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Focus On Basics

Volume 4, Issue C ::: December 2000

Welcome to Focus on Basics

Dear Readers,

In this issue, we look at how a number of adult basic education (ABE) programs are using technology. Certain themes emerge. In contrast to the stereotype of computers creating fixated social misfits, programs that include computers in their instruction find that users build community as they help each other navigate the hard- and software. Technology also allows learners to be teachers, sharing their proficiencies both with other learners and with the teacher. And, access to the World Wide Web can expand learners' worlds.

Of course, not all programs are using technology successfully. Jeri Levesque writes about the obstacles ABE programs must navigate in incorporating technology. Jennifer G. Cromley examines the research literature on computer-assisted instruction, providing tips on how to ensure that computer use enhances learning. In a conversation with Ron Stammen, we're reminded that teachers need on-going support as they attempt to bring technology into the classroom.

Providing instruction in computer use helped one Vermont program attract and retain learners, explain Ralph Silva and Walter Wallace in their article. Steve Quann and Diana Satin write about how their learners also enjoyed computer instruction, particularly when given opportunities to practice English as they learned to navigate the technology.

Calculators are another form of technology. G. Andrew Page shares with us his strategies for introducing calculator use in an ABE program. Maura Donnelly struggled with her class's embrace of a more complicated technology: building a web site. Read about what her class did, then visit their web site at  

Now that you're on the Web, how will you choose a site to use with your class? Emily Hacker provides some suggestions. In East Texas, incorporating a computer lab into the program's main site and using lap tops to take technology to remote classrooms meant that volunteers and learners could start their ABE activities immediately, as reported by Kelley Snowden.

Thanks to Janet Smith of the National Center on Adult Literacy for creating what we hope will become a handy, computer-side reference: an overview of technology-based projects and resources for ABE.

While many adult basic education institutions and teachers have embraced technology as an integral part of their programs, many still lag behind. Whether cost, space, capacity, or philosophy is the barrier, programs that fail to provide their learners with at least an introduction to technology are doing them a disservice. We hope that this issue of Focus on Basics serves as a nudge in the right direction by encouraging programs to enable their learners to span the digital divide.


Barbara Garner

Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL