the past several months, I have been participating in an online project that brought
together adult education practitioners from several Southern states to explore and
evaluate Southern LINCS, an interactive website that is being developed through the
facilities of the Center for Literacy Studies at the University of Tennessee.
Southern LINCS is actually one of 4 regional websites and is designed to: act as a
clearinghouse for literacy resources and materials, build partnerships among
practitioners by encouraging the sharing of resources, provide training and
technical assistance and expand the overall technological infrastructure.
A primary outcome of
this online discussion group was the promotion of Southern LINCS in each group member's
respective state. In particular, we were looking for ways in which
practitioners could be motivated to not only passively explore LINCS, but to
actively contribute to it.
It was during the
course of this inquiry that I first learned of the new professional development guidelines
being created by Kentucky's Department of Adult Education and Literacy. It occurred
to me that, for those of us in Kentucky, a connection could be established
between the objectives of Southern LINCS and those of practitioners as they plan their
professional development activities.
Your LINCS to Professional
the past, professional development in Kentucky meant sitting through hours of
in-service trainings and conference sessions to gain professional development credit.
While somewhat informative, this one-dimensional approach to staff
development seemed inconsistent with what we as adult educators profess to be the most
effective ways in which adults learn. The new professional development initiatives
introduced this year place much more emphasis on research and inquiry as a means to
professional growth. Practitioners are encouraged to choose from a menu of
activities, including mentoring with colleagues, self-directed learning
projects and group inquiries.
These types of
activities do not occur in a vacuum. They imply not only research, but an
exchange of information as well. Internet resources such as Southern LINCS can
provide the conduit through which this exchange can take place. Whether networking
with participants via listserv or launching the finished product on the World Wide Web
through the use of HTML, Southern LINCS can facilitate both the development and the
dissemination of material, enhance the technological skills of practitioners,
and build partnerships in the process.
What Southern LINCS Offers the
There are several
features of Southern LINCS that deserve consideration by the practitioner who is planning
a professional development project. One of the primary functions of Southern LINCS
is to serve as a repository for literacy materials. Since it is part of a network
that includes the National Institute for Literacy and 3 other regional websites
(Midwestern LINCS, Western LINCS, and Eastern LINCS), the databases of
all of them , in effect, merge to form one large collection. These
databases can be accessed with the use of two basic types of search engines. One
responds to keywords (e.g. "recruitment/retention" or "workplace
literacy"), and yields articles that are about those subjects. The other
is a more precise search that locates specific articles when details such as title,
author and date are known. Perusing these databases can be a great way to begin
researching a project.
The other important
feature is the Forums section, the communications center of Southern LINCS.
>From here, messages can be posted and responded to via an electronic message
board. In addition to this, there are several listservs that can be subscribed
to. With these resources, practitioners are able to dialogue directly with one
another, share their experience and expertise, and expand a knowledge base
that becomes, essentially, limitless.
redefinition of staff development, new opportunities have been created for the
professional growth of its practitioners, both individually and collectively.
By providing relevant information and an effective way of exchanging it, Southern
LINCS can play a crucial role in this process, but it does so largely to the extent
that participants are willing to interact and to contribute to this pool of information.