Tuesday, October 15, 2019

TABE and CASAS Extend CCRS from HSE to ABE, but What About EFLs and MSGs?

The title of this post may look like alphabet soup, but that's no excuse for confusion. We've been here before.  The GED was followed by the HiSET and TASC back in 2014, resulting in CCRS aligned tests for all adults seeking HSE credentials in the USA.  However, that higher level of rigor was mostly felt by the adult learners and their teachers who were working at the 8-12th grade reading level.  Now, adult basic education students are being held to the higher standards of problem solving skills than ever before. So, how do educators cope? How do learners continue measurable skill gains (MSGs)?

Highest Common Denominator

These tests are bound to be harder.  Early reports are that students are being bumped down a level and have to raise themselves back up.  If that weren't hard enough, they have to show improvement in areas they haven't been studying before and attain skills that teachers may not be accustomed to teaching.  The TABE 11/12 and CASAS GOALS tests are supposed to measure the same skills as the three HSE test options, which is a silver lining in all of this, because the field has been wanting this allignment (or common denominator, if you will).  The problem for teachers is that it's a higher level of rigor across the board.  ABE students will need to learn complex problem solving strategies that were previously reserved for HSE students.  That means gains could be harder to attain. 

How to ensure gains: One learner at a time

New problems call for new solutions, not the same old approach to teaching and learning.  The TABE/CASAS tests present new problems, but luckily we are in a time of instructional innovation.  The standard classroom approach is now much more malleable, both by teachers and learners.  Based Teachers can create their own hybrid approaches that blend old-school and new-school instruction and practice.  The determining factor is mostly the teacher's aptitude and attitude towards technology and their ability to utilize additional planning and support time for their students' distance learning efforts.  Learners can also speak up in their process and have some say about the mix of hands-on and edtech experiences they're leaning on in their preparation.  So, both teachers and students need to make sure they get the most appropriately blended learning experience to be truly individualized to the learners' needs.   

When in doubt, innovate

Recycled products and approaches are the problem.  Let's be clear about that.  What worked on the old test will not work on these new tests. But books keep getting released with new covers and the same old pages full of practice problems inside. Online learning experiences keep getting relabled and realigned, but area they really teaching to the spirit of the new tests, or do the lesson titles just loosely align to the skills being measured?  Over the past 20yrs, my biggest critique of publisher products in the field of adult ed has always been

The responsibility for innovation actually doesn't fall on the publishers. It's the consumers (instructors) who have to decide what tools they're going to buy and put into practice.  If teachers buy on brand name alone or because of an alignment or a buzz-word on the cover, then they may wind up with old products with new wrappers. Be critical as a consumer.  Innovate your approach to reach higher benchmarks on these more rigorous tests.  There seem to be fewer publishers serving the field of adult ed now, so teachers need to make sure they're getting the best possible products for their needs.

The last and most important frontier for innovation and informed decision-making in the learning process is the learners' realm. They decide how they're going to work, when and with what tools.  Successful blended learning empowers the learner to add in edtech when it suits them, or to ask for hands-on help when appropriate.  The more we can empower learners to ask for help and use the help they're given, the better able they will be to overcome challenges and make gains.

Quick plug: Essential Education has incorporated a Virtual Tutor element into ever lesson in our new ABE Essentials workbooks.  The books were written from scratch for the CCRS and they're a truly innovative and empowering consumable TABE/CASAS prep product.     

The future is uncertain 

What's next?  I think teachers and publishing companies both need to keep raising the bar and the standards for edtech and classroom learning tools and approaches. Change is the only constant.  However, we do have time to get comfortable with the ABE/HSE tests that we've been given.  It's time for innovative initiatives, experimentation, trial and error and adjustment.  We will get better results, but only if we make the necessary changes, whatever those turn out to be.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Where Have I Been?

I haven't been posting here the past three years, and it's not for lack of attention or desire or actual developments and changes in the field of blended and distance learning.  In fact, there have been so many changes taking place when it comes to edtech in the field of adult education that I've been scared (for lack of a better word) to open my mouth and interfere or otherwise have an unintended impact.  State agencies don't want publishers directing their distance ed policies or blended learning initiatives (or at least, they shouldn't).  So, that puts me in an awkward position at times.  Nonetheless, we're living in exciting and changing times for our field, and I don't want to let it all pass by without comment. In short, I've been too quiet for too long in this space, and I'm looking to change that ASAP.  Starting today.

In the past three years, I've been spending a lot of time in NC and PA, which isn't too hard, since I live in VA, sandwiched between the two states.  Distance education policies have been solidified in both of those states in recent years, so I had a lot more new opportunities to explore and check up on at the local level.  Attitudes tend to change quickly when state directives are issued, online 'proxy contact' hours become reportable for funding and when blending online and classroom learning becomes the unavoidable topic du jour at every local in-service for instructors and teacher association state conference. 

Finally, people are picking up what I'm putting down, as they say.  I supposed that's what a real change agent does sometimes. We don't drag people where we want them to go.  Sometimes we wait until they're ready and we simply serve as their crossing guard (ahem, my last name is Guard).  When people are ready, they'll ask for help or advice.  One of the basic tenets of adult education: adults want to be in control of their learning.       

So, I guess the real question is not 'Where Have I Been?'  The real question is, 'Where Am I Going?'  Well, I think you'll be surprised.  It's a little bit forward to new frontiers and a little bit backward to pick up the stragglers.  I'll try to lay it out over my next few blog posts (making an outline of those now).  And that answers a third question, 'Where Will You Be?'  The answer is RIGHT HERE. Please share and pop back by so we can take this adventure together.  And all of this begs the question that I for you, 'What Do You Need?'  Speak up and I'll do my best to help.     

Thursday, December 22, 2016

We Need to Listen

Instead of my annual list of 'edtech books I want for xmas,' I thought I'd try something different. Besides, the inspiration for innovative teaching and learning leadership probably won't come to you through a book specifically on that topic.  And I want to sneak my provokations past the defenses of those who say they don't have time to read. Fine. Listen.

Podcasts are teaching people new things all the time.  Think of it like a radio dial with every station being chock full of engaging and inspiring directives and explorations of every topic you never knew you needed explained.  For our purposes, we're going to start with education and technology. But because there are so many issues bound up with those and to overcome that perenial complaint that these aren't specific enough to adult education (and you might still say you're stuck in a rut anyhow), I built this list of lists of podasts to light a thousand fires under you. One way or another, they are all about teaching and learning.  Not only are you the student, you are getting one-on-one tutoring by listening to podcasts.

Please comment to share some of the gems you discover. What podcast was your favorite? What are the common threads across all of these lists?  Note that I included the full URL here for you to see instead of embedding the link in the text.  Look at all these sources talking about podcasts!  They're talking about learning. They're sharing the content that people created to educate one another and to put the life lessons in the pathway of those who might need it. It's marketing with a social or even viral exponential expansion.  Maybe one day, we can get our messages leapfrogging across these platforms. Now dive in and listen up and share.   

Best Education Podcasts

Best Edtech podcasts

More Edtech podcasts

Best Learning Podcasts
Best Self-Improvement Podcasts

Best Change Your Life Podcasts

Best Get Off Your Ass Podcasts

Best Motivational Podcasts

Best Social Media Marketing Podcasts

Best Leadership Podcasts

More Leadership Podcasts

Best Entrepreneur Podocasts

Best All-Around Podcasts

Okay... maybe just one book for Xmas

Thursday, September 22, 2016

We Need to Talk

I'm not here to tell you how to do your job or cry foul about every detail of adult education programs' way of doing business using technology.  But some or the core messages of progress that online learning has brought are not reaching everybody and not transferring from ideals to practice.  I routinely see small, regional and even statewide organizations operating in a silo, as though there aren't similar silos all around... within earshot. We need to talk to one another.

I've been negligent of late about posting some of the blended and distance resources that Essential Education has been a part of recently. Here are a few of them linked below.  Please share widely.  But the big one that I wanted to mention is a group previously known as Project IDEAL. As long as I've been in the field of adult ed, there has been a national group that centralized the basic know-how of facilitating online learning. When I worked for the state of Virginia, we looked at the IDEAL handbook, borrowed from their website, but mostly used it to calibrate or confirm what we were already doing. That was a long time ago. Much has changed in the field (WIOA, ahem) and edtech innovations have made some of the tech integration by teachers second nature.  In an effort to catch up and revitalize (my word-choice), Project IDEAL has been moved under the World Ed umbrella and become part of their EdTech Center.

I don't know what will come of the new IDEAL Consortium or what direction it will take. But I do know that it has always been meeting place of states doing or interested in doing distance education.  I hope that continues and that information sharing is more immediate, so the field of adult ed can ride the wave of innovation instead of feeling that it has passed us by.  Now more than ever, states need to compare policies and best practices and lists of approved publishers, etc.  We can't afford to have any size adult ed provider operating in the dark with know-how from the dark ages when a white board was cutting edge teaching technology.  Otherwise, learners will find other ways to meet their needs or fall prey to opportunistic scams.  So, let's talk and then take action.

Friday, January 8, 2016

If We're Not Lost, Where Can We Be Found?

Over the holiday break, it occurred to me that newspapers and websites would soon be posting their year in reviews and their predictions for the year ahead.  We need those kinds of bookends in the field of adult education, especially with so many changes afoot.  We need to process, discuss, reflect and gear up to tackle new challenges. Alas, I feel like we're always in reactive mode, struggling to catch up and adjust to our circumstances.  That's why we need to rely on more modern communication tools than the phone tree. 

When trying to come up with my list of INs and OUTs going into 2016, I asked for input on Twitter using the #adultedu hashtag. No response to multiple attempts.  I tried my Linked-In network of 500+ connections and I think I posted it on an adult education interest group as well.  Obviously, holiday break isn't the best time to get a hold of educators. Or maybe I was using the wrong medium. I tried Facebook, but I only have a few professional connections there and the one who responded preferred to table all work-talk until class was back in session. During the same time, I've been deluged with notices about people broadcasting from Periscope.  And others telling me that Snapchat is the next big thing.  Neither indicators were from adult educators, but it piqued my interest and made me a little jealous.  Instagram is the platform that I've taken to the most in 2015, but haven't found any adult ed angles for professional development.  Going into 2016, I've vowed to learn Snapchat and Periscope... or at least try my hand at them.

So this is where I pose the question to you: Where in the digital world can you find adult educators? What is our preferred platform? Where are the professional development discussions happening?  How can you take the pulse of adult educators and high school equivalency teachers?  Please chime in with a comment. Any insights are appreciated, not just by me, but also by the isolated educators who wonder onto this site and perhaps have some of the same questions and a desire for more input, camaraderie and interconnectedness.


Monday, January 4, 2016

What's IN and What's OUT in Adult Education in 2016

There is no double that the field of adult education is going through BIG changes.  Out with the old and in with the new is the only way things change. But, what are those changes specifically? What are the buzz-words and terms that need to be on the tips of our tongues in 2016?  What practices do we need to put on the shelf indefinitely? We've banished digitized worksheet to the dustbin in past years.  We've learned that practice testing is not teaching, at least not for obtaining any long-term skill development.  Technology has made those tests both more and less accessible from various sources, but how we use the results is clearly innovating. So, please chime in with your new and old ideas and practices. I'll get the ball rolling with a few of my own.

OUT with 2015
  • Common Core
  • Traditional, single-medium, instruciton
  • Fighting against implementing technology
  • An isolated field of adult ed
  • Heads on desks
  • Tired unresponsive social media
  • WIA
  • Mind-numbing Power-point style learning 
  • Cut scores 
  • Stopping out and retention problems
  • Race to the bottom with ever-lowering expectations

IN with 2016
  • College and Career Readiness
  • Blended Learning
  • Fighting our biggest challenges with technology as our weapon of choice 
  • Adult ed as part of workforce development
  • Heads in the clouds
  • Exciting participatory social media
  • WIOA
  • In-depth activities for building critical thinking skills 
  • Skill mastery 
  • Bridging time/place gaps with distance ed solutions
  • Raising results by raising expectations and setting ambitious goals
Let's hear from you!  Post a comment with your additions to this list.

Monday, December 21, 2015

All I Want for Xmas is FREE Resources

Usually, at the end of the year, I post about the edtech books that I'm most looking forward to reading, and I encourage you to go find them and read them yourselves. This year is going to be a bit different.  Sure, you can still go to Amazon and look at the most popular books in the Computers and Technology or the Digital and Online Learning subjects within the Schools and Teaching topic at Amazon.  However, much of the inspiration that the field of adult education needs is finally coming from the field's own practitioners and instructional designers.

This year at the COABE conference, we gave out hundreds of hard copies of our College and Career Readiness Roadmap to make it very plain how teachers can adjust to the instructional shifts taking place and incorporate more technology fluency into their instruction.  You can get your own copy by emailing info@essentialed.com.  If you already have a copy, please share your feedback here.

More specific to online distance learning is our new teacher's guide: Blended Learning in the Adult Education classroom (download it here).  The guide was presented at COABE by its co-author and edtech guru, David Rosen, and again via webinar last month with WorldEd (see the webinar recording here).