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.

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

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