How Adult Literacy Time and Technology Use Should Be Focused:
Views from Learners and Teachers
In the United States, funding for adult literacy education comes mainly from federal grants to the states with a requirement for 25% matching funds. This funding has steadily decreased throughout the decade. It was $27.6 million in 2001 and dropped to $16.6 million in 2005 (Spellings, et al., 2007). A national survey reported that more than a third of responding programs said they had cut services, eliminated positions, and reduced business hours because of state funding cuts (ProLiteracy, 2009). This is all occurring at a time when learner demand for help is increasing (National Coalition for Literacy, 2009). Rather than simply trying to do more of the same with less, it may be time to reassess priorities for use of diminishing resources.
Time and technology
A national household survey collected educational activity information from a representative sample (weighted total N=211,607,007). The average amount of time adults reported attending different types of classes (i.e. ELL, ABE, Work-related) during a 12 month period ranged from 30 to 60 hours (O’Donnell, 2006). This suggests it is extremely important to use formal instructional time wisely and to link instruction to learner goals likely to inspire learning outside of class.
Reder and Strawn’s (2002) longitudinal study of adult learning reported that almost half of adult participants in a formal education class, including adults at the lowest academic levels, also engaged in self-study. Typically, the adults used workbooks that were designed specifically for skills and about one-third used computer-based materials.
Adult education is diverse and technology has not been adequately integrated into instruction, specifically new emerging technologies (Warschauer & Liaw, 2010). O’Donnell (2006) found that 32% of surveyed adults reported using some type of distance education for their learning (e.g. videos, compact and digital video disks, radio, internet, video conferencing and telephone). The research shows adults clearly want to learn and are willing to expend efforts beyond what is currently available to them in classrooms. These findings suggest that reallocation of limited resources and technology to support such in-class and out-of-class learning is of growing importance. With already limited class time continuing to diminish as program resources shrink, finding ways to more effectively use class time and to expand learning beyond the classroom take on heightened importance. This study attempts to provide teacher and student views on these issues with implications for educators and policy makers.