Evaluating Online Tools and Resources Micro Group

By Ed Latham

Adult educators, especially part-time teachers, are often frustrated that there are so many digital tools and resources available but never enough time to learn which ones may offer positive learning opportunities for their students. Last year, in a new LINCS micro group, we created an evaluation framework that helps teachers to easily review online tools or resources, and to share their evaluations with other teachers. The framework is now ready for adult educators across the country who can join the Micro Group to identify online tools and resources, try them out with their students, evaluate them, and share them with each other first in the Micro Group, and then with other adult education teachers.

What the Micro group Accomplished Last Year

Screenshot of the Diigo tags

Screenshot of the Diigo tags.

Micro Group participants needed a way to store the tools and resources they found on the Internet. We chose an easy tool called Diigo. (Link to short introduction) Using it, participants could quickly and easily find and tag online resources to evaluate. (“Tagging” resources is marking them with keywords so they can be categorized and easily found). As participants reviewed our Diigo collection they found tools or resources they wished to evaluate with a simple evaluation form we had developed that enabled them to share their experiences and recommendations with other teachers, first in the Micro Group, then in LINCS communities, and eventually, everywhere.

Sample of part of the evaluation form

Sample of part of the evaluation form.

When at least two teachers had evaluated a tool or resource we compiled the data and produced and published the evaluations for other teachers to use. This process offered teachers a collection of peer-reviewed resources, and enabled participants in the Micro Group to easily share their experiences using the tools or resources with their students, and their opinions, with other teachers.

The Evaluation

The Micro Group evaluation tool we created includes many important evaluation criteria without, however, making the process cumbersome. We chose the following nine criteria:

  • Usage: How was — or could — the tool or resource be used?
  • Engagement: How engaging is the resource for learners and/or teachers?
  • Ease of Use for Teachers: How easy is the tool or resource for teachers to use?
  • Ease of Use for Students: How easy is the tool or resource for students to use?
  • Challenges: What challenges do you see for teachers using the tool or resource? What solutions or  workarounds do you suggest for these challenges?
  • Suitability: In what kinds of environments can this resource work well?
  • Basic Skills: What basic skills can this tool or resource be effective in building?
  • Work Readiness Skills: What work-related skills might this tool or resource help students to improve?
  • General Skills: What personal skills might students improve in the use of this resource?

Growing and Sharing

Last year, the Micro Group’s purpose was to explore different evaluation methods and create a framework that could easily be used by adult educators. In 2017, beginning in March, we hope to have many more adult education teachers from around the country join our micro group, add to and share our list of digital tools and resources, and evaluate and share the tools and resources with the adult education field. To participate in this rewarding work join the LINCS 2017 Online Tools & Resource Evaluation Micro Group. 

David Rosen, the moderator of the LINCS Technology and Learning group, has offered a very nice set of instructions to join the LINCS site and to then join the Micro Group. Here are his instructions:

Registering for the LINCS Community

  • To create a new account, go to the LINCS Community: https://community.lincs.ed.gov/ and select “Log In / Register” at the top of the page (on the far right in the blue menu ribbon). Then select “Register for a new account”.
  • Complete the “Create An Account” screen (passwords need at least one number, at least one capital letter, and at least one special character). Check the box indicating that you agree to the Terms and Conditions, then click “Submit” at the bottom. An automated email will be sent to the email address you entered, with a link to verify that you’re the same person. Be sure to check your Spam / Junk Mail box if you don’t see it! Until you’ve clicked the link in that email, your account doesn’t exist. Once your email has been verified, you should get a “verification successful” email message.
  • A LINCS staff member reviews every new account request to prevent spammers or anyone else untrustworthy from accessing the Community pages, so before you can use this account it’ll need to be approved. If the account is created during business hours, this will usually happen within an hour or two; but it should never take more than two days. They will email you once your account’s been approved.
  • From then on, you can always login from the LINCS Community page (https://community.lincs.ed.gov/). Once again, select “Log In / Register” at the top of the page. Enter your email address and password, and click “Log In.”
  • Enter a User Name that you’d like others to see in your LINCS Community activities, then select the Send button to save your changes.

Joining a Group

  • Once you are logged in, click the  “Join Groups” button, or “Groups” tab in the blue horizontal navigation bar. You will be directed to a list of groups you can join. Chose the one(s) that interest you and, for each, select “join” to become a member. You may want to start with only one or two groups, and add others later if you wish. In any case, be sure to join the Technology and Learning — soon to be called the Integrating Technology — group and the 2017 Online Tools & Resource Evaluation Micro Group.
  • When you choose a group (or micro group), you will be redirected to that group’s home page. On the right, you have the option to set your Email Subscription.
  • For each group you join, select “Immediate” from the drop down menu. You can always change this to another setting later, to  “12-hour digest” or “24-hour digest”. Then you will get LINCS email less frequently, and with batched messages.
  • Click Submit. Each time someone posts a message, you will receive it in your email.

These steps may make it look complicated but it’s relatively easy. If you have any difficulty, a LINCS staffer can help you if you contact them at https://community.lincs.ed.gov/Contact

Thank you, David, for these detailed instructions. David can be reached at djrosen123@gmail.com

It will be rewarding to explore many online tools and resources with teachers in this new micro group. If you have questions about this exciting opportunity, please contact Ed Latham, the group moderator, at ohgeer@gmail.com.

Celebrate Blended Learning on Digital Learning Day!

 

Digital Learning Day

Digital Learning Day started in 2012 as a way to highlight and celebrate the ways that technology is being used in K-12 education. Technology reaches all levels of education and can have a huge impact in the adult education world as well. Which tech tools would you like to celebrate this year? If you’ve used technology to extend your classroom opportunities beyond the face-to-face environment, you might have already used blended learning. Here at the EdTech Center, we’ve been spending a good amount of time thinking about best practices for blended learning.

In honor of Digital Learning Day, we will be sharing our 3-hour self-paced multimedia course, Introduction to Blended Learning, to any who wish to try it out. The course will be available from February 23 through March 2. Watch for our email on the 23rd, or mark your calendar to visit the course page next week for instructions to get started.

Introduction to Blended Learning is one of three Special Topics courses that are part of the IDEAL Consortium’s member resources. The IDEAL Consortium, a project of the EdTech Center, brings together states interested in developing distance and blended education programs to meet the online learning needs of adult learners who need to study at a distance or wish to extend learning beyond the classroom. To learn more about the benefits of IDEAL Membership and to see if your state is a member, visit http://ideal.worlded.org.

But you don’t need to wait until Digital Learning Day to get started!

  • Visit our webinar archive to listen to Blended Learning in the Adult Education Classroom. This webinar explored questions such as: What is blended learning? Why could blended learning be useful to your adult education program? What are some different approaches to adding an online learning component? Participants are introduced to a new, free, online guide to the blended learning classroom, written by webinar presenter David J. Rosen and published by Essential Education.
  • Register for a facilitated online course!
    • Blended and Project-Based Learning
      March 7 – May 2, estimated completion time: 30 hours
      Can you remember how much fun it was to do a project for school – some of my fondest grade school memories were projects. If you haven’t been using project-based learning (PBL) in your classroom, join us to refresh your understanding of project-based learning, while exploring how it could be done in the context of a blending learning approach. Combining new technology tools with project-based learning allows teachers to introduce their classes to problem-solving tasks, enhance learners’ critical thinking, and improve students’ research and communication skill, leveraging both face-to-face and online learning options. Gather together your colleagues (learning is always more fun with a partner) and
      register today!
    • Blended Learning for English Language Learners 
      April 26 – May 23, estimated completion time: 12 hours
      Explore how and when to use blended learning to enhance your work with adult English language learners (ELLs). Investigate ways educators have structured their curricula to include one or more blended learning approaches. See examples of how blended learning can be implemented using the free USA Learns website as an example. Leave the course with a draft lesson that uses blended learning in either face-to-face or distance settings.
      Register today!

 

Using Smartphones with WhatsApp to Teach English

By Paul Rogers

Mobile devices, especially smartphones, are replacing laptops to the point that the students of any adult education class can access lessons online immediately, without depending on a computer at home or in the computer lab. In order to have a good understanding of how a teacher could include smart phones, we need to examine specific models. In this regard, I would like to share my own experience.

Almost by accident, I started depending more on the phone beginning nearly a year ago, when my ESL website, Pumarosa, became mobile friendly. I had begun study groups on my Facebook page, which is also mobile friendly, three years earlier for people to join to access lessons. I have three major groups: songs, pronunciation, and readings – stories, poems and essays. I also put lessons, texts and my YouTube videos on my WIX page, inglesconprofepabo.com.

Often I would post a lesson from Pumarosa and the WIX page on the Facebook groups, usually to answer questions, or to submit a lesson. Then, last year, some students suggested I form WhatsApp study groups. I created three different groups – Beginning, Intermediate and a Chat group. The response was incredible! The chat group was the most popular, and actually became addictive, until I realized I was spending a great deal of time on it, and decided to leave it, making a student the Administrator.

The success I have had with the use of smartphones has led me to the conclusion that we can solve a number of vexing problems in adult education. Those students who are not able to attend classes, for example, can now be included in a program.

woman using cell phone

My Program

First, my program is totally Informal and free. There is no registration or test to take. Most of my students are older adults who live and work in various Latin American countries. Everyone can access lessons on Pumarosa and my Wix page. And everyone is a member of my WhatsApp groups.

WhatsApp is a free downloadable app that allows the user to keep in contact with other WhatsApp users. Anyone can send texts, photos, videos, and audios and also make a call to someone personally – from anywhere in the world. It is fast and easy and free.
About one year ago I started three study groups, Beginner (mostly Spanish), Intermediate (mostly English) and a Chat group (90% English). People can write in Spanish or English. Membership varies, and right now there are about 30 in each group.

When I started my WhatsApp groups, I posted my “Rules”:

  1. Be polite – No making fun of anyone.
  2. Don’t worry about mistakes.
  3. Avoid discussions of politics and religion
  4. Ask questions

Usually I just need to remind people of the rules in case conversations get too ‘personal’. A good example of what happens can be seen in a session I had just before I wrote this. Several people from the Beginners’ group began by telling me about their day, and one said he was listening to some rock and roll songs. And then we started to chat about prepositions, so I sent a link from my Wix page. An Intermediate student had a question about the pronunciation of the past tense (..d, …t,…ed), so I sent her a link to Pumarosa Intermediate. I signed off telling everybody I had to write this paper for teachers, and they all wished me well!

At times I will post a link from Pumarosa that I call “Homework”, usually a grammar lesson. Or I will ask people to record something to practice their pronunciation.
But the main focus is on people’s questions. Often the sessions are lively, but sometimes there isn’t much participation. If students are interested in inviting friends to join, they can become Administrators.

I work out of my home, as an independent teacher. This year I am going to devote some time to promoting my program through articles like this with the intention of becoming affiliated with adult education agencies that would like to try my approach in their classes, especially in a distance learning course. It seems reasonable to assume that a smartphone/WhasApp addition to any class would increase its popularity, decrease the drop-out rate and accelerate learning.

Paul Rogers has been an ESL teacher for over 25 years and developed a bilingual and phonetic course which became the basis of PUMAROSA.COM, a free website for Spanish speaking adults, beginning in 2004. Pumarosa has been available for use on smartphones for about one year and Paul has been using and promoting the site as part of his program, working as an independent teacher, unaffiliated with any school or non-profit agency. You can reach Paul at pumarosa21@yahoo.com.

Getting Started with Virtual Reality in Adult Education

By Susan Gaer

students using Google Cardboard

Adult Education students at Santa Ana College School of Continuing Education using Google Cardboard to view 360 image.

Whether you teach English language learners or adult secondary education learners, you need to think about ways to integrate technology into the lesson. There are many technology integration matrices, such as SAMR, TPACK, and The Technology Integration Matrix from the Florida Center for Instructional Technology. However, all of them have in common the fact that integration is more than substitution of one technology for another. I have developed a lesson as a model of this type of integration. It creates an online model using Google Docs, Google Forms, and Thinglink along with audio and video. I hope that this model is something that other teachers can build on to make their own highly integrated lessons.

This lesson uses the concept of Google Hyperdocs. Hyperdocs are worksheets created in Google Docs, with 21st Century improvements. I have not included standards or rubrics because I think that this lesson is applicable for a variety of levels which would use different rubrics and standards.

I tried this activity in a high beginning ESL conversation class and it was very successful. I modeled it for students, then had them do it in pairs. Students were very excited to be able to take the task sheet home to practice it on their own outside the class.

task sheetMaterials and preparation

  • A Google account
  • Google Cardboard (it is not required but really makes the lesson much more amazing)
  • Duplicate all the documents from the task sheet to your own teacher account so you can monitor student performance.
  • You can use my Padlet account which is linked to the assignment sheet, or make your own.
  • Students should have a Quizlet account to do the bonus assignment.

Lesson steps

  1. Since this is probably the first time students have used virtual reality, you will need to do extensive modeling and scaffolding. Project the task sheet so that you can show the students how to move around.
  2. Show the students how to click around by taking them through each task and showing them how to use it. Note: The 360 photo is best viewed on a Google Cardboard. These can be purchased for $10.00 each. I have five for a class with five groups.
  3. Divide the students into groups. Each group should have one smartphone to view the VR section. All other sections can be done on a phone, tablet, or computer.
    Have them find the task sheet either on their phone, computer or tablet.
  4. Adult Education students at Santa Ana College School of Continuing Education using Google Cardboard to view 360 image.
  5. Once they get to the 360 section, it is possible to navigate it on a flat computer surface, however, Google Cardboard takes it into a whole new dimension. Viewing with the cardboard, puts the students into the image. As they move around holding the cardboard to their eyes, the image moves with them. As they move to the hotspots, it automatically opens a video or audio clip. Make sure to have them note that after they finish the 360 image they need to remove the phone from the cardboard and continue with the task sheet. This will teach students navigation basics.

Although this activity might seem daunting at first view, it’s worth trying as you and your students will both enjoy it!

 

Susan GaerSusan Gaer is a professor at Santa Ana College School of Continuing Education, one of the largest non-credit programs in the state of California. She has been there since 1994. In addition, she is one of the series consultants for Project Success published by Pearson. Currently, Susan is on the boards of both CATESOL and TESOL. She is also an Academic Senator and a member of the CAI (Common Assessment Initiative) for ESL. She is an avid user of technology and advocates for more use of technology by presenting at conferences both statewide and internationally.

 

Follow Tech Tips on Bloglovin

Looking Back at 2016

calendar

Before leaping into 2017 and exploring even more ways to use technology in education, let’s look back at the topics we explored in 2016.

Because so many of you have commented that video, and YouTube in particular, is one of your favorite uses of technology in the classroom, we devoted a whole series of posts on the topic exploring it from different angles. Other posts covered ideas for using online tools such as Google Docs, Facebook, and Padlet while still more posts explored ideas that could be implemented via a number of different online tools, such as website or resume making. Finally, a fourth group of posts looked at research or issues affecting the use of technology in education. In case you missed any of them the first time around, browse through the list below and find the topics that interest you!

thank youI’d like to take this opportunity as well to extend a special thank you to all the writers who contributed to Tech Tips for Teachers in 2016. Our field grows stronger from your hard work and your willingness to take the time to share your efforts and ideas. We hope to hear more from you in 2017!

If you haven’t contributed to the blog yet, but would like to, please contact me at lpeterson@worlded.org.

2016 Tech Tips for Teachers Posts

Using Video

Using Google

Other online tools

Issues and Considerations

Which topics spoke to you in 2016? And what do you look forward to exploring in 2017? Leave us your thoughts in the comments!

~ Leah Peterson, Assistant Director, EdTech Center

Mobilizing Adult Education

By Paul Rogers

two people textingThe use of mobile devices in adult education is an important addition to the tools used by students and teachers alike. With a mobile device, especially a smartphone, at any time any student can access lessons on the Internet, through Google, YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc. We have come a long way since Bill Gates began to champion the use of cell phones 8 years ago.

  • Adults who work and have families can more easily attend and participate in classes, especially distance learning classes.
  • To begin with, teachers at least can use smartphones to keep students notified, to answer questions and to send assignments.
  • The free smartphone app, WhatsApp, has grown tremendously in popularity and now teachers can also create WhatsApp study groups for each class, using it to post sites, tests, audios and videos, and teacher-designed lessons.
  • In addition, teachers can create free or nearly free class websites for the students – Wikispaces for teachers and WIX are two such sites which are accessible via WhatsApp.
  • Teachers can develop a YouTube account for their own video-lessons and utilize thousands of free lessons on YouTube posted by other teachers – accessible via smartphones.
  • Facebook allows anyone to create membership groups, which a teacher can develop to include lessons, notices, etc.

A program designed around the use of technology in general and mobile devices in particular could become very popular and more interesting to students, allowing for an increase in enrollment and a lower “drop-out” rate. And, in particular, students who have difficulty enrolling in courses due to work and family obligations would have an opportunity to continue their education in distance learning programs set up to meet their needs.

Paul Rogers has been an ESL teacher for over 25 years and developed a bilingual and phonetic course which became the basis of PUMAROSA.COM, a free website for Spanish speaking adults, beginning in 2004. Pumarosa has been available for use on smartphones for about one year and Paul has been using and promoting the site as part of his program, working as an independent teacher, unaffiliated with any school or non-profit agency.

Panel Summary: Leveraging Trends in Blended, Distance, and Mobile Learning

On November 14, 2016 The EdTech Center at World Education hosted a panel at NCTN’s Effective Transitions in Adult Education annual conference, which is dedicated to strengthening adult education’s capacity to ensure that adult learners have access to and success in the college, occupational training and career they need to earn a family-sustaining wage. The panel, entitled Leveraging Trends in Blended, Distance, and Mobile Learning (listen to the audio recording), was moderated by IDEAL Consortium Director, Jen Vanek and included the following panelists:

  • Simona Simpson, Director of Multiple Pathways for the Providence Public School District in Rhode Island;
  • Dr. David J. Rosen, President of Newsome Associates in Jamaica Plain, MA, editor of the COABE Journal Web Scan column, moderator of the LINCS Technology and Learning community of practice, and author of Blended Learning for the Adult Education Classroom;
  • Christopher Bourret, Lead Teacher/Program Coordinator with Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative (RIFLI) and Tech Coach for the RI Adult Education Professional Development Center; and
  • Joe Stubblefield, Director of Educational Technology for Arizona Department of Education, Adult Education Services.

panelists

Jen Vanek opened the discussion by introducing the tension between the relatively small fraction of adults being served by adult education programs and the enormous need for adults to improve their technology skills for entry to postsecondary education and training or to enter the workforce. She invited panelists to consider how distance, blended, or mobile learning has been leveraged in their current roles. For panelist Chris Bourret, it was the use of mobile learning in his program that stood out. In his experience, most students have mobile phones, even if they don’t know how to benefit from them, and there are many ways to leverage them in the classroom – from recording or filming themselves, taking quizzes, or simply downloading things to read. In Chris’ It changes how you teach. words: “It changes how you teach and it changes how they look at learning.” The changing role of the teacher and personalized learning was a theme amongst the other panelists as well. Joe Stubblefield echoed the perspective saying that teachers needed to learn how to present themselves more as facilitators or guides and give more ownership of learning back to the students. David Rosen added that the key is “comfort, competence, and confidence in using tech for learning” for learners and teachers to best be able to problem-solve using technology. And Simona Simpson added the importance of personalized learning and instruction for equality, accessibility and differentiation.

A theme in the panel was how to support distance learners. David Rosen introduced Peer-2-Peer University (P2PU), that gives learners a way to support each other in person while taking an online course. Chris Bourret added that in Rhode Island “Learning Lounges” have been set up for students who are taking online courses to be able to work together. Joe suggested using a Learning Management System (LMS) to support distance learners as well as taking advantage of online resources such as those listed below. Panelists discussed the need for increased prep time for teachers to keep up with demand for online materials as students get increasingly engaged.

Resources to connect with distance learners:

A significant portion of the panel discussion covered blended learning. Several speakers commented on the importance of connecting online and face-to-face instruction. Joe Stubblefield described efforts to accomplish this in AZ by training over 500 instructors to roll out statewide blended learning to 13,000 students. Topics covered included: how to use the LMS, possible support resources, and how to align both online and face-to-face learning with each other and with CCR Standards. Simona Simpson cautioned attendees to ensure acceptable use policies are in place if using devices in the classroom, and that expectations and consequences are clear. Finally, Joe Stubblefield suggested experimenting with and finding the right blended learning model (e.g., station rotation, flipped classroom, lab rotation, etc.) for different classroom contexts.

Another topic discussed was how to work around the issues created by lack of access to devices or high-speed internet. Libraries were listed as one resource for loaned hot spots and even devices, but teachers may need to get creative and make use of whatever’s available including: student phones, setting up classroom access, everyoneon.org/adulted, or setting up collaborations with local businesses to use their WIFI. To learn more about issues around digital access, National Digital Inclusion Allowance (NDIA) is an organization you may be interested in following.

Professional development resources:

Listen to the audio recording of Leveraging Trends in Blended, Distance, and Mobile Learning, share a highlight or leave us your thoughts in the comments.
~ Leah Peterson, Assistant Director, EdTech Center

Tech Tips for Teachers has Moved!

moving boxesAfter four years comfortably located on Weebly.com, Tech Tips for Teachers has moved over to the EdTech Center Website where we plan to continue to grow with more of the hands-on ideas for integrating technology into adult education that you’re accustomed to, updates from the field, and best practices. Past posts will continue to be available at the old site. To make sure that you are notified when there are new posts, add yourself to our mailing list: