Literacy Resources/Rhode Island works to maximize collaboration and cooperation among literacy providers in Rhode Island, and to form a consortium of existing and emerging adult education programs and practitioners. LR/RI works to expand the existing professional capacity of the adult education field in Rhode Island, thereby strengthening the quality of adult literacy instruction.
LR/RI works to address interdependent priorities:
linking existing Rhode Island literacy resource collections and human resources via the Internet and World Wide Web
-- participation in regional and national work through listservs, meetings, and task-based committees, geared towards furthering and (re)designing the National Institute for Literacy's LINCS national and regional web sites
-- distribution of The Change Agent in hard copy and on-line through links to The Change Agent on-line.
Additional activity/events relevant to addressing the priority within and beyond the state:
-- telephone and face-to-face consultation including referrals, provision of information about programs, pedagogy, legislation, statistics and responses to requests for technical assistance
-- LR/RI represented the state at the international TESOL conference, participating in two panels - one looking specifically at LR/RI's web site (in the context of on-line resources for ESOL practitioners), and another panel dealing with learner-generated writing.
-- A brief piece, recommending the web site appears in Bright Ideas Volume 8, Number 1, Spring, 1998, and a piece about the use of the web site appears in Bright Ideas Volume 8, Number 2, Fall, 1988. Additionally, links to LR/RI can be found at:
Eastern LINCS State Literacy Resource Centers http://hub1.worlded.org/PROGRAMS/stateweb.htm
Family Literacy:Ideas for the Classroom/Midwest LINCS - Special Collections, Family Literacy: http://archon.educ.kent.edu/Midwest/FamilyLit/classideas.html
JOIN - literacy gap; under adult education, literacy and welfare reform http://www.libertynet.org/nol/Literacy_Gap/literacy_gap.html
National Institute for Literacy: What's New, December 18, 1998
Rhode Island Bestlinx link directory - educational resources http://www.beavertail.com/bestlinx/educate.html
Rhode Island Education http://www.doa.state.ri.us/info/rieduc.htm
Ocean State Online - Looksmart http://www.oso.com/shared/mod_perl/looksmart/looksmart/epvd176954/epvd176944/epvd176971/
Organizations in Rhode Island http://www.idealist.org/rhod.htm
Southern LINCS -welfare reform/workforce education http://hub2.coe.utk.edu/special/workforce/wfwelfare.html
Town of Scituate home page http://www.scituateri.org/link.htm
Western LINCS - Special Collections, ESL resources: LINCS Resources http://www.literacynet.org/esl/resources2.html#lincs
Yahoo - adult and continuing education http://dir.yahoo.com/Education/Adult_and_Continuing_Education/Literacy
developing professional development opportunities for adult education practitioners.
LR/RI believes that professional development is most meaningful when practitioners have opportunities to process learning, share, rehearse, and reflect upon changes they make in their practice and to have a voice in the determination of the kinds of professional development in which they take part.
Practitioners developed, coordinated and implemented a conference in January, 1998, focused on intergenerational literacy, with assistance from LR/RI in the form of advice around logistics, content and the facilitation of one of the conference's workshops. As an outgrowth of that conference, a half day workshop with Dr. Susan Baum was held, also on the strength of participant demand and organization.
Janet Isserlis worked directly with practitioners and learners at Dorcas Place Parent Literacy Center, International Institute of RI and at the Institute for Labor Studies and Research - providing assistance with classroom work, coverage for teachers to enable them to observe and reflect upon one another's teaching, and fostering writing from learners for the web site. As well, learners from Dorcas Place, Youthbuild and practitioners from around the state have participated in informal computer drop in sessions at LR/RI during its second year. Workshops have also been delivered in response to requests from education providers on the topics of language and literacy development and women's issues in adult education.
As before, as a result of LR/RI's dissemination efforts, a number of practitioners in the state have participated in national on-line discussion groups (listservs) in the areas of literacy policy and advocacy (NLA), intergenerational literacy learning (NIFL-family), learning disabilities (NIFL-LD) and regional and national concerns around English language learning (NIFL-ESL and ESOLM). Additionally, through regional work sponsored by the New England Literacy Resource Center, practitioners remain involved in national projects, including work around the Equipped for the Future role maps and standards, multiple intelligences research, and practitioner-based research.
LR/RI worked with the Department of Education to expand practitioner inquiry projects from two and a half to six month, and most recently, eight month projects, broadening the depth and breath of that work. Reports of all inquiry work appears on the web site and have been accessed by literacy professionals nationally and internationally. (NLA listserv moderator David Rosen requested that LR/RI post its inquiry web page address on the NLA list, which has in excess of 1,000 subscribers).
LR/RI also participates in the New England LD partnership project, providing support to Judy Titzel, the state's liaison to the rest of the project partnership in the form of access to technology and needed communications assistance, and in disseminating information about the project on an as-needed basis.
advocating for adult learners and practitioners in the realm of policy and practice
-- LR/RI participated in the work of the Mayor's task force on literacy which studied the state of adult education provision in the city and formed recommendations based on that study.
-- LR/RI is present at meetings of the Governor's blue ribbon panel on adult education, and has submitted information to that body for distribution to its members.
-- LR/RI is working with VALUE, a new national learner organization to support its national and local endeavors, including participation in the state's Adult Literacy Day events held at the State House in Providence.
-- LR/RI is present at meetings of the Adult Literacy Council and the Adult Education Commission. In addition to attendance at these meetings, LR/RI provides information to the field through dissemination of policy updates and other relevant information on its web site and through its bulletin.
review of activities
Within the past twelve months, LR/RI has continued the ongoing process of linking people and information through its bulletin, which is distributed, posted and archived on the web site. The bulletin is directly distributed to over 160 people, representing approximately 80 educational and/or professional development service providers.
LR/RI's project director continues to meet with literacy practitioners and program administrators in the state. She has participated in numerous meetings with others involved with adult education practice and policy in the state, and in regional and national events including the Eastern LINCS Adult Literacy Technology Hub consortium, ongoing Internet publications work, the annual TESOL conference in Seattle, and on advisory boards for the New England Literacy Resource Center and its Voter Education, Registration and Action Project (VERA) and Adult Multiple intelligences project, a research project of the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL).
LR/RI continues to work closely with a practitioner leader, participating in another NCSALL project, the Practitioner Dissemination and Research Network, (PDRN) which involves dissemination of information about NCSALL research work to practitioners in the state. Participation in a number of activities linked to NCSALL work has been encouraging and feedback from the field has been positive. As well, a focus group organized by David Hayes, RI's PDRN leader, to examine the journal Focus on Basics was well attended; one outcome of that session is an increase in practitioner awareness and utilization of that and other professional development resources on a regular basis.
As a result of this work (some of which began before the inception of LR/RI, and some of which has been created since its beginning), Rhode Island practitioners have been better positioned to participate in regional and national endeavors: Genesis Center undertook a technology planning process through the LINCS projects; staff from International Institute of RI and from Dorcas Place participated in World Education/NCSALL/NIFL projects, with LR/RI providing local support in the form of technical and advisory assistance.
Practitioners were again invited to participate in gaining skills with computer technology, including email and the internet, through a series of weekly drop-in sessions held at the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University during the summer. As well, LR/RI, in collaboration with Literacy Volunteers of America-RI, completed updating LVA's directory of adult education programs and posting that information on LR/RI's world wide web site.
LR/RI has also co-hosted (with the Swearer Center for Public Service) a talk with Lee Weinstein, co-found of Voices Magazine, currently working with developmentally disabled adults in British Columbia, Canada, and with Lenore Balliro, editor of Bright Ideas, a quarterly practitioner-based publication of World Education. Lenore will also facilitate a workshop on home buying, sponsored by the Adult Literacy Resource Institute and Fannie Mae.
professional development in Rhode Island
Adult learners and practitioners come to education programs with strengths as well as needs; recognizing and building from these strengths is an intrinsic part of adult education practice and is explicitly addressed in all elements of professional development activity.
As previously indicated in past reports, while one-off workshops can spark interest, and generate dialogue, it is clear that professional development needs to occur through a variety of delivery models and in a sustained and ongoing manner if it is to be effective. The need exists for sustained activity over time to enable people to come together to share information, reflect upon practice, read, generate information and advocate, and explore exemplary practice locally and beyond.
LR/RI has worked to enable a greater number of literacy and language development practitioners in the state to have opportunities to meet with one another and to participate in staff development activities in order to reflect and act upon current experience and thereby increase capacity in terms of:
collaboration and future challenges
As reported previously, the field of literacy education nationally and in Rhode Island needs a cohesive base for professional development. Funding is low and erratic; too few people are able to access professional development opportunities not only because of lack of funding, but also because most adult educators work in more than one part time position so that finding the time to participate becomes problematic. Work on addressing these concerns and building a strong, local base for professional development has continued to drive much of LR/RI's activities over the past year. A vision that recognizes individuals engaged in adult education as dedicated professionals must encompasses provision of ongoing and sustained opportunities for development for them, and by extension, the communities they serve.
Changes in federal legislation affecting both learners and practitioners will continue to shape the parameters within which our work can be accomplished. LR/RI continues to work on strengthening partnerships and communication among education entities across the state. Since it is administered by the Swearer Center it is able to utilize University technical assistance for the implementation of Internet applications and University space for conferences, meetings and colloquia. (For example, LR/RI was able to facilitate the hosting of one of three national sessions of the Visual Mathematics Workshop on Brown's campus in June), in addition to providing access to student workers for the development and teaching of Internet applications.
As the state embarks on forming a five year adult education plan, LR/RI is committed to working with the State Director of Adult Education in seeking input from stakeholders across the state in allocating resources made available under the five year state application, and is particularly committed to developing a professional development plan for state adult educators as well.
As before, LR/RI wants to increase participation in sharing sessions, encouraging practitioners to come together to identify their own strengths and needs, and to connect practitioners to human or material resources needed to improve practice. It is anticipated that some of this work will occur through the research needed into formulating the state's plans for education and professional support; as well, monthly meetings will continue to be offered in the topic areas cited above.
Specific areas of ongoing focus include:
- increasing use of, support for and access to the internet and related technology
- increasing access to national, regional and local information, conferences, and work
- creating an inventory of programs' work
- identifying who does what, what professional development is supported and sought; increased sharing of in-house and cross/joint
- agency workshops/discussions groups
- dissemination of information through the bulletin
- continued development of the web site: links, pages developed for particular interests
- increasing practitioner facilitation of/reporting on sharing sessions so that LR/RI has a less active and more supportive role
- developing new funding sources for professional development opportunities that strengthen connections between the adult education field and other social service/community providers whose clients/customers utilize services across domains.
Specific work has already been undertaken in this area, through LR/RI's (pending) application to the WHO Foundation in support of an extended learning project involving education practitioners and womens centers across the state in furthering learning about the effects of domestic violence on adult learning. Other areas of professional development for which additional support will be necessary include planning for changes under the Workforce Investment Act, improved means of assessing and reporting on learner/program progress, as well as an ongoing responsiveness to practitioners' requests for information, assistance and access to one another.
LR/RI depends upon the participation of and input from adult learners, educators and administrators across the state, and appreciates help and suggestions received from literacy workers both within and beyond the stateÕs borders. While RIDE and individual programs have supported practitioners' professional development, there is a pressing need in the state to increase linkages and communication between and among practitioners and programs. Enabling these linkages to develop organically and over time seems a wise strategy in attempting to institutionalize the possibilities inherent in ongoing sharing and communication for those teaching in and administering programs for adult learners in the state.
Progress report, September 1997
Literacy Resources/Rhode Island was established in February of 1997 to expand the existing professional capacity of Rhode Island's adult education community, increase educators' and learners' capacity to use and interact with on-line technology, and assist in improving delivery of services to adult learners, thereby strengthening adult education provision across the state.
As part of an ongoing process of facilitating access to professional development opportunities, LR/RI works with practitioners to encourage the sharing of knowledge and expertise. In addition to teacher sharing sessions, workshops and other forms of delivery of professional support and development, LR/RI assists learners and practitioners in gaining access to and facility with telecommunications and other technology in order to broaden bases of dissemination and communication. Advocacy and legislative activity also fall within the broad mandate of LR/RI, as it seeks to address systemic and specific issues pertinent to the field of adult education.
Since its startup in February, LR/RI has begun the process of linking people and information through its biweekly bulletin, a regular forum for the dissemination of information and sharing of ideas, which is distributed via email, fax and regular mail and is also posted (and archived) on LR/RI's website. The bulletin is directly distributed to over 130 people, representing approximately 80 educational and/or professional development service providers.
LR/RI's project director has met with a number of literacy practitioners and program administrators. She has participated in numerous local meetings with others involved in adult education practice and policy, and in regional and national events, including technology training, ESOL education, and reflection on professional development models. LR/RI participates on advisory boards for projects stemming from the New England Literacy Resource Center and is involved in a research project of the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL). As well, a practitioner leader was recently appointed by LR/RI to participate in another NCSALL project which involves dissemination of information about NCSALL research work to practitioners in the state.
During the summer months, two strands of professional development were made available to practitioners in the state. One, a reading/discussion group, met weekly to explore topics of interest to participants. As well, because of the group's interest in using literature as a means towards developing our own and others' understandings of various cultures, a web page for LR/RI's internet site was developed to assist us in exploring a number of texts useful for adult literacy and language learners.
The second strand enabled practitioners to participate in gaining skills with computer technology, including email and the internet, through a series of weekly drop-in sessions held at the Swearer Center for Public Service at Brown University. As well, LR/RI, in collaboration with Literacy Volunteers of America-RI, is in the process of updating LVA's directory of adult education programs -- both in hard copy and on LR/RI's world wide web site.
In addition to the activities named above, LR/RI has also:
Writing under certain circumstances (encouraging, serious, groups with supportive leaders), ordinary people raise issues that have importance to themselves and the larger community; writing and literacy are neccesarily and naturally related to community-building. The women and men who worked with Dr. Adams have named and demonstrated the power of the potential for positive social change and action through the process of participating in the learning community they jointly built in Chicago. Similar actions happen here, too, and need to be recognized, acknowledged and talked about so that more activity of this nature can occur. Adults -- learners and practitioners -- come to education programs with strengths as well as needs; recognizing and building from these strengths is an intrinsic part of adult education practice and needs to be explicitly addressed in all elements of professional development activity.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN RHODE ISLAND
While one-off workshops can spark interest, and generate dialogue, it is clear that professional development that matters needs to occur through a variety of delivery models and in a sustained and ongoing manner. The need exists for sustained activity over time to enable people to come together to share information, reflect upon practice, read, generate information, enage in advocacy, and explore exemplary practice locally and beyond. We in literacy need to develop our own practice and understanding of pedagogy, and also gain a firmer understanding of the connections between adult learning, community development and community advocacy, as "[l]iteracy should not be considered in isolation from the social conditions that affect its development." (Conference wrap-up, presented byVirginia Sauvé, in Casement, Charles, 1994 Report on national conference on family literacy, "Family Learning: It all starts here," Ottawa, Canada, November 2-5, 1994).
LR/RI is working to enable a greater number of literacy and language development practitioners in the state to have opportunities to meet with one another and to participate in staff development activities in order to reflect and act upon current experience and thereby increase capacity in terms of:
Literacy, language and basic education for adults in the United States generally, and in Rhode Island particularly, have long existed in a state of flux due to the pecularities of funding patterns, shifting demographics and an insecure employment arena for those working in the field. While pockets of promising practice and extraordinary dedication and expertise do exist, there is a lack of coherent sharing of information about such work, and further, about the ways in which these various pockets could and should connect. Too few people are able to access professional development opportunities not only because of lack of funding, but also because most adult educators work in more than one part time position so that finding the time to participate becomes problematic. We are working to address these concerns and to build a strong, local base for professional development.
While there is a core group of approximately 400 educators who have been engaged in adult education Rhode Island in various capacities and in various settings for many years, many more have drifted in and out of the field due to a lack of stability. Program funding is often short-term, and prone to change from funding cycle to funding cycle. Many of the practitioners who do have work are employed part-time, often at multiple learning sites. As well, diminishing funding and outcomes imposed by funders often arbitrarily limit the numbers and kinds of learners to be served. Practitioners are often forced out of work, and/or into positions for which they are not prepared. Hence a vision that recognizes these individuals as dedicated professionals must encompass provision of ongoing and sustained opportunities for development for them, and by extension, the communities they serve.
Other areas of change are more timely. The advent of ever-faster computer technologies threatens to overwhelm all areas of our society. In the face of dramatic shifts in welfare policy, adult learners face a complex series of barriers to participation as legislation around eligibility to participate in education programs shifts and changes. As well, leaners require new opportunities to know how to access and use information technology. Learners, practitioners and policy makers need a critical analysis of both advantages and drawbacks of the use and proliferation of technology so that limited resources can be allocated as effectively as possible. This work and visioning process requires teachers who are knowledgeable about and comfortable with technology.
As LR/RI continues to work to provide support in ways identified by and with practitioners in order to strengthen practice overall, we anticipate that attention will be given in the coming months to these areas:
It is our hope that this preliminary overview of our plans for future activity will serve as a focus for ongoing dialogue and discussion among adult literacy workers, and learners, throughout Rhode Island. LR/RI depends upon participation of and input from adult learners, educators and administrators across the state, and is appreciative, too, of the help and suggestions received from literacy workers both within and beyond the state's borders.