The theme of this issue is 'Technology and Literacy'. Articles look at projects which represent good practice, including the impressive use of online technology for Deaf people. The Virtual Independent Learning Centre is designed for teachers who are not particularly au fait with computers. Michelle Williams argues in her piece that the new technologies put teachers in a dilemma (page 14) but that "disconnection from the dot.com world is ... head-in-the-sand territory..."
Annette Burke's article on who actually calls the Reading Writing Hotline (page 4) clearly shows the importance of this research to the on-going effectiveness and success of the project.
ACAL welcomes Carolyn Ovens to her new position as research officer employed by ACAL to undertake research on the youth literacy issues. ACAL is interested in drawing together from the literature and public policy some of the factors in which literacy education is an indicator of social disadvantage or an enabler of social change for young Australians.
This research should inform future advocacy by ACAL for adult literacy. Carolyn will participate in the yourh literacy forum on May 26th, provide articles to Literacy Link and deliver a final report in September, 2000.
Please contact Carolyn if you have research or policy documents of interest to the project or you simply want to chat about the youth issues in your area. (See details next page.)
We will be asking the state literacy councils to provide feedback for an evaluation of Literacy Link before the next issue which will come out at the end of June. Please get in touch if you have something to say on how Literacy Link is produced and distributed. Literacy Link is now distributed more widely (up from 600 copies per issue 12 months ago to approximately 1600, and growing). We are keen to see it reaches the widest possible audience. On the subject of distribution: if people want multiple copies of Literacy Link sent to them, say, for teaching purposes, please contact The Editor, Literacy Link, PO Box 2283, Canberra ACT 2601 or email: email@example.com
Please be sure to read Christine Riddell's piece (below) which talks about her research which finds substantial reductions in the number of post-graduate enrolments in our field. Shifts in funding policy for universities appear likely to have disastrous consequences for the profession, hence the importance of this sort of research.
If the Sydney Olympics don't interest you, take advantage of cheap fare deals and fly to Perth for the ACAL conference to be held in September (page 5). There will also be a QCAL conference to be held in Brisbane in October (page 8).
Youth Literacy Research Project
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Carolyn Ovens, has been appointed as the new ACAL research officer. Carolyn works as Training Liaison Officer, Queensland Council of Unions. In this position Carolyn promotes and implements the training agenda, in particular entry level training, advances the initiatives of the Government's 'Breaking the Unemployment Cycle' program and National Training Packages, and facilitates the introduction and establishment within industry and enterprises of flexible entry level arrangements. She assists with specific training related initiatives.
Carolyn has been seconded by the government for six months, to establish an indigenous community based and owned skill centre, Kulkathil Skill Sharing Centre. It will set up programs and projects contracted through 'Breaking the Unemployment Cycle' funding and partnerships with registered training organisations, group training companies and building contractors to create indigenous employment in multimedia, broadcast media, construction, cultural heritage and the environment.
Carolyn is the chair of the Queensland Community Literacy Program and the Queensland Youth Sector Training Council
A preliminary scan of existing web-based research centred around young people and their needs indicates very low levels of independent research through universities, but a growth in philanthropy supported partly by government around various regional and local concentrations of young people and their transition or pathways into the world of work.
Some comparative and historical work has been done in relation to the development, ideological basis and effectiveness of government respon-ses since the beginning of the twentieth century in three Australian states. This may help to ground the research into structures which facilitate a coordinated and integrated approach to literacy provision for young people.
The opportunity exists for ACAL to stimulate discussion in this apparent void. Please contact me if you have research or policy documents of interest to the project or you simply want to chat about the youth issues in your area.
ACAL research officer
Ph (07) 3311 1195 (ah) (07) 3846 2468 (bh) Fax (07) 3844 4865 (bh)
email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Work)
UNIVERSITY FUNDING - DISASTROUS FOR OUR PROFESSION?
by Christine Riddell
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The 1990s witnessed a rapid expansion in the provision of highly innovative programs within Australian universities. As a result many practitioners embarked on postgraduate studies involving considerable personal and financial commitment.
The imposition of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) in 1989 introduced a new rhetoric concerning "private contributions to higher education funding", synonymous for the 'user pays' principle. This was followed in 1994 with a lifting of Federal restrictions on the type of postgraduate programs offered on a fee-paying basis to Australian students. Kemp (1997:5) observed that, based on the 1996 figures, tertiary institutions indicated that by the year 2000, there would be an 83% increase in this form of funding, with a projected monetary value of $65 million.
"What impact is this having on postgraduate enrolments in teacher education generally?"
There have been various attempts to ascertain hard data. Meyenn, in N.S.W., produced a rather decisive report concerning the challenges facing teacher education in the 21st century. Within his review, he discussed the status quo regarding commencing postgraduate coursework enrolments in teacher education in the Sydney area. He included statistics from the Deans of Education, which highlighted that in the five institutions surveyed for the period 1996-1998, there was an overall decline in enrolments of 25.1% and that if Sydney University, which actually reported a rise, were excluded, the decline became 38.2%. It was notable that the institution which experienced the greatest fall in postgraduate enrolments was the University of Western Sydney, Macarthur, with a staggering figure of almost 58% (Meyenn 1999: 49). UWS, although operating on a comparable fee system to Sydney University, generally drew its students from a different socio-economic group, which raises social justice and equity concerns.
"What impact are such policies having on postgraduate enrolments in the TESOL and literacy areas?"
In fields such as TESOL and literacy, which are generally characterised by contract or part-time sessional employment conditions, the introduction by higher education institutions of full fees would be a decisive disincentive for practitioners to pursue postgraduate studies. Informal discussions with universities reveal increasing pressure from their administrations to follow such a path. For the relevant professional bodies to argue coherently against these Federal government policies, hard statistical evidence needs to be obtained.
Victoria University has provided such an opportunity. It has approved an Outside Study Program which aims to confidentially survey Australian universities offering postgraduate coursework in TESOL and/or literacy programs with an adult focus. If the various personnel complete the survey (and they are strongly urged to do so for the sake of the professions), data can be provided on the following topics:
€ the actual range and academic level (ie. certificate, diploma, master) of courses offered across Australia
€ the type of enrolment preferred by participants (part/full-time)
€ the trend in overall funding, that is how and when the universities altered their funding basis, (ie. HECS, Dual Mode - where there are a limited number of HECS places and above this level candidates are offered a full fee entrance, or Full Fees only)
€ any changes in the male/female balance of enrolments
€ the differentiation in costs for full fees across Australia
€ which future form of funding higher institutions intend to have regarding such programs.
It may be of interest to those in the literacy field that in the preliminary search of the various Internet sites of the universities, initial findings indicate:
€ only 5 universities declare themselves as fully HECS funded for these programs
€ fees for postgraduate coursework programs (1999 figures) range from
With more precise data, we can hope to strongly contest such Federal government "initiatives".
Kemp, D. (1997). Higher Education Funding Report for the 1998-2000 Triennium. Canberra: Australian Government Printing Service.
Meyenn, R. (1999). Identifying the Challenges: initial and continuing education for the 21st century. Report of the Working Party on the Impact of National Higher Education Initiatives on Teacher Quality in NSW. Sydney: NSW Ministerial Advisory Council on the Quality of Teaching.
School of Education, Victoria University
CALLING THE READING WRITING HOTLINE
by Annette Burke
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As part of the Hotline's regular call procedure, a questionnaire is completed for each caller, which includes bio-data, educational and employment profiles. Aggregated data provides an interesting snapshot of who is calling the Hotline.
In 1999 over 9000 caller questionnaires were completed. Of this total, just over 80% of callers stated that the call to the Hotline was the first time that they had sought assistance with literacy needs.
Our most successful form of promotion conti-nues to be television and radio promotions which are conducted about three times a year. In 1999, 84% of callers cited these two media as the source of our 1300 telephone number. It is not surprising that print media promotions generate fewer calls, given the nature of the service being offered. However, it would be a mistake to conclude that all callers to the Hotline are novice readers or writers. Callers present with a range of literacy needs and the changing demands of the workplace are often cited as the trigger that prompted the call to the Hotline.
Over 55% of the callers to the Hotline are employed, with 13% being self employed. Most callers are male (61%) although there has been a steady increase in the proportion of women calling over the last two years. Over the years of operation the proportion of NESB callers has increased from below 20% to the current rate of 23%. Two per cent of callers are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background.
The graph representing educational background of callers depicts ranges which have been fairly constant over the period of the Hotline's operation. The 77% of callers who have up to 10 years of schooling are familiar as potential students of adult literacy programs. Within the 23% of callers who have more than 10 years of formal schooling, employment prospects and career advancement as well as general 'self improvement' are often cited as motivations for calling the Hotline. This is not to say that these motivations are unique to this stratum of Hotline caller.
The more frequent engagement with printed text in modern society has greatly increased the demands on an individual's language resources in order to participate in work and social environments. All callers irrespective of their stated skill level, identify personal, social or workplace demands that have prompted their call to the Hotline.
The distribution of callers from each State of course reflects the general population distribution across the country. This is also true of the regional distribution of callers with a majority coming from the metropolitan regions of each State.
However, the impact of localised television and radio advertising alters the overall distribution markedly. In January and February this year our television campaign in Brisbane and Perth lifted Queensland's percentage of total callers from 16.4% to 37% and WA from 10% to 26% of total calls. The inference to be drawn from this sort of swing in response to advertising, is that the latent demand for literacy tuition remains high and we have not reached a saturated market by any means. This again is not surprising given the increasing demands the entire population is facing with regards to engagement with print literacies.
I am sure that the caller profile just outlined is readily recognisable to adult literacy practitioners. It confirms what we know about the impact of technological and social change on people's lives and the embedded primacy of print literacy in participating in 21st century society. What perhaps is new is the volume of callers who identify their needs but have not previously sought assistance and the importance of non-print based advertising in generating enquiries.
As stated earlier, over 80% of callers to the Reading Writing Hotline say that they have never before sought assistance regarding their literacy needs, and nearly 85% of callers cite radio and television as the source of the Hotline's phone number. The funding of the Hotline to conduct these campaigns has a direct flow-on to providers as potential students are referred to them. In a follow-up survey conducted after our last advertising campaign, providers told us that up to 40% of the enquiries they had received had been from people who had first called the Reading Writing Hotline.
The Reading Writing Hotline caller profile offers an interesting snapshot of people who are not contacting providers directly, because they usually do not know that there are services in the community to assist them.
More information about the Reading Writing Hotline is available on our web site at
Reading Writing Hotline - 1300 6 555 06
email - www.literacyline.edu.au
LITERACY ONLINE - CAN IT WORK?
by Liz Roarty
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The case against
Language & Literacy students generally:
€ don't have access to the technology
€ don't have the technical skills to cope with the medium
€ are slow readers
€ are even slower writers and tend to be reluctant to communicate in writing
€ need lots of emotional support which the electronic medium just cannot provide
€ developing materials is expensive and is taking too much of the limited resources available
€ all packaged courses (online or print-based) are inflexible and take away from teacher creativity
The case for
€ Access is improving. As of May 1999, 22% of all households had home internet access, an increase of 57% for the previous 12 month period (taken from Australian Bureau of Statistics http://www.abs.gov.au). Our client group may have a slower uptake for a variety of reasons but it is unlikely they will not join the trend. Meanwhile, public access at libraries, colleges and community centres is becoming easier.
€ Technical skills deficit: literacy in information technology is now being added to language and numeracy as a basic life skill. Educators in L & L arguably have an obligation to include internet based activities in their classrooms.
€ The reading challenge: Reading online is defi-nitely tougher than from a print-based text. We all slow down, suffer from reduced comprehension and reading fatigue when reading from a screen. Some argue we will adapt with new strategies. Others believe that we should acknowledge the problems and ensure all large slabs of text are downloadable and printable. We can also think of the Internet as a wonderful communication tool but not always the solution for the bulk of the course content.
Meanwhile we can make sure what text we do put online:
€ is chunked into small bites of information
€ uses a sans serif font (eg Verdana or Arial)
€ utilises tables, graphs, photos and other visual ways of presenting information
€ avoids italics and shading
Finally as the Internet becomes increasingly the medium for gaining information in daily life, skimming and scanning skills will become even more critical. We must meet the challenge, not try to avoid it.
€ The writing challenge: typing is painfully slow for people who do little typing but it gathers pace with practice. Once the basic keyboard skills have been mastered, the potential for student work has never been as exciting. Forums (eg Bulletin Boards), being asynchronous, allow students time to draft, edit and refine their contributions. The anonymity can be very liberating with shy students able to join in a way they find almost impossible in a face-to-face class. This anonymity is also helping the confidence of many people who feel marginalised for other reasons eg age, race, gender, disablity.
€ Emotional support: the truth is that online learning asks a great deal of the teacher. The idea that online learning will do away with the need for skilled teachers has already been dashed, no doubt to the chagrin of those responsible for cost cutting. We know already that online teachers need to be very proactive in engaging and maintaining the engagement. They also need to be skilled facilitators of productive online discussions and chats, innovative developers of games and quizzes, Information Technology troubleshooters, accessible and as 'real' as possible.
It seems likely that most students, if given the chance, will continue to opt for some face to face contact with a teacher and fellow students. However, not everyone can access classes and many may actually prefer a mix of delivery modes. What's possible?
€ Teachers don't use online courses but utilise the Internet for information, activities and inspiration
€ Dip-in-and-out-just-like-a-textbook mode: teachers have access to online course material; they download, edit and print parts they like for f2f classes as they would with a print-based text
€ Students have logins and dip-in-and-out of online course(s) as appropriate in f2f classes along with conventional methodologies
€ Students have logins and work through part or all of an online course in a study centre where technical help is available if required
€ Students attend some f2f sessions and do other parts of the course work in distance mode eg. from home or work. (This model is definitely worth thinking about with more confident and autonomous learners)
€ Students work in full distance mode, communicating with email, phone, fax and snail mail.
€ Expense and inflexibility of online courses: developing materials has always been expensive and we get what we pay for. However we are learning by being involved and as our skills improve, we can produce new work more quickly.
Moreover, web editors and learning platforms such as WebCT are making development easier; courses can be edited and customised very quickly by any teacher with login access.
The same applies to teacher web pages which may contain an introduction, a description of course content, resources, links and perhaps assessment details (including models) but no actual course content. Once the initial template is designed, this could be updated in minutes each semester. The page can - if well designed - be professional, attractive and as far removed from a print-based handout as a printed hand out was from the old hand-written notes we ran off on gestetners in the 60s and 70s.
Ready to leap in? The table below provides
some tips for those brave enough to venture into developing online
resources. It focuses on strategies to make online text easier for L
& L learners to read. I hope it helps. Useful Tips Avoid idioms Use visuals when possible instead of text. Avoid unnecessarily abstract language Aim for linear sentence construction. Dot points instead of sentences Avoid strings of nouns Avoid the passive voice Short words Short sentences Break up slabs of text Wrong Spare parts are like hen's teeth Achieving consensus. Diversification is currently problematic. Light the fuse after you evacuate all personnel from the
area. Detonation Evacuate all personnel from the area and then light the
fuse. Tax avoidance is a key issue in new government policy
formulation. The program is targeted at alleviating environmental
problems caused by deforestation The objective is to achieve maximum productivity The receptionist, when dealing with an abusive customer,
should strive for a calm, pleasant but efficient manner in
order to avoid unduly aggravating an already difficult
situation. In this topic you will learn about working with layers
palettes, combining images and layers, working with type and
applying type effects. Better Spare parts are hard to find. It is difficult to expand the business at this point.
Evacuate all personnel from the area and then light the
fuse. Detonation € evacuate all personnel from the area € light the fuse The government is currently focusing on how people and
businesses avoid paying tax. The aim of the program is to alleviate the environmental
problems that deforestation causes. The goal is to be more productive The receptionist, when dealing with an abusive customer
should strive for a calm, pleasant and efficient manner.
This may avoid aggravating an already difficult
situation. Topics € Working with layers palette € Combining images and layers € Working with type € Applying type effects
Comments People from NESBs are likely to find many idioms
unfathomable. Pictures do paint a thousand words and work in across
language barriers. The practise of nominalisation &endash; or turning key
content words into nouns &endash; can sound very impressive
but the meaning becomes less clear. NESB workers with limited English may miss the
implication of the 'after' ... Dot points get to the essence of your message with
minimum of fuss. Although stringing nouns together makes shorter text, the
abstraction that follows makes for comprehension problems.
The active voice is easier to understand than the passive
for both ESB and NESB people Both ESB and NESB learners will appreciate simpler
versions if the meaning isn't compromised Aim for 5 &endash; 20 words, with no more than three
ideas embedded per sentence. Dot points and headings make comprehension much easier
for both ESB and NESB learners.
Use visuals when possible instead of text.
Avoid unnecessarily abstract language
Aim for linear sentence construction.
Dot points instead of sentences
Avoid strings of nouns
Avoid the passive voice
Break up slabs of text
Spare parts are like hen's teeth
Diversification is currently problematic.
Light the fuse after you evacuate all personnel from the area.
Evacuate all personnel from the area and then light the fuse.
Tax avoidance is a key issue in new government policy formulation.
The program is targeted at alleviating environmental problems caused by deforestation
The objective is to achieve maximum productivity
The receptionist, when dealing with an abusive customer, should strive for a calm, pleasant but efficient manner in order to avoid unduly aggravating an already difficult situation.
In this topic you will learn about working with layers palettes, combining images and layers, working with type and applying type effects.
Spare parts are hard to find.
It is difficult to expand the business at this point.
Evacuate all personnel from the area and then light the fuse.
€ evacuate all personnel from the area
€ light the fuse
The government is currently focusing on how people and businesses avoid paying tax.
The aim of the program is to alleviate the environmental problems that deforestation causes.
The goal is to be more productive
The receptionist, when dealing with an abusive customer should strive for a calm, pleasant and efficient manner.
This may avoid aggravating an already difficult situation.
€ Working with layers palette
€ Combining images and layers
€ Working with type
€ Applying type effects
People from NESBs are likely to find many idioms unfathomable.
Pictures do paint a thousand words and work in across language barriers.
The practise of nominalisation &endash; or turning key content words into nouns &endash; can sound very impressive but the meaning becomes less clear.
NESB workers with limited English may miss the implication of the 'after' ...
Dot points get to the essence of your message with minimum of fuss.
Although stringing nouns together makes shorter text, the abstraction that follows makes for comprehension problems.
The active voice is easier to understand than the passive for both ESB and NESB people
Both ESB and NESB learners will appreciate simpler versions if the meaning isn't compromised
Aim for 5 &endash; 20 words, with no more than three ideas embedded per sentence.
Dot points and headings make comprehension much easier for both ESB and NESB learners.
Finally consider that this new medium is not going to go away. Online learning is a part of the whole online juggernaut that is unstoppable. We can be part of the push to shape it as sensitively and intelligently as is possible or we can try to avoid it. The former will benefit our students the most.
Port Adelaide Campus, Douglas Mawson Institute Tel: 08 83032693
REVIEW: THE CGEA CD ROM
by Mary Morrongiello
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The CGEA CD-ROM, An interactive multimedia resource for adult literacy and numeracy, from Protea Textware Pty Ltd, presents three of the four streams of the Certificates in General Education for Adults (CGEA): Reading and Writing; Oral Communication; Numeracy and Mathematics. An enormous range of activities for learning, practice and assessment is provided to cover all the outcomes of Levels 2, 3 and 4 of the CGEA.
Explanations for using the buttons and icons are given at the outset in a demonstration segment. Thereafter, explanations appear on the screen, through spoken explanations during activities or are in the handy Manual that comes with the package. If you have a group over several consecutive sessions the procedures become familiar, but you will need to support the hesitant learner when a long break separates sessions. In light of this there may be some benefit in having a sheet of explanations next to the computer for ready reference.
Each of the 53 Learning Outcomes on the CGEA CD-ROM has its own video clip. The content, characters and voices of each video are recognisably part of everyday Australian life and give a refreshing sense of relevance to exercises developed around each particular theme.
How does the learner actually proceed through the CGEA CD-ROM?
By choosing the appropriate Stream and Level from the Main Menu, the screen opens and presents numbered Outcomes for that level. By moving the cursor over the numbers, a description of the Outcome is shown; a click of the mouse makes the selection. A description of a learning task is displayed that relates to the video dialogue. On the screen, diagrams and written texts are presented with clarity and apt use of colour. Instructions are either spoken or written and guide the learner through the task. While the spoken instructions are usually easy to follow, sometimes they are too fast or too long so that the learner forgets what to do. There is, too, the option of going back and listening again.
The variety of materials and ideas used as the basis of learning exercises is appealing and impressive. Many teachers will find using the CGEA CD-ROM offers great teaching ideas to supplement their usual classroom work, adding a variety and richness in content and delivery that would be beyond their usual resources. In the Manual, I found the Index of skills and themes a real convenience for finding material quickly and the Learner Record Sheets a useful way to systematically track students' progress. Exercises and summaries can be printed off and these are useful for finishing off exercises or for reference when computers are not available.
Real encouragement to learners is offered throughout this program. Feedback for all attempts is immediate, unambiguous and non-judgmental: for solutions that are incorrect, there is an inviting "Try Again"; correct solutions are greeted with an affirming "Good Work". Solutions to all problems are readily available to students and options to repeat difficult work are suggested. With invitations like, "If you would like to do some more exercises simply click....", choosing to do extension work is encouraged.
There is no risk of your students becoming passive learners because interactive procedures ensure participation throughout the program. Here is a sample of how the learner is engaged:
€ to select key words or ideas from passages, click on the text
€ to prioritise choices or a sequence of events, 'drag and drop' the phrases into order
€ to identify bias or the use of persuasive language by different speakers, drag the comments under the name of respective speakers displayed on the screen
€ to access models for note taking and summary writing, simply click on a notepad icon
€ to listen (or listen again) to a reading or oral commentary, click on a speaker icon
€ to show you understand graphing concepts, drag the top of the bar graph up or down until it matches the data in the table/problem
€ to submit an answer, type your calculation then click on the 'blue ball' for confirmation of the correct answer.
For the independent learner the CGEA CD-ROM certainly offers the chance to improve competence in literacy, numeracy and oracy and at home if desired. However, the learner might discover that the other face of learning in privacy is isolation from essential professional teaching support and encouragement, especially as some continuing technical support is likely to be needed in the early sessions with this program for people who are not computer literate.
The CGEA CD-ROM is not intended as a replacement for the skilled teacher who is able to tailor approaches and material to the unique needs of the individual. Where Protea Textware Pty Ltd does succeed in this innovative adult literacy program, is in providing a really valuable resource for teachers and learners alike.
The CGEA CD-Rom is available from
Protea Textware Pty Ltd.
PO Box 49 Hurstbridge Vic. 3009
Tel: 9714 8660 fax: (03) 9714 3644
Single user licence $115; 5 user licence $230; 10 user licence $345; unlimited licence $460.
Systems requirements: IBM compatible computer with Windows 3.x, 95/98. NT.
Minimum 486-xx, 16 MB RAM. Colour monitor with 256 colours minimum. Double Speed CD-ROM drive or faster. Soundblaster compatible sound card.
Compact Discs can be upgraded. Printed materials are available to accompany the program.
WHAT HAPPENS IF A LANGUAGE HAS NO WRITTEN FORM?
Deaf Australia Online project
by Janice Knuckey
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Sally is Deaf and communicates using Australian Sign Language. Like most other Deaf people, Sally uses a TTY (a teletypewriter) to communicate via the telephone network. Instead of talking through a handset, words are typed on a machine which transmits the typed words to the person on the other end who is also using a TTY. To assist when Sally wants to speak to a person without a TTY, the National Relay Service (NRS) provides officers who "relay" the conversation between the two parties.
Sally is fortunate. Her English literacy skills are at a level which enable her to use her TTY efficiently. But consider the situation of Barry who is also Deaf. Barry finds using a TTY very difficult. Like Sally, his first language is not English, but Auslan. However, unlike Sally he does not have the English literacy skills to feel confident in using the TTY effectively. He does use the TTY to communicate with close friends and family who also have TTYs, but prefers not to use the NRS in case there is a communication breakdown. Barry is very limited in his use of telecommunications and to compensate somewhat, he does use a fax machine because it gives greater scope in controlling the written English than the TTY.
Outside the Deaf arena, there is little knowledge of the impact that prelingual deafness can have on a child's language and hence literacy development. Most members of the Australian Deaf Community choose to use Auslan because it is a visual language and one that perfectly suits their linguistic needs. Because Auslan has no written form, Auslan has been disregarded as an educational and communication tool by the education establishment in the past and Deaf people have had to acquire their education through English in either a spoken or signed form (Branson and Miller: 1991). They have acquired Auslan through their older peers in the playground or as adults from other Deaf adults. For most of these people, Auslan is their first language because it is the language they understand and with which they feel most comfortable. English, and for Deaf people that means literacy in English, is their second language and one which they use with varying degrees of success.
Most online services are heavily English text based, even the TTY. It is therefore surprising, to find that there has been no research carried out into the actual use of online services by Deaf people. How well were Deaf people using such technology? Were they using it at all? If so, where and in what situation?
In 1999 a consortium of organisations was successful in obtaining funds from the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts to research Deaf people's use of online services and to suggest ways in which such access and use could be improved. The organisations involved were Vicdeaf, the Australian Communication Exchange, the Centre of Excellence for Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) and the Centre for International Research on Communication and Information Technologies at RMIT University. The research project was called Deaf Australia Online.
For the purpose of the research project, "online" was defined as meaning any service which is obtained online. The project aimed to examine Deaf people's online use in areas such as personal communication, electronic commerce, access to government services and education. No other similar research project in the world could be located.
A number of focus groups were held around Australia to ask Deaf people how they were using online services. A Deaf facilitator, fluent in Auslan led each focus group and data was then analysed. The project found that many Deaf people were not aware of online services such as banking, shopping, and online access to government services. Compounding the situation were issues such as limited opportunities for skill development, some avoidance of text based technologies, a strong preference for face to face communication and sign language, a low level of trust in online services, the high cost of buying technology which is suited to Deaf people and the fact that many Deaf people do not have, or are confused about, credit cards.
The recommendations from the Deaf Australia Online project have led into a second project in 2000, also funded by the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. Included in the original consortium is the Australian Association of the Deaf (AAD). This second project is called Deaf Australia Online II and aims to trial and test visual communication channels with Deaf people to identify ways in which they can be improved.
The Deaf Australia Online II project will conduct, or link with, trials in the following prototypes of online services, all of which have been described as being important by the Australian Deaf Community and all of which meet their needs of visual communication through Auslan.
€ Auslan video clips on the Internet for the provision of government service information
€ Public video conferencing where two Deaf people can communicate in Auslan via the internet
€ Video Relay Interpreting (VRI) which utilises a sign language interpreter to relay calls between a Deaf person and a hearing person through video conferencing and telephonically
€ A multifunction communications unit which will allow a Deaf person a choice of means of communication including email, videoconferencing, fax, and a TTY
€ Mobile telephones which enable mobile text telephony
Online services in Auslan via the Internet are achievable, but costs at the present time are a severely limiting factor. Like the Deaf Australia Online project, useability trials and technical evaluations have not been attempted in Australia. There have been a few limited trials overseas.
Included in this project is a small study to improve our understanding of the best approach to raising awareness and skilling Deaf people in the use of online services, especially in the use of email and chat.
For Deaf people such as Barry, having online services which meet his linguistic needs will enable him to participate more fully as an independent member of society. He will not be limited by the fact that information presented by technology is text based. By merging technology and Auslan, Barry will be able to use online services on par with the rest of the community.
1. Branson, J. and Miller, D., 1991, "Language and Identity in the Australian Deaf Community: Australian Sign Language and Language Policy. An Issue of Social Justice." Australian Review of Applied Linguistics, Series S, No 8, 1991.
2. Dawkins, J., 1991. Australia's Language. The Australian Language and Literacy Policy. Canberra: AGPS.
Centre of Excellence for Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Access Department Preston Campus
Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE
77-91 St Georges Rd Preston 3072
THE VIRTUAL INDEPENDENT LEARNING CENTRE - ONLINE LEARNING FOR THE REST OF US
by Chris Corbel
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The VILC currently contains five "strands" - Realweb, Easynews, Workcom, Downunder and 510 hours.
Realweb, the heart of the Virtual ILC, is a collection of over 400 language learning tasks created by more than 60 language teachers from around Australia, based on the Certificates in Spoken and Written English. What makes Realweb unusual is that the teachers create the tasks, but not the content of the task. A paper-based equivalent of this would be a teacher creating a worksheet to accompany a chapter from a textbook, or some other piece of realia. The teacher doesn't have to write the book or create the realia, just "frame" their content for a particular curriculum goal.
In Realweb the tasks are all based on websites that teachers have discovered, but not created themselves. For example, one teacher has created a series of tasks based on the Immigration Museum of Melbourne's site. Teachers are able to create tasks without having to learn html (hypertext markup language) though if they wish they can use html in their task creation. Realweb is proof that a very simple idea can be very effective - it went from 5 logins in February 1999 to over 21,000 in December!
Easynews is a weekly collection of language learning tasks based on the previous week's SBS Radio News. Users can choose to hear the item, hear it and see the transcript, and/or hear it and do an learning activity. There are up to ten items each week, and previous weeks' items remain available if a user wanted to follow a particular story over time. There are about half a dozen exercise types, and answers are available immediately.
Workcom is a collection of learning tasks similar to those in Realweb, but based on industry training needs. The tasks are created by AMES Workcom teachers. At present it is not available via public subscription.
Downunder is a piece of hypertext fiction aimed at language learners. It provides alternative pathways through a story about an alien invasion of a future Earth which is semi-submerged due to the greenhouse effect. It contains suggestions to teachers for use, but does not offer tasks to learners.
510 Hours is a collection of stories from AMEP learners about how they used their 510 hours of language learning in the AMEP. Tasks for learners are provided.
Realweb was originally developed with funding from the then Office of Training and further Education, now the Office of Post-compulsory Education, Training and Employment, in Victoria. The funding was part of an extensive strategy, TAFE Online 2001, which is encouraging TAFE providers in Victoria to explore the options in online learning through the development of an online learning environment (the TAFE Virtual Campus), online content, professional development and research.
From the outset, our goal was to work in a way that would be within the capabilities of any teacher, within the constraints of their existing work conditions. Much of the talk about teachers going online involves teachers creating websites and learning html. We felt that that was rather like asking them to build the classroom and publish the text book before starting to teach. Clearly the online environment does make it easier to build a site and publish content, but it still isn't easy, something the enthusiasts often forget.
By distinguishing between task creation and content creation we were able to come up with a model that allowed teachers to add value online, just as they do in person and on paper, by intermediating between a resource and a learner to shape the way the learner engages with the resource for an educational goal. In our view this is no different to what happens in a paper-based environment.
Some people have felt that this approach is inconsistent with the freedom of the individual to surf the Internet and discover resources and engage with them in whatever way they seem fit. Perhaps (though even this is debatable) such an arrangement would be appropriate where access and resources are unlimited. However where teachers and learners have limited access to the Internet and curriculum goals have to be met within a certain timeframe, we believe a service that offers a range of activities focused on those goals is a choice that teachers and learners should be allowed to have. By allowing many teachers each to focus on their own area of interest, we ensure that a wide range of topics is provided to learners, far beyond what any individual teacher could provide, and perhaps beyond what learners could find on their own. Note that we are not saying that learners shouldn't learn to search, only that it shouldn't be the only option available.
Another of our key concerns in the original project was sustainability. We were aware that a very small proportion of projects that receive funding results in products that have a life after the project funding has finished. Websites in particular are often treated as products that are finished when the project is over, whereas they are in fact more like services which need to be maintained and continuously developed. The sites that are successful often rely on the efforts of one enthusiastic individual, who may ultimately burn out: even the famous Dave of Dave's ESL Cafe seems to have reached this point - last year his site was for sale!
We were therefore as concerned with our business plan as with our educational plan. We offered access to the tasks developed with the original funding free of charge for the first year after the project finished. At the same time we continued to develop new tasks, but these were made available to educational providers for a low subscription fee that offered unlimited access for a year for their teachers and learners. This was a very simple mechanism that made it easy for potential users to decide to take up the offer. In 1999 the Commonwealth Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs sponsored access to Realweb by paying the annual fee of all Adult Migrant English Program providers. This sponsorship is continuing in 2000, and includes Easynews as well.
Subscription fees enable us to pay the staff members who manage the maintenance and development of new tasks for all the strands. Although we don't currently pay teachers directly for tasks in Realweb, we encourage their employers to support the process and to see task development as professional development in online learning. We offer our training services at cost to assist in this process. All those involved - task writers, the providers that support them, the organisations that sponsor access, and the organisations that provide development funds, are clearly acknowledged throughout the Virtual ILC.
Only Realweb, Easynews and Workcom have to be paid for. Downunder and 510 hours are free material, since they do not need maintenance. We are currently working on a new strand to accompany the Victorian Curriculum Standards Framework, as well as one oriented towards literacy curriculums. We'd be very happy to talk to anyone interested in the current offerings or future developments.
Further information is available at the Virtual ILC site - www.virtualilc.com. For further information about the ideas behind the Virtual ILC see the references below.
Chris Corbel CorbelC@ames.vic.edu.au
Corbel, C. (1999) ESL Teaching in the Global Hypermedia Environment. ACTA Background Paper No. 4.
Corbel, C. (1999) Task as Tamagotchi. Prospect
Vol. 14 No. 3.
LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES AND LIFE SKILLS
by Michelle Williams
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Computers in training institutions until now have not been very useful and apart from rare exceptions in some early adopters' classrooms, have not altered what students do and how. Computers have not significantly restructured learning, impacted on curriculum or altered learning cultures. This was previously acceptable because for most people, computers had not really altered their lives and communities in visible ways. Now, technology connects people to each other, enabling interactivity between people and their stories. Communications technologies are the essence of new information technologies. The Commonwealth Government in its definition of Information Technology emphasises those technologies which provide connectivity: telephone systems, global networks of all types and connected computers (Commonwealth of Australia 1998). Thus the link between training and Australia's economic and cultural future is clearly articulated.
These new circumstances place teachers in a dilemma. They will need to understand that disconnected computers and disconnection from the dot.com world is not only head-in-the-sand territory, but a recipe for disaster not only for themselves as professionals, but also for those who participate in their training. To ensure this does not occur, I have argued that teachers MUST be connected to the communities of the Internet and to understand the new connectivity from the inside (Williams 1997).
Connected computers may well be the rationale for using IT in all training. Connecting students to the changing communities of practice we are teaching about is essential if learning experiences are to be authentic and shared stories about how the world works are to be true. More than this, immersing training experiences within online culture and new forms of business, commerce, information sharing and communication enables interpretation of that training to be genuine. For example, it is unlikely that any office administration trainer could defend the position that the conceptualisation of office skills, based on text books, no matter how up-to-date, is an authentic, modern and complete view of office skills as practised in individual workplaces.
The service industry is most significant in online commerce. Although business is now the big user, ordinary people do go online to conduct business, purchase materials, do banking, find out about Government services and interact with people. As a result, meta-services are growing in strength. Cheapest car, best local tradespeople, cheapest airfares and travel coordination services and so on are already well established and most are available free to the customer. This is altering the supply-demand assumptions, pay-for-service ideas and many other core principles we have traditionally taught students. Infomediaries are the newest growth sector globally, especially in the business area. Do we understand what this business trend is and how it will affect us over the next five years?
The National Office for the Information Economy in Australia is begging Australians to understand the potential to develop global leadership in the provision of online services - to consumers, information brokers, producers and the myriad of business and industry groups in the hierarchical chain structure in production. They are telling us to invent services, and see this as the future rather than the invention of products as we might have done in the past (Commonwealth of Australia 1998). Information industries are the growth areas of the future.
There are examples all around us of changing business operations and changing consumer habits. There are indicators that the skills and attitudes needed in all walks of life and in all roles are changing in emphasis. Teachers and trainers have been told this for a long time. Critical thinking skills, digital literacy skills, information skills and communications skills are already embedded in our folk discourses. However, whether teachers interpret them from the contexts that caused them to be there, is another issue.
Amidst arguments that teachers (and trainers) "need to do more than use computers and technological tools in classrooms and professional work", the Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE) (1999) emphasises that they "need to understand the global and local contexts that are contributing to the changing society that supports and surrounds schools (and other training sites)" in ways sympathetic to those described in this paper. It also stresses a focus on "processes that will help students contribute to and participate in the Australian Community and workplaces", especially the processes which are enhanced by use of IT (p. 6). ACCE supports the plight of teachers and trainers who are unlikely to understand the IT contexts which surround other workplaces outside of the traditional teaching environs because they neither experience them nor hear about them. It suggests that learning technology competencies for teachers and trainers are more about professional development than judging their professionalism and attitudes.
A Teacher Learning Technology Competency (TLTC) framework
€ The workplaces of literacy and numeracy practitioners can be a rich source of experiences and knowledge about how IT and IT processes are now embedded in all workplace practice.
€ Practitioners need to develop an enriched global perspective of the role of Information Technology and how it is likely to expand in the future.
€ Practitioners need to participate in online environments as part of their professional duties as well as learning to be modern world citizens.
€ "Teacher Learning Technology Competency" should become part of the ethos of the profession, supported by employer groups and seen as a valid component of ongoing professional development programs by teachers. This professional development should be embedded in a teacher's work conditions.
(ACCE 1999, p.13)
Teachers live lives as citizens, community members, consumers, producers, learners, contemporary professionals. Some teachers would add many more descriptors to this list. It is a bountiful, complex and rich life which provides considerable opportunity to learn about modern life processes and thus enrich the lives of others. The dilemma for teachers though, is that in spite of opportunities which may help them acquire broad knowledge, there is often little opportunity to develop a depth of knowledge in many fields. In particular most teachers have very poor experiences in working technologically as modern professional knowledge workers.
To understand their "connected" students, teachers will need to immerse themselves in online communities, world wide web sites, in modern local businesses, in the professional dialogue of the communities they are teaching about and to understand the global contexts which are altering Australian lifestyles, affluence and culture. It us as usual, up to teachers and their professionalism to overcome the barriers and understand the modern world, for the sake of their students, the new culture and Australia's economic and social future, and particularly, for their own occupational survival.
Research in Information Technology Education (RITE), Queensland University of Technology
Aust Council for Computers in Educ'n (ACCE)
Australian Council for Computers in Education (1999). Teacher Learning Technology Competencies Report. Australian Educational Computing Volume 14, Number 2.
Commonwealth of Australia (1998). A strategic framework for the information economy, identifying priorities for action. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.
Tanner, L. (1999). Open Australia. Riverwood, N.S.W.: Pluto Press.
Williams, M. (1997). From information to innovation? Depends on the story!'. Keynote paper in Towards 2000: From Information to innovation. CD Rom Proceedings of 1997 CEGV State Conference. August 23 CEGV:Melbourne.
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