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I’ve been working to support both learners and teachers the field of adult basic education better use technology to support learning. My motivation for this work is what I recognize in the disparity in technology use and access between people educated, well-employed people and most ABE learners. We’re living in a tech-rich world where people with means and know-how leverage it to gain access to knowledge, support academic goals, gain employment, and efficiently handle life tasks. Most of our learners don’t use technology is this way, nor do a great number of their teachers.
The status quo further exacerbates inequity stemming from other places. To mitigate this reality, we need to transition our learners to more intuitive use of technology. That means first giving them access to well-developed quality and level-appropriate online learning. When accessed in a supportive environment, this sort of learning will help them develop skills needed to succeed academically, and perhaps begin to turn to online resources in other contexts.
If this is to happen, online learning needs to be very carefully constructed. Although it is possible for most any ABE student to learn online if given proper balance amongst skill, support, and the environment (Silver-Pacquilla and Reder, 2008), I think much more time and resources can be devoted to that learning if the environment is great.
Yang and Cornelius (2005) write that online instructors need to be instructional designers. The work, then, starts with use of a sound Content Management System (CMS), one with intuitively designed affordances provided to enable collaborative e-learning. Here’s a short list of what I’d want in a CMS:
Flexible and easy to manipulate navigation and page management
Flexible permission and role assignment
Healthy support community and prompt fee-based tech support (if needed)
Generally easy to use:
- Easily customizable
- Site set up wizard
- Drag-n-drop content
- Image resizing
- Wysiswyg editor
- Only very limited coding required, if any at all.
Useful, built-in applications that support collaboration/interaction
- Document manager
- My page
- Photo gallery
- Quiz/test maker
- Site search
Without such affordances I can’t image developing an inviting collaborative learning environment. My ability to creatively use them will, of course, matter more. I need to make a space where learners are enticed to stay awhile and return soon – one with clear, well organized pages, minimal text, easy navigation, and the possibility of collaboration. Tall order!
Silver-Pacquilla, H., & Reder, S. (2008). Investigating the language and literacy skills required for independent online learning. Washington DC.
Yang, Y., Development, W., & Cornelious, L. F. (2005). Preparing instructors for quality online instruction. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, VIII(1), 1–15.