Practical Facilitation

computer literacy

I don't want you to think I left my learner without any support. In fact, I showed her how Spybot Search and Destroy works. (Her description of the computer's problems suggested adware, not a virus.) Then, I sat by her and talked her through the steps of opening google, navigating to the right Majorgeeks page, and downloading Spybot. Once the installation program was on the desktop, I walked her through the initial set-up steps.

Next, we deleted the program and, this time, I sat and watched her download Spybot. I answered her questions, but otherwise waited and watched.

The third time through, she located and downloaded Spybot on her own. Even so, she practiced doing it three or four more times before expressing confidence that she could do it at home. That's okay. In my class, we take all the time we need.

The next day, during my morning class, I did some learning of my own.

I downloaded and read Clare Strawn's report "The Relationship Between Literacy Proficiency And The Digital Divide Among Adults With Low Education Attainment." It's... a beginning? (But are we really still at beginnings here?)

Look, I should say upfront that I'm a bit annoyed by the whole premise of Portland State Unv's Longitudinal Study of Adult Learning project. A 2007 (?) introductory statement on their website declares:

Adults with limited formal education, who left high school for what ever reason, are most in need of opportunity and encouragement for continued learning. However, the field of adult education has been limited by a lack of research about literacy development during adulthood that would serve to facilitate lifelong learning for this population.

No. The field of adult education has not been limited by a lack of research about literacy development. It has been limited by poor resource allocation at many levels, and by a chronic confusion between facilitating simple skill-learning and nurturing socio-psychological development and healing. For example Exemplary Practice In Manitoba: Models of Quality in Literacy Programming is a splendid 13-year old overview of models and practices that work very well. This was just one of a score of studies and reports that allowed a federal body in Canada to conclude, "Experience suggests how to design and deliver quality adult literacy programs, but conditions do not always exist to allow that to happen consistently or systematically" (Lessons Learned). So, no. More research is not what's needed.

And, no, "research" does not "facilitate lifelong learning". Sometimes it facilitates policy. Mostly, it facilitates research. Adult literacy and basic adult education facilitators "facilitate lifelong learning for this population."

Anyway, here's a bit more from the .pdf file, pp. 21-22. According to her findings (or her reading of the findings):
Literacy proficiency is an important component of fluency with technology [and] ... explains most of the variance in functional computer knowledge. Literacy proficiency... makes more learning and troubleshooting resources available.
That's interesting, and not self-evident (the first part, anyway). I'm a little skeptical since the availability of resources to the better educated population doesn't appear to result in more effective troubleshooting.
Questions about ... whether computer practices improve basic literacy in this population need to be investigated.
I'd rather say "how" than "whether", but maybe I'm being a bit Pollyanna myself.
There is room for improvement for making adult education programs gateways for entering the world of technology.
Thanks, Clare. That's a pretty polite way of putting it.
[Lack] of evidence suggests that, as in elementary and secondary education, the integration of technology into adult education may face other contextual challenges (Cuban, 2001).
Really? Well, that just makes me want to read the L. Cuban book Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom (2001, Cambridge: Harvard University Press).
Integrating technology into adult learning involves development of content, research into best practices, policy alignment and infrastructure investment in addition to educator development (Askov, et. al., 2003).
Well.... Probably not. That sounds like the same kind of researcher / committee work that, frankly, hasn't gotten anybody very far.

Which brings me back to where I started.

If we're going to do it - make computer skills and knowledge part of the support we offer adult learners - then we need to do it. We need to do it, watch what happens, and then do it better.

We. Us. In the classroom or the kitchen or the community library.

We need to find out what our learners want to do with computers. Then, we need to sit beside them, talk them through things, answer their questions, and give them time.

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