Southern LINCS: A Great Internet Resource for Adult Educators!

Kit Bieschke-Baker

Six months ago, I was not familiar with the Southern LINCS (Literacy Information and Communication System) web site and I had never accessed the resources it provides. However, I was very interested in learning more about integrating the Internet into my adult education curriculum and in using the Internet as a tool for professional development, so I signed on as a participant in the LINCS Enduser Project. Now six months later, I am continually "spreading the word" about how valuable the LINCS resources have been to me as a teacher-trainer and as a practitioner. Furthermore, I am encouraging others to use and contribute to this dynamic project.

I found Southern LINCS to be an excellent tool for professional development because it is a "one-stop" resource site for adult literacy practitioners and administrators. When accessing LINCS, you can be sure that all the documents, data, and web links will be right on the adult literacy target! For example, when I needed a copy of the CASAS Competency list immediately, I simply searched the Workforce Education section of the LINCS Special Collections and in seconds I had obtained and printed the CASAS information.

As adult educators, we are responsible for wearing many "hats" and playing many specialized roles. That is why I have found the LINCS focus on specific adult education areas of specialization such as Workforce and Correctional Education to be extremely beneficial and "tuned-in" to our needs. My most exciting experience with the LINCS web site occurred when I was presenting an Internet workshop to a group of Virginia correctional educators. They were very attentive during my introduction to Southern LINCS as we reviewed the home page and the various features, such as the A-Z index, Resources, and Forum. However, when the "Correctional Education" page was displayed with all the topical links, the entire group seemed to sit up and lean forward in their seats. You could "feel" how interested and excited they were because it related directly to them and their particular experience as adult educators. "Special Collections" offers the different resource areas that adult literacy educators need so that our valuable time on the Internet is not wasted.

My students are also beginning to use the Internet daily, so it is important to note that topics for adult learners are specially marked throughout the Southern LINCS site. The "Annotated Webliography" is another LINCS feature that I utilize because it provides concise descriptions of the Internet links before I access them.

It has been my experience that LINCS is very responsive to the needs and the different technology levels of its users. For instance, when several of the project participants had problems with reading PDF files and using the Adobe Reader, the LINCS staff responded with step-by-step instructions that a beginning Internet user could follow. I highly recommend Southern LINCS as a site for educators to reference when they encounter barriers and application problems on the Internet.

In Virginia, each adult education practitioner develops and compiles a written professional development plan for the year. Many of our teachers have begun to include the Internet and the LINCS site in their plans to expand and develop their knowledge and use of technology. LINCS is also a component of an Internet course I will teach this fall for recertification credit through our local community college. So I encourage the use of LINCS in web-based courses and training.

While it is essential to continue to train others about the resources that Southern LINCS offers, I feel that it is more important that practitioners from the southern states be encouraged (perhaps through incentives or stipends) to contribute and share their "best practices" by submitting locally produced materials. These materials will provide quality curriculum that is current, free, and accessible via the Internet. Then Southern LINCS truly becomes a source of pride for each locality, region, and state and partnerships are formed that will benefit us now and in the future.