I believe that technology is the catalyst that can motivate adult education students to become highly devoted participants in their educational process. My experience is that the teaching techniques that use interactive multimedia and Internet activities build enthusiam in the classroom and motivate the students to attend classes more regularly.
I first became interested in technology as early as the 1970's; however, the early teaching machines were not especially appealing to the adult learners who enrolled in the literacy programs that were just beginning to form. In 1985, I received a grant to place an Apple IIe computer in my literacy classroom. This was the beginning of my enthusiasm for computer technology and my students' increase in motivation for learning and program participation.
I found those literacy students who formerly were embarrassed to work in the classroom with tutors were very contented and proud to learn on computers. They were especially pleased to tell their family and friends that they were attending classes to learn computer skills. Tutors, unlike the students, were reluctant to use the new technology because they were intimidated by their own lack of knowledge concerning the computer hardware as well as the software. I often found myself working with the tutors and students to ease their fears as I was certain that the software programs under development would open many doors for literacy, ABE, and GED students.
I soon had the opportunity to add an IBM computer and several IBM compatible computers to my classroom, and I began to study the available literacy software. Over the next 13 years, the programs became increasingly motivational as they progressed from monochrome productions to interactive ones with color, graphics, and sound. GED students, however, were somewhat mixed in their reactions to the commercial programs first developed for their curriculum. It was the next advancement in technology that caught their attention and that was and is the Internet.
The Internet became a part of our classroom routine in late 1997. It opened a new world to the GED students and a new group of students known as the workplace students. I, as the facilitator, also became aware of the opportunities offered by the information that awaited me on the Web. I needed lesson plans to help my students find the resources they needed to reach their goals. In my school district, I often found myself alone in the search for adult interest materials and techniques to use with the adults who were pursuing a GED or a job. The answer to my quest came when I first attended the Commission of Adult Basic Education (COABE) Conference when it was held in Pittsburgh, PA. I found peer group consultants on the Southern Consortium LINCS site which led me more of my peers on the Mid-West and Western LINCS sites as well.
I began to surf the Consortium LINCS site several times a week. Each time I browsed, I found information that led me to the following: new, meaningful directions in my methodologies; technical information about Internet usage; innovative ideas that reflected the latest developments in work-place education; and lists and links to exciting and motivational sites for both students and instructors. I no longer felt isolated in my locale. I suddenly had immediate access to a world of ideas which could help me to update my teaching skills and answer my questions about technology. Most of all, LINCS gave me access to other adult education teachers all over the country who could share their ideas with me through e-mail, listservs, or locally produced materials such as this one.
I always want to start each new school year with new ideas. LINCS makes that possible. I was honored to be asked to participate in a consortium of users during the summer of 1998 for the purpose of evaluating ways of using the Southern Consortium's LINCS site. My participation allowed me to study my own use and preferences. As an ABE practitioner wishing to motivate my adult students to the maxiumum, I found that I consistently went to the Adult Basic Education category on LINCS. From there, I went to the How To's under Learning Materials, Curricula, and Lesson Plans. I also visited the Workforce Education site which is under construcion,. This new site is one that is much needed with the current emphasis on jobs for GED, basic skills, and welfare students. I am anxious for more locally produced material on this subject especially where evaluation and assessment of basic work skills are concerned.
In summary, I find that my active participation in the Southern Consortium's LINCS project inspired me to add a larger variety of hands-on learning techniques to my classroom and to provide my adult students with more opportunities to use the Internet for job searches and information. For example, I used videotapes, group discussion, textbook, magazines, catalogs, field trips, guest speakers, and lectures to reach my students in the past. After reading over examples of the experiments that other teachers published on LINCS, I plan to rely less on my informing the students and more on student self-directed research using the Internet for valid information. In addition , I plan to experiment with journals, diaries, drawings, student publications, photo displays, collages, short stories, and possibly poetry. By revising my teaching techniques, I hope to make adult students more active participants in the education process. I believe my role is to define their projects in terms they will understand and to help them appreciate each project's usefulness in relation to future goals. I do not believe that I could do this without the lessons plans and ideas that I find on LINCS. It would be difficult to locate the materials that I need because they are not in print except for teachers' classrooms, individual schools,and individual school districts. It is through the Internet and the LINCS site especially that adult educators can share their ideas through publishing of local materials.
Finally, I would like to recommend LINCS because it gives adult educators an opportunity to form a network for communication that would not otherwise be possible. My participation in the LINCS Project this summer linked me with other adult educators, and it was through this network that I received the impetus that I needed to start a new school year. I hope to see this network of adult educators grow this year and next. I also hope that more practitioners will realize the importance of their successes in the classroom and publish their ideas as locally produced materials. It is in that way that we can become more effective as facilitators rather than lecturers and teachers of often outdated and irrelevant textbooks.