Learning Upgrade: XPrize Semi-Finalist Leveraging Big Data

By Alison Ascher Webber

Woman using cell phone

One of the newly announced semi-finalists in the Adult Literacy XPrize competition is Learning Upgrade, a mobile app that teaches through songs, videos, games, and rewards. Learning Upgrade has helped over 1 million students make learning breakthroughs in English and math since 1998, but its focus on adult learning is new. I recently spoke with CEO, Vinod Lobo, to learn about their transition to adult education and how they are utilizing big data to provide differentiated instruction.

Lobo explained that their shift to adult learning happened organically after parents of students in ESL education programs in California asked for their own access. Of 200 children enrolled in Learning Upgrade at a migrant program in Pomona, parents from 160 of the families asked for their own access – to use on their phones!

Another early successful pilot with adults was with the Somali Bantu association bringing basic English literacy to Somali Bantu refugees who could not read in their native languages. A short video features their use of Learning Upgrade in computer labs, but the real excitement came when students realized they could also study on their phones anytime, anywhere. “You should have seen the excitement in their eyes!,” said Lobo when he first showed them how to access the app on their phones and clarified for them that yes, they could now study anywhere, anytime – at 6 a.m. or midnight, or even all day!

Recently the San Diego Public Library’s READ/San Diego literacy program has started enrolling learners waiting for a tutor into the Learning Upgrade app. Learners can master the fundamentals so that when they are matched to a tutor, they can make accelerated progress. Also, the tutor has access to detailed assessment data useful to tailor their instruction.

Sweetwater Adult Education in Chula Vista, California has become another champion of Learning Upgrade, where ESL instructor Lisa Wilson-Sharmann is one of many teachers using a blended model for integrating Learning Upgrade into her classes. In class, she projects lessons for the class to review and do activities together as shown in this video, while she also tracks student use on their own phones outside of class so she can provide students with individualized help as needed.

Especially exciting to me is seeing how Learning Upgrade analyzes big data from their Learning Management System (LMS) to predict certain learning challenges students may have. Explains Lobo, “A data point in addition to correct or incorrect answers that we use as an indicator of struggle is how long it takes students to complete certain questions or tasks. Having trained millions of students, we can now predict from students’ learning patterns if they might have certain challenges such as dyslexia or if English is not their first language.”

Lobo explained that this data allows Learning Upgrade to provide more customized supports to learners depending on their needs. Instead of putting students who score in a specified range on a standardized assessment into one remedial class, Learning Upgrade’s data allows their program to provide differentiated instruction.

Lobo said, “We’ve had 11th graders reading at the 3rd grade level have great success once they got just 15 hours of more explicit instruction on their specific gaps. These youth actually got upset wondering why they did not receive this type of instruction at an earlier age, realizing that this was all they had needed to make a huge breakthrough in their reading.”

As I follow XPrize’s field testing of mobile apps over the next year, I will be paying attention to how Learning Upgrade’s use of data for providing differentiated instruction helps learners in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Dallas make their own reading breakthroughs.

How to Bring Life to an Empty Computer Lab

By Sarah Bell

The Problem:
What do you do when students aren’t attending your computer classes? That was the problem we faced at Literacy KC in Kansas City, Missouri. Literacy KC works with adults 16 and older who need help with their literacy skills. They range from needing foundational reading help to being at a 10th grade reading level. Despite having a computer lab right outside the classroom, most of our students didn’t want to stick around for a computer class. When I talked to students about why they weren’t coming, I often heard one of two things: they were scared or unsure of the device, or they could not see the relevance of computers to their lives. I realized that in order to get our students to stop being scared and to understand the relevance of computers, I had to bring digital instruction to them.

The Solution:
I decided to make computers part of the reading and writing classes through digital push-in lessons. These lessons are short, 30-40 minutes, and focus on a relevant, tangible skill or activity for students. Over the course of a term, students set up and sent an email to their instructor, practiced typing, and learned how to do a reliable search online. The lessons were part of their class time, but they also fit into the instructor’s broader lesson plans. By making digital one component of literacy instruction, our students were able to understand its relevance. By working with computers multiple times throughout a term, students became less scared about using the device and wanted to learn more about computers.

I used 5 steps in order to ensure these lessons would be a success.

Computer lab with teacher

Step 1: Get buy in. Think about who the stakeholders are that you will need to involve. Are they the classroom instructors? The Program Director? To get our classroom instructors on board with these lessons and to convince them to give me some of their valuable instruction time, I demonstrated the relevance of digital literacy by connecting the computer lesson to their established curriculum and plans. I had to reinforce that when we teach literacy in the 21st century, digital needs to be part of the instruction, not something that is taught separately.

Step 2: Create a schedule. How often can you teach these lessons without being too disruptive to the established program? I determined that visiting each class once a month would be the perfect balance to keep computers regularly in front of students without disrupting too much classroom time. Whatever schedule you come up with, make sure you get it to the stakeholders well in advance.

Step 3: Design the lessons. This is probably the most difficult step. What kinds of lessons will appeal to different skill levels, goals, and priorities – but are also short and relevant to a variety of people? Whether the lesson is sending an email or filling out an electronic form, the important thing to remember is to keep the lessons relevant and engaging. Make sure students complete an action or understand how to apply the skills they learn to a specific task.

Sample Lesson: Important Keyboard Keys and Overview (PDF); Keyboard Keys (PowerPoint)

Step 4: Teach the lessons. Because you might have students with a variety of skill levels, it is important to try to have individualized support if possible. Conveniently, each literacy class I visited had volunteer tutors, so I had a built-in support system for students. But even if you do not have volunteers at your disposal, you can encourage more advanced students to help others. You should also have a set of resources and websites to direct students to who finish early or do not seem to be connecting to the lesson.

Step 5: Evaluate the lessons. Finally, it is important that you evaluate the success of these lessons. Unlike other aspects of my program, I created these digital push-in lessons without prior feedback from students. Because of that I needed to make sure the lessons were meeting students’ needs and goals. You should also get feedback from any instructor or volunteer who helped with or observed the lessons.

Conclusion:
At Literacy KC, we recognize that literacy is a multifaceted issue. Reading and comprehending text, using pen and paper to develop writing skills, and teaching the importance of grammar and mechanics are all essential parts of what we do in the classroom. But when we consider the skills our students need to compete in our 21st-century society, digital literacy is as essential. It must be part of what we teach in the classroom. As our students got more comfortable using computers through the push-in lessons and through increased visits to the lab, we saw their confidence rise. More students visit the lab before and after their classes, they no longer walk right by. We have seen more students apply for jobs online, purchase their own computers, join social media, send emails, and so much more. By embedding digital skills instruction into the classroom and supporting them in our lab, we are helping our students acquire all the skills they need.

Sarah originally joined Literacy KC as an instructor in May 2015. In December 2015, she became the Digital Inclusion Fellow, part of a national fellowship sponsored by Google Fiber to help bridge the digital divide. As the Digital Inclusion Fellow, Sarah believes digital skills cannot be separated from discussions of literacy in our technology-driven 21st-century society. She is also working on her PhD in History from the University of Kansas and has a passion for education and making information accessible.

 

Keeping Career Training Current: Technology at Hacienda La Puente

By Alison Ascher Webber

In the “Inside California Education” short documentary on Hacienda La Puente Adult Education, autoshop instructor Mike Rojas shows computer software used to teach students how to build and test electrical circuits in a simulated environment before they ever touch real circuit boards.

Intrigued by this example, I asked Hacienda La Puente Adult Education what strategies it uses to keep more than 365 training programs current with rapidly evolving technologies. EdTech Center partner, John Fleischman, who helped produce the segment for KVIE TV, introduced me to Matthew Smith, Director of Career & Technology for Hacienda La Puente.

“Technology has us on our toes,” affirmed Smith as he described the financial and pedagogical challenges of keeping their trainings current. Building on Rojas’ example, Smith explained how auto-shop instructors now need to teach how to run the computer programs behind cars’ electronic systems. Smith then shared the two most important strategies they at Hacienda La Puente, California’s second largest vocational and adult education campus:

  1. Ongoing training of teachers: Smith emphasized the importance of providing continuous training of teachers so that they can stay up to date on industry trends and new technologies. He gave the example of appliance repair, an industry in which instructors used to focus on teaching things like re-siding the door of a refrigerator. But now, Smith said, almost all appliances run on chips that regulate eight or more controls. This means that instructors must now have the digital skills to master and teach the new systems. He also shared how their professional development includes cross-departmental meetings on technology bringing together instructors in industries ranging from welding and culinary arts to business, pharmacy, dental and healthcare careers. They share the technology tools and instruction strategies and identify opportunities to share the cost of technology investments across departments.
  2. Employers on the Advisory Board: Smith underscored the critical role corporations such as Pet Boys, LG Electronics and Cisco Foods have in advising Hacienda La Puente staff on how their industries are shifting. Industry leaders advise on curriculum and technology purchasing. Employer partnership has also helped lessen some of the expense as all of the appliances and much of the other equipment used in training are donated by the corporations. Most importantly, close corporate partnership is essential for lining up jobs for their students upon graduation. That’s the end game for Smith, who shares in the video the goal of moving families in communities affected by poverty into better living situations through living wages.

Do you Kahoot? Gamification for Learner Engagement

By Grazia Mora

Kahoot! can make class fun while helping teachers check for understanding. Finding ways to make our classes at Building Skills Partnership (BSP) engaging is essential as our students are immigrant janitors across California who often juggle multiple jobs, attend class tired having slept few hours, and are less comfortable with formal classroom instruction.

Through this game-based student-response tool, Sandy Cutshall, our Citizenship teacher in Mountain View, helps students practice the 100 Civics questions. Every week, she creates multiple 10-question quizzes and uses them to help students measure their readiness for the interview. With suspenseful music and instant scoreboards, Kahoot! keeps learners engaged in the activity. At the end, both the teacher and students can identify topics or questions that need further review. Our students are excited to play the game every week and enjoy reviewing what they know in a playful, competitive way.

Grazia Mora with a student.

Grazia Mora with a student.

Students with tablets

Photos courtesy of BSP.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To play Kahoot! in class, our students use tablets, and the teacher has access to a projector and an active Internet connection. These requirements have made it difficult to expand to all of BSP’s worksite classes. However with the prices for mobile projectors (that connect to cellphones) and mobile WiFi hotspots dropping daily, we may be running Kahoot! competitions in all our classes soon.

It is very easy to create quizzes on Kahoot! Teachers can create an account for free at www.getkahoot.com and create their own quiz in less than 10 minutes. To play a game, students go to a different website: http://kahoot.it and enter in the game pin.  Teachers can also use hundreds of ready made quizzes created by others and available on the public Kahoot! menu.

 

Sample Kahoot! civics question by Sandy Cutshall

Sample Kahoot! civics question by Sandy Cutshall

Kahoot! has recently added a picture database with Getty images for use in creating or editing quizzes. Susan Gaer, EdTech Center Partner and Kahoot! enthusiast from the Santa Ana College of Continuing Education, has her low literacy ESL students use the Getty images to create their own Kahoot! games for each other. She has posted a new YouTube video showing her students how to open a Kahoot! account. Additionally, her past Tech Tip post offers a step by step guide for using Kahoot! To witness how much fun adults learners can have on Kahoot!, check out minute 51 of Susan’s OTAN training video, “Mobile Devices in Adult Education: Mobile Apps”.

Grazia Mora is Curriculum and Digital Literacy Coordinator for Building Skills Partnership (BSP), a statewide labor-management training program between the SEIU-USWW union and leading building service employers and clients across California.

Digital Literacy: Consume, Create, Curate!

 

Nell EckersleyEdTech Partner Nell Eckersley gave adult educators a compelling “Call to Action” to go beyond consuming technology and become ambassadors for curating and creating information online. Read on for a synopsis of her keynote speech given at OTAN’s annual Technology & Distance Learning Symposium Conference held this Spring in Anaheim, CA.

 

In this time of challenges for adult education programs, one positive thing is that WIOA actually includes a useful definition for Digital Literacy: “The skills associated with using technology to enable users to find, evaluate, organize, create, and communicate information” (Museum and Library Services Act of 2010). I would contend that in adult literacy programs we have always been working to help our students to develop skills to find, evaluate, organize, create, and communicate information. Now we are must think about how technology can be used to support these skills.

When we talk about technology and digital literacy today we are talking about information and communication technology. And while for many of us the struggle at first is access to hardware and internet, and figuring out how to get our devices to do our bidding, once those hurdles are taken care of the real work is in how we deal with all the information coming through our devices. When I ask how many people have ever watched a YouTube video or read a Wikipedia entry, usually everyone raises their hand. But when I ask how many people have ever created their own video and posted it on YouTube or edited or created a Wikipedia entry, the numbers go down dramatically. And then if I ask how many people have created a playlist in YouTube or developed a system for saving bookmarks on their computers, the numbers are low again. We are generally pretty strong in our consuming of information via technology, but for many creating and curating are not skills that are practiced.

If teachers are creating with technology, they often think that they have to be the creators and the students are the consumers. But one of the most powerful aspects of the technology today is that students can be creators too. They can make the YouTube video, the Google quiz, the blog post. For students to create using technology is not only powerful as a way for them to demonstrate learning but also for them to gain skills that they will need in their careers and post-secondary education.

My call to action is for adult education teachers to deepen and broaden their own skills around consuming, creating and curating information online, to be ambassadors for their colleagues to help them also find what is useful and exciting about using technology in instruction, and for teachers to support student digital literacy skill development and practice.

 

 

Watch the full speech: 

Google Quizzes

By Alison Ascher Webber 

Many of you may already use Google Forms as a survey tool or to pose questions to check for student comprehension. Now formative assessment is all the faster as Google has added the feature of Quizzes to Google Forms. Student responses can be automatically compiled and graded, saving teachers hours of repetitive grading. Teachers can also select correct answers and even enter explanations and review materials for when a student gets an answer wrong.

To use the Quizzes features within Google Forms, click on the Settings button in the top right (the circular gear icon), and choose Quizzes. This short video tutorial by Shawn Beard at The Techy Coach also walks you through the process.



Badging in Action: Becoming a Tech Integration Coach in Texas

Apprentice badgeTo catalyze the use of technology in workforce and adult education instruction across Texas, the Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning, TRAIN PD, at Texas A&M launched in April a 7-level badge program for certifying Technology Integration Coaches. Badges 1 and 2 cover basic digital literacy aligned to the ISTE Standards for students and include Northstar Digital Literacy Assessments. Starting at Level 3, participants start to receive training to be Tech Integration Coaches and must complete 10-12 activity badges per level on training and mentoring their peers.

“We’ve come to the realization that while a teacher can participate in a face to face training and be all excited about the content, there’s really no way we can confirm that they’ve actually implemented what they learned back in their classroom. Having a Tech Integration Coach at each local program to coach and guide teachers will make a huge impact on how effective the training was on student success in the classroom.”

— Deb Hargrove, Director of PD, Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning

Serving a large state with diverse urban and rural areas, the Texas Workforce Commission is focused on developing local leadership. As John Gilbert Stevenson with Adult Education and Literacy at the Commission said: “We’re using the coaching model to build local capacity so we develop experts out in the field all across Texas, not just here in Austin. This is a model we’re using also for other statewide projects, including career pathways mentors, distance learning mentors and instructional coaches for content standards implementation. We want to know that our teachers can rely on local resources for the support and training they need.”

Journeyman badge“Having programs and teachers not integrating technology into instruction is just not an option any more. Badging offers a fun and scalable way to develop Technology Integration Coaches.”

— Glenda Rose, PD Specialist and Project Chief Designer, Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning

This effort is in its infancy, but project leads are happy to provide more information. Contact Debra Hargrove at debrahargrove@tamu.edu or post your thoughts and questions in the comments.

Texas is a member of the IDEAL Consortium, a project of the EdTech Center at World Education. Glenda Rose and AnneMarie Molinari will be representing Texas at this year’s summer Institute where they will be presenting on their badging system. Additionally, Debra Hargrove is a partner of the EdTech Center. Subscribe to our newsletter to get updates about the work our partners are doing to benefit from technology in their states. 

Facing the Tech Revolution in Adult Education

By Alison Ascher Webber

Marcus Shingles, CEO of XPRIZE Foundation

Marcus Shingles, CEO of XPRIZE Foundation. Photo courtesy of XPRIZE Foundation

In the closing speech at COABE 2017, XPRIZE Foundation CEO Marcus Shingles gave a wake-up call to adult educators warning that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will change learning at speeds and in ways we could never imagine.

Showing a chart similar to Ray Kurzweil’s on the growth of computing, he illustrated how digital technologies develop exponentially.

Exponential Growth of Computing Chart

Courtesy of Ray Kurzweil and Kurzweil Technologies, Inc. (en:PPTExponentialGrowthof_Computing.jpg) [CC BY 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Their biggest impacts occur relatively overnight and tend to blindside whole industries. Whereas it took 100 years of technological advancement for $1,000 to be able to buy the computational power of an insect, the speed of change nowadays is mind-boggling. That same $1,000 will soon buy the power of one human brain. In the next 25 years, $1,000 will likely buy one billion times more power than all human brains combined.

How can we as educators even start to imagine ways to incorporate such computational power into our teaching? This morning I’ve just begun processing how we might use the new Augmented Reality tools Facebook announced today for our phones – and eventually to be projected onto our glasses and retinas. Increasingly, this computing power will merge with other technologies such as nanotechnology, robotics, and genomics, and eventually even merge into our own bodies. Technology will dramatically change what we and our students do (our work) as well as who we are (our identities).

A bit shaken by Marcus’ speech, I checked in with Shlomy Kattan, leader of the The Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE, an app development competition for literacy instruction. I asked what he would say to me and other adult educators feeling overwhelmed. He responded, “Rather than being terrified and frozen by the speed and scale at which technology will change education, we can take action to harness these exponential technologies for the social good – to increase access to education and accelerate learning for the world’s most vulnerable populations.”

Shlomy’s call to action proved comforting to me – perhaps because it aligns so much with the mission of our EdTech Center at World Education. It also addressed the biggest needs I see in our field – to extend learning to those we currently don’t serve and improve learning, opportunities and outcomes for those we do.

But perhaps most reassuring was the optimism he and Marcus shared after meeting adult educators from all over the country at COABE. They both felt that the fact that new technologies have not yet made their way into many adult education classrooms doesn’t mean that adult educators don’t have what it takes to harness their power. On the contrary, they were impressed with adult educators’ openness and creativity.  

Again Shlomy’s words gave me comfort. He is right. We do adapt constantly. We use our creativity daily to meet the unique and changing needs of each of our students. We adjust to the shifting needs of our communities. And technology can enable us to do this even better.

Trying out Apps

Photo courtesy of XPRIZE Foundation, Trevor Traynor

It is an exciting time to be an adult educator. There are few things about which we can be certain, but one is that we’ve got a wild road ahead. We’re going to need the collective power of all of our minds to help navigate the upcoming speeds, curves and bumps. Now more than ever we need to collaborate and advocate to ensure new technologies help close skills and other divides rather than deepen them. Please share with us at the EdTech Center your successes and failures, your ideas and concerns, and opportunities for advocacy in leveraging new technologies to advance adult learning.

Alison Ascher Webber is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the EdTech Center at World Education. You can contact her at alison_webber@worlded.org. Read more about Alison and the EdTech team. 

 

Coding Clubs for Adult Learners

By Karisa Tashjian

In the past ten months, our team at Providence Public Library (PPL) in Providence, Rhode Island, has been repeatedly reminded to never underestimate the potential that lies in each of us. As my colleague, Don Gregory, Technology Instructor at PPL, likes to say, “we are polishing diamonds.” Since launching our beginning software coding “Rhode Coders” Clubs, we are witnessing first-hand the unique and powerful ways that each of our minds tackles problems and develops solutions.

Our Rhode Coders Clubs are free for any adult with an interest or curiosity about software coding. We don’t have any prerequisites – no entry language level, no prior skills. Our goal is to foster exploration of the world of computer science without the barriers of cost, fear, or lack of knowledge. We teach the basic steps of coding with a focus on Web apps. Participants increase their vocabulary and language about coding, explore possible career paths, learn the various usages and purposes of coding/programming, increase their analytical and logical thinking skills and join a support community of learning around coding.

RI CodersThe Rhode Coders Club model was designed by Don and RIFLI ESL Teacher, Larry Britt. Participants get to try web and game development programming in a fun and collaborative environment. We have now run five cohorts and 75 adults have participated in these ten-week sessions. The Clubs meet once a week for an hour and a half. 40% of the participants have been women. Rhode Coders have ranged in age from 18 to 64. We have non-native English speakers who are part of the group and supported by an ESL teacher. The ESL teacher provides language support as needed, however, we have found that coding is a “universal language” and learners catch on quickly.

We now offer two levels – a “Web Basics” section which focuses on HTML and CSS basics. There is also a “Scripting Basics” section which focuses on JavaScript basics and, if time permits, an introduction to Python. Don has developed a 20-week curriculum that includes use of Mozilla’s Thimble IDE, Codecademy.com and w3schools.com. A typical session includes warm-up logic puzzles, followed by some direct instruction on a particular coding topic and ends with time for participants to work on individual projects. Each 10-week session concludes with participants sharing their projects.

RI CodersRhode Coders has caught the attention of our state’s workforce development system as it fills a gap between the need for more coders and the lack of skilled workers for these positions. We have partnered with TechHire Rhode Island which is “a network that connects employers seeking IT talent with Rhode Islanders who possess unique backgrounds and can get the job done.” TechHire is an initiative “powered by Opportunity@Work in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, [and] is a nationwide, community-based movement that helps underrepresented and overlooked job seekers start technology careers.” TechHire is now located in 72 communities in the United States. We also partner with LaunchCode and other structured coding programs to help Rhode Coders seamlessly enter these programs. We have had six Rhode Coders enter these more formal programs.

 

“Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer … because it teaches you how to think.” ~ Steve Jobs

 

Not everyone who joins a Rhode Coders Club does so with the intention of pursuing coding as a career. While we do link participants who embrace coding to “next steps,” we have found that some Rhode Coders just want to know what this “coding thing” is all about. In the past year, our Governor has set the goal to have Computer Science (CS) taught in every Rhode Island public school by December 2017. She launched CS4RI which is a coalition approach that combines  “national leadership with homegrown talent to reduce barriers to providing quality computer science education and professional development, and will bring CS learning opportunities to all Rhode Island schools in the years ahead.” At PPL, the opportunities for adults to learn about coding help to prevent or decrease another type of digital divide: parents needing to be aware of CS as their children learn coding. PPL has also launched an afterschool Rhode Coders 2.0 Club for teens where they earn .5 high school credit.

We have found that public libraries, adult education organizations and other community organizations are especially well suited to offering coding. Rhode Coders is now offered at three other libraries in RI with plans to expand to 4-6 more as well as a public housing development.

We welcome inquiries about our program. We can be reached at Karisa Tashjian, Director of Education, ktashjian@provlib.org; Don Gregory, Technology Instructor, dgregory@provlib.org and Larry Britt, ESL Instructor, lbritt@provlib.org.

 

Karisa Tashjian serves as the Director of Education for the Providence Public Library and the Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative. Karisa is a member of the Rhode Island Department of Education’s Technology Advisory Committee for Adult Education, a board member of the New England Literacy Resource Center and a partner of the EdTech Center.

 

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.