to do more with introducing your adult learners to the internet, but aren't sure where to start? We've had great success using Weebly.com to create websites we can use with our adult learners in a variety of ways.
Weebly is an internet-based platform that allows you to build and publish your own website for free. The first step is to create an account and do some activities to prove that you're human. Next, you'll select a theme - there are plenty to choose from! Once you choose a theme, Weebly will take you to its site editor. Here, you can edit and add text, change pictures and other elements, and customize each page of your site to suit your needs. You can also add pages and reorganize your site by clicking the "Pages" tab at the top of the editor. There IS a bit of a learning curve with using the site editor, so start simple – you can always add more once you get the hang of it!
So you've created your site and done some editing - now what? Here are some ways that we've used our Weebly sites with students:
Even with these minor issues, we have found Weebly to be an easy and rewarding way to incorporate technology use into our adult education classes. We hope you’ll give it a try! Feel free to check out our Weebly sites for inspiration:
Have you built a website for your students? Share a link in the comments!
Truman College is looking to hire an Associate Dean of Adult Education.
Please encourage talented, mission-driven individuals to apply ASAP to the Associate Dean of Adult Education position at Truman College, City Colleges of Chicago.
Check out the job description by downloading the Word document here:
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