Basic Adult Education 2.0

It's getting near that time again - the close of the Winter program - when I look back to see what the hell I've been at for 8 months. I've noted that this year, with updated computers and improved internet access, my classes and I have made even greater use of our computers and online resources.

Email remains a basic internet service almost any learner will find useful, even if they lack in-home internet service. This past year, I helped eight learners set up an email account for the first time. I've helped many others learn about managing folders, attachments and contact information.

Some of my learners have used their emails to stay in touch during vacation breaks or over short leaves. Some use email (or Facebook messaging) as an alternative to calling in when they are unable to attend. I've used it to send web links to online services and learning games, and to send and receive attached documents for at-home assignments.

Email provides opportunity for responsive journal writing: where once facilitator and learner would write back and forth in a learner's journal, they can now exchange emails. This provides opportunity to discuss word-use, grammar and spelling, as well as email etiquette and related problem solving. I've also helped learners use their email to contact schools, employers and government agencies.

Facebook, the premier social networking service, recently counted its 200 millionth user. Being on Facebook is a clear example of taking part in the dominant culture, one of the goals of most adult literacy learners. Although I have also helped learners navigate Multiply, Tagged and Windows live Spaces, most of my learners have requested help with Facebook.

Helping learners with Facebook means helping them learn to fill in forms and navigate the site's security and privacy settings. It means helping them understand and make choices about applications, spam and on-line consumption. These skill-sets have use beyond Facebook, and each counts as part of what it means to be computer literate.

This year, so far, four pre-GED learners have successfully used the internet to secure employment. In two of those instances, learners came to my program specifically for this kind of help.

Learners often need help using the job bank and, sometimes, choosing which job bank to use. I have also helped learners with writing email "cover-letters" and learning how to create and store an online resume. This skill-set will become increasingly important as more employers require "application by email only."

Meanwhile, other uses we have found for the computers include: using Google Earth to understand geography, geology and seasonal changes; accessing English-language newspapers from around the world; watching web-hosted video clips of Canadian and world history; finding facts, names and dates through online reference tools.

In the “Web 2.0” world, being a wise computer user requires many additional skill-sets, including knowing how to keep anti-virus and anti-adware applications up to date, knowing how and when to updating other kinds of software, and knowing when to say "no" to online solicitation. Sometimes learners will also need to make basic purchasing decisions, choose between internet service providers and service plans, and know when and how to disconnect.

These are all things I feel able to help them with now that adult literacy and basic adult education has come to include basic computer and internet skills and information.

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