Are you taking advantage of the many ways Microsoft tools can support and enhance your adult literacy program? Go beyond Word and PowerPoint to access a powerful suite of tools that will help you to:
Building on the success of the Google Workspace training we’ve been offering since January, AlphaPlus is pleased to announce a new training opportunity: Building digital skills with Microsoft 365. This expands our training suite for Ontario’s adult literacy instructors and tutors who want to build confidence in working with online collaboration tools.
About the Building digital skills with Microsoft 365 training series
This free new training consists of eight synchronous and interactive 90-minute online sessions on using Microsoft 365 as a platform to explore and apply digital collaboration skills. We’re offering two cohorts of up to 20 participants (one afternoon and one evening option). See the training overview for more details about what we’ll cover, the format, timing and deadlines for registration.
The training series starts on September 26 (afternoon sessions) and September 27 (evening sessions).
This might be the only time we offer this training. So if you’re interested, secure your spot. And don’t forget to invite tutors working in your programs!
There is so much more to Microsoft 365 than documents and presentations, and we’d love to help you tap into the potential of these tools. We hope to see you at the training!
Tracey, Monika, and Alan
How proficient are you at using digital workspaces or office suites?
Are you fully leveraging these tools to work with learners?
Are you equipping your learners to use these tools in the future?
WHAT: Six weekly 90-minute digital workspace training sessions. We’ll use Google Workspace as a platform to explore and apply digital collaboration skills. Each session will be an opportunity for you to:
WHEN: Wednesdays, 2:30 pm to 4 pm on Oct 11, Oct 18, Oct 25, Nov 1, Nov 8, and Nov 15.
See the training outline for more details about what we’ll cover in these free training sessions, as well as the format, timing and deadlines for registration. And don’t forget to invite tutors working in your programs.
HOW TO SIGN UP >> Sessions start in October, so secure your spot now
This year, AlphaPlus has been exploring ways to strengthen the network of adult literacy educators in Ontario. This has included a combination of strengthening educators’ capacity and co-creating with you.
Professional development, skill-building and individual support remain imperative for adult literacy educators. However, we realize that the best and most innovative solutions are rooted in the classroom experience, so we’ve also embarked on several co-creation projects with you. Here’s a snapshot of what’s been happening at AlphaPlus in 2023.
We listen to what you say about how you use technology in teaching, the practical demands of your efforts with adult learners in the classroom, and the professional development and materials you need. These considerations are top of mind when we develop our capacity-building programs and resources.
Training to help you teach in a digital workspace
In January, we launched an immersive, fast-paced training series to help you work in a digital workspace environment. Thank you to the dozens of literacy educators who joined the training to build digital literacy, creation and collaboration skills.
Based on your feedback, we’re offering Building Digital Skills with Google training again, starting in May. Join us to repeat the free training or as a first-time participant. Everyone is invited to an introductory overview session on Tuesday April 19. Register for the afternoon session or register for the evening session.
Hosting a library of free digital tools
Last month, we officially launched our new open educational resource (OER) library. In response to teachers’ requests for more developmental level-specific resources, a working group of your peers shaped this library of workbooks, textbooks, lessons, activities, modules and courses fully vetted for adult learners.
Would you like our help with using these open educational resources?
Connecting educators to network, share and learn
Last fall, we piloted Community Gabfests: monthly online gatherings where literacy educators connect, discuss and share ideas and approaches in an informal setting. The pilot revealed that you value these gatherings, so we’ll continue to host monthly Gabfests. Register for the next meeting here.
We’re also bringing back the Virtual Showcases series featuring facilitated discussions and presentations by your colleagues who share their approaches, strategies and tips. Our next two session topics will be:
Sign up here.
While your feedback has shaped our capacity-building offerings, we also recognize the importance of including teachers in design and creation. You have a unique understanding of the expertise and time needed to work with technology, and the challenges of transitioning to a reality where some form of remote teaching is here to stay. That’s why we’re facilitating more co-creation projects in which literacy educators build what you need.
Co-creating activities and lessons
During the next round of Educator Network, we’ll go deeper into the ideas from the Building Digital Skills with Google training. Working together as a learning cohort, participants will support each other in co-creating activities and lessons with AlphaPlus providing support and resources, including access to the trainer from the Google training series. Email Tracey Mollins to learn more and sign up.
Co-designing digital teaching spaces and routines
We recently introduced you to our newest team member Olga Herrmann and the project she’s been leading to understand and address your needs in curriculum design and technology integration. The research phase of this project is now wrapping up. In May, we’ll share what we’ve learned and our plans to move on to the next step: co-creating curriculum resources and planning tools.
Many of our initiatives this year are possible because of increased government investment in our sector. As custodians of a portion of these funds, AlphaPlus has access to financial resources and skilled trainers, and we’re looking for your guidance:
Please share your ideas for co-designing professional development based on the needs of your region, network, sector or specific group of learners; use my scheduling link to set up a time to chat through them with me.
We’re looking forward to more capacity-building and co-creation projects with you in the months ahead.
AlphaPlus has kicked off 2023 with a full roster of offerings and several initiatives underway. Today, I’d like to share information about two projects that are funded by the Ontario Skills for Success program supported by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).
If you’re familiar with the Skills for Success model, you know it includes nine skills “needed to participate and thrive in learning, work and life” listed here:
While it’s quite common to focus on and teach these skills individually, we can’t ignore the fact that they overlap and interact. When we think about how learners will have to apply these skills in different contexts —learning online, accessing government services and digital communities, understanding online security, using social media, online shopping and more — it’s clear that multiple skills are applied to succeed at the task at hand.
As AlphaPlus takes on the responsibility of directing available Skills for Success resources within our sector, we’re exploring ways to help educators stimulate the interaction of the nine skills in different contexts.
One of the first initiatives we’ve rolled out to support this integrated approach is our Building Digital Skills With Google training series. You may have already heard about this opportunity when we announced it in the fall. It’s a short-term capacity-building opportunity to apply this integrated concept, using Google as an applied learning space to demonstrate and model how things can be done with adult learners.
While the first cohorts are underway, spots remain available in the final few. Learn more and register here: https://pd.alphaplus.ca/
The training series complements the deeper work we’re undertaking to consider how literacy and numeracy activities can be integrated with digital skills and how they’re applied in different digital spaces. For this project, we’re reaching out to educators to support curriculum-planning and development of educational materials — two priorities identified in the digital capacity-building consultation. The educators in the field are helping us to understand priorities, needs and interest in trying new, integrated approaches, exploring questions like:
When this consultation is complete, we’ll use what we’ve learned to co-create actionable, implementable tools and supports, giving teachers ways of doing practical work with learners in their everyday work. Starting in April, we’ll form working groups to lead us through an iterative process to explore:
You might be questioning whether discrete training on compartmentalized skills is the best approach for your learners. You might feel that things can be different and there’s value in working through it, but you know that this type of change won’t necessarily be easy.
We’re here to do the work and explore that change alongside you. Consider joining us in our current training series or stepping forward in April to co-create new curricula or materials.
As always, I’d love to hear directly from you, so please email me with your responses or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Is there a device or technology setup that can help bridge the gap between participants who want to gather in person and those who want to connect online? When Jennine Agnew-Kata was grappling with this question in April 2022, she turned to AlphaPlus for guidance.
As executive director of the Literacy Network of Durham Region, Jennine facilitates service-planning, resource support, advice, professional development and more for the region’s literacy and basic skills (LBS) programs. As Jennine started to return to in-person meetings and service delivery, she recognized that not everyone was comfortable. She began researching the right equipment to make a hybrid experience easy and satisfying for all participants.
“I brought my initial research to Alan Cherwinski, executive director of AlphaPlus, to find out whether his team had experience, thoughts or opinions about the right equipment for hybrid delivery,” says Jennine. “We worked together to explore what I was trying to accomplish, narrow down the options and consider the technical specifications and price points. By May, we had decided to try using the Logitech Connect video-conferencing camera.”
Jennine describes the Logitech Connect as a static panoramic camera that requires virtually no setup. It’s wireless, has a built-in microphone and works with almost any monitor or desktop display, laptop, overhead projector or smartboard. Because it’s portable and flexible, the camera can be taken to meetings and programs at locations with unknown setups (for example, public libraries and partner offices), capturing small groups of up to five people attending in person.
Alan and Jennine decided to explore and test the Logitech camera on behalf of others in the sector. They arranged for AlphaPlus to subsidize the device purchase for the Literacy Network of Durham Region and purchase another for a program that could use it to pilot the hybrid model in program delivery. Jennine suggested Brad Cook, executive director of Learning Essentials for Adults in Durham Region (LEADR), who had been looking at similar challenges and opportunities around the delivery of hybrid programming.
Since May, Jennine has used the device for meetings such as literacy service planning and communications meetings as well as the bibliotherapy program she runs. Brad has used the device in small groups with in-person and online participants, for enhanced one-to-one online instruction with more visual components (i.e. screen-sharing plus writing on a board), as a tool for a new math workshop and to hold board meetings and other meetings.
“More learners want virtual service delivery — with highly personalized and meaningful instruction with an instructor that can engage with them at any time — while a significant percentage only want in-person service,” explains Brad. “This pilot revealed that using the Logitech camera, we can add to the possibilities of what we can do during the instruction — in a straightforward manner without undue complication or cost. The camera has been useful for learners who lack confidence in using computers and for instructors who still rely on visuals in a classroom. We now plan to use it to increase the number of small groups using a hybrid model.”
Jennine suggests contacting AlphaPlus before investing in technology: “It’s worth reaching out to AlphaPlus to get an equipment audit or learn how to use what’s available at your agency to meet your needs. Talking with someone with a sense of the bigger picture helped me know I was moving in the right direction. It’s like accessing expert colleagues who know technology.”
Did you know that if you’re an adult literacy instructor or administrator in Ontario, AlphaPlus exists to help you? Learn more about the customized support we provide to help you work through your technology challenges.
Are you taking advantage of the many ways AlphaPlus can support you? We exist to support Ontario’s adult literacy instructors and program administrators, and we’ve made improvements to help you access our resources, support and services.
Today, we’re announcing a new AlphaPlus website, redesigned to better meet your needs. We’ve been working on this new website for two years to help you:
We hope it will now be easier than ever for you to self-serve solutions or discover ways that we can help you address your challenges. We’re always exploring, learning and playing with new ideas; the new site reflects our approach and gives us a way to share our discoveries.
If you’re an adult literacy instructor or administrator in Ontario, this is your website, designed to serve you. Please visit the new AlphaPlus.ca to discover the improvements we’ve made, and please share your feedback with us. We’re looking for opportunities to keep improving it for you!
Alan & Tracey
Dear Literacy Educators,
The arrival of fall means “getting back to normal” for those of us working in the adult literacy field. Summer breaks are behind us, programs are ramping up and new and returning learners are looking for our support. But this fall, our sector is grappling with a “new normal” that isn’t normal at all.
Being an adult literacy educator in the fall of 2022 looks very different from just a few years ago. Today’s learners are asking for more flexibility regarding how they participate. Educators are under pressure to offer a mix of in-person, remote and hybrid learning — while finding ways to organize, share and distribute content and materials physically and electronically. Organizations are facing new challenges in recruiting staff and participants back to programs. And after the last two years of steep learning curves and forced innovation, you might be trying to figure out what elements you should preserve.
As you grapple with the challenges of the “new normal,” remember that AlphaPlus is here to help. As you evaluate new ideas and incorporate technology into your teaching in new ways on an ongoing (rather than an emergency) basis, we’re ready to be a touchpoint. We exist to support adult literacy education professionals in Ontario.
Some of your peers have had the capacity to experiment with solutions and tools that you might be interested in. Participate in our Showcase sessions to learn what your peers in similar programs are doing. The next topic is using game-based learning and quizzes
Perhaps you’d like to reflect on what you’ve learned and implemented, and where you’d like to go further. Our Educator Network and planning your digital tool box course will help you reflect upon how your approaches are part of broader, recognized frameworks in the teaching field. You can work alongside your peers in the Educator Network or in a self-paced, self-directed structure in the course — both can help you feel confident in your career as a teacher post-COVID.
If you’re interested in watching your peers experiment, create and document their experiences in pushing creativity in their teaching practices, visit the Wayfinders Studio Maker Space. This maker space has been designed to promote hands-on learning and foster creativity among educators. The current groups of makers are modelling knowledge-sharing and experimentation with digital storytelling and video production.
Would you like to get together with fellow educators to discuss your experiences and challenges? Drop into one or more sessions of our Community Gabfest series – an informal but facilitated series of conversations among your peers.
See the information and links below to learn more about participating in these opportunities.
You’ve learned a great deal in the last couple of years and experimented with many new approaches and technologies. Today, you’re in a different place, asking different questions. You’ve come so far, and with that journey comes a new suite of challenges. Do the offerings I’ve described above address the support that you need?
Along with today’s challenges, there’s hope. We have reason to believe that investments in building the capacity of our sector may soon be coming through. If so, we’d like to be prepared to take advantage of any opportunities or resources and ensure that expectations are realistic. To that end, would you share your answers to the following questions?
As always, I’d love to hear directly from you, so please email me with your answers at email@example.com. Thank you.
Dear Literacy Educators,
For the last few months, AlphaPlus has been involved in the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development’s digital enhancement initiative for Ontario’s literacy and basic skills (LBS) sector. Along with Contact North, we played a convening and intermediary role in this project, consulting with and working on behalf of educators, administrators and learners.
We ensured that all sectors (colleges, community programs and school boards) and streams (Deaf, francophone, Indigenous, and anglophone) were provided with equitable opportunity to contribute. We paid particular attention to including under-represented groups and we interpreted high priority issues that are actionable by the Ministry. Thank you to all who stepped forward to share your insights and experiences about digital delivery.
The consultation, research and analysis are now summarized in the report Enhancing the Literacy and Basic Skills Program Through Integrated Digital Delivery: An Opportunity and Needs Assessment (available on the online hub we’ve set up).
The report highlights the importance of digital skills and digital literacy, the gains made by remote learners during the pandemic, the challenges presented by the digital divide and the following four thematic areas of opportunity and potential action:
Provide access to technology devices, digital skills and tech support across the province to increase access and remove barriers.
Provide a shared repository of vetted, high-quality, open-sourced curricula, assessment and online-learning teaching resources and a comprehensive learning management system.
Provide accessible provincial professional development and structured forums and methods for knowledge sharing focused on online and blended-learning best practices.
Strengthen the enabling environment for system-wide effectiveness and coordination.
While none of this is new to those of us working in Ontario’s adult literacy sector, it’s helpful to see attention paid to these issues.
This initiative reflects a significant investment by the Ministry in understanding digital delivery, but we can’t lose sight of the opportunities and challenges of in-person programs. The report highlights the importance of digital skills and literacy to help learners successfully pursue their goals related to education, employment and independence — but most digital skill building happens through in-person opportunities and experiences.
In addition to representing 85% of LBS program delivery, face-to-face is the optimal environment to build relationships, trust and comfort with learners. And as remote services increase, we don’t want to risk excluding those with lower digital literacy skills and limited access to devices or the internet. Therefore, we believe that to ensure robust and digitally enriched adult literacy programming, the entire system should be designed from the perspective of in-person teachers and learners. In-person, including hybrid, delivery provides the appropriate and critical opportunities for learners to develop the competency to fully participate in future independent digital learning at home, at work or in further education.
While fully remote service delivery is an excellent option for certain situations and learners, it shouldn’t be the default nor the dominant (only takeaway) theme from the report. An army of in-person teachers is providing foundational digital skills opportunities to improve learners’ access to future digital learning. Overly focusing on the needs of fully remote or distance LBS delivery would short-change the immediate struggles of the in-person programs doing the yeoman’s share of the LBS digital skills development.
Where do we go from here?
While it’s not clear what next steps the Ministry will take, this initiative reflects incremental progress and momentum around much-needed conversations. The Ministry involved AlphaPlus because of our advocacy on behalf of literacy programs and projects like our Shift to Remote Delivery Report and 8 Strategies for Improving the Digital Capacity of Our Adult Literacy System. We will continue to try to meet with them and advance these conversations.
Recognizing that digital delivery is just one component, AlphaPlus will continue to support and advocate for face-to-face programs trying to deal with 21st-century technology and learning. The report findings will help us narrow our focus and clarify where we can make an impact.
To that end, we also want to continue the conversation with you. I encourage you to read the Ministry’s report and get in touch directly with me to share your thoughts:
Please email me with your reactions and ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to hear from you.
Ontario’s Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) sector is emerging from two years of tremendous change; we need a system that recognizes and supports that transformation.
The pandemic forced everyone working in adult literacy to step in and fill a void, making changes and improvements that we had talked about for a very long time. We all moved through an extreme learning curve, incorporating new ways of doing things and tackling projects that previously seemed impossible. From online program delivery, digitizing learner records and files, online audits and much more, our field has developed countless new solutions, many of which are here to stay.
From our vantage point at AlphaPlus, we’ve witnessed you overcoming barriers and obstacles. You acted quickly to find ways to continue reaching and supporting learners. We see the hard work you’ve done to adapt, and we’re proud to have played a role in helping many of you.
Last October, we started a discussion about a vision for system-level change for our sector. We introduced some of our thinking and our eight proposed strategies for improving the digital capacity of our adult literacy system, inviting you into the conversation. That same week, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development announced a new initiative.
The new Ministry initiative aims to identify gaps and priorities for digital services, and tools for learners, educators and organizations. They’re seeking input into creating a roadmap for enhancing the LBS system’s capacity to deliver more services remotely and expand blended learning opportunities to serve more learners.
You might recall that the Ministry conducted a program evaluation in 2016 that resulted in over 40 key recommendations — many of which have not been addressed. Today, our landscape bears little resemblance to what it looked like in 2016; we have to grapple with the changes we made during the pandemic and how we want to advance them.
As the Ministry starts to examine our new reality, they’ve asked AlphaPlus and Contact North|Contact Nord to help consult with educators, tutors, learners and organizations. We recognize you’re being consulted once again but we’re cautiously optimistic about what this could mean for our field as a whole. Now is an excellent time to provide insight into the problems that remain and the solutions we need. We want to help ensure that the right people are consulted and heard, and that good information gets into the hands of decision-makers.
This initiative is unfolding quickly, with multiple organizations playing a role. In addition to AlphaPlus and Contact North|Contact Nord, the project is working with the sector and stream organizations to organize participation in 13 small discussion groups over January and February. We’ve set up a home base to provide you with essential information, links and AlphaPlus updates.
Working on the big picture and contributing to moving forward these long-term pieces — such as the eight strategies and capacity initiative — is a process that takes time. We know that you want us to participate in those discussions and advocate for the adult literacy sector, and we also know that you need support now.
While we play a role in big-picture vision-building, we continue to support the immediate needs of instructors and program administrators. In the last year, we’ve worked by your side through coaching, networks, offering tools and templates to help you digitize your course materials, and showcasing and sharing your innovations and successes.
As we kick off 2022, we’re excited about new opportunities to support you. For example:
The pandemic has forever altered the landscape for delivering adult literacy education. We’re here to help ensure that we hold on to our sector’s best innovations and continue on a positive trajectory forward.
If you have any questions about our role in the Ministry initiative or how the AlphaPlus team can support you directly, please email me at email@example.com.
At AlphaPlus, we’re currently looking for perspectives that may have been missing in our inclusion efforts.
I’m the Executive Director of AlphaPlus, but I wear more than one hat in the adult literacy education field: I’m also on the board of a literacy program here in Picton, which allows me to engage in adult literacy work in an entirely different way.
Recently, during a board discussion about 2S-LGBTQ+ issues within the local program, I was struck by perspectives I had previously been missing. As we discussed disruptions to family life and school that can lead to a need for a literacy program down the road, I realized that, though gay myself, I had, as a white, cisgender male living with several privileges, been unaware of many LGBTQ issues affecting learning.
Since coming to that realization, and knowing that at AlphaPlus we tend to talk about equitable delivery but less about being intentionally inclusive by design, I have entered AlphaPlus into a partnership with Ontario Digital Literacy and Access Network (ODLAN), an organization that facilitates digital literacy and advocates for the removal of barriers to accessing online spaces for 2S-LGBTQ+ communities. ODLAN offers resources to help organizations build the infrastructure and capacity to concretely address these issues. This partnership allows us the opportunity to learn about aspects of digital equity from an organization outside the field of adult literacy. Through the ODLAN network, organizations can collaborate further on using an intersectional lens in developing digital strategies that will minimize the barriers 2S-LGBTQ+ communities are experiencing.
This initiative leads us to the following questions:
Creating sector-wide system change
One of AlphaPlus’ strategic priorities is building a more equitable and inclusive literacy and basic skills (LBS) system. We have identified eight strategies to address long-standing challenges and gaps – from affordable access, to infrastructure investments, to choosing performance measures that work for learners. We’ll be sharing our recommendations for sector-wide system change over the next few months.
The strategies were built upon an AlphaPlus vision of the digital learning opportunities an adult learning system must provide. The wording of the vision is a work in progress (you can read it here), and we believe our framing of digital opportunities can, with your help, be strengthened by a more careful examination of, and explicit commitment to, inclusion.
Seeking your input
As we work toward creating sector-wide change, we’d like to learn from you, our peers in the adult literacy sector. Can you help us to be more consciously inclusive and think about approaches to inclusion that we haven’t previously considered? Please share your insights, recommendations, examples, partner ideas. We would also welcome any answers you might have to the following questions:
We recognize that we have more questions than answers, which is why I’m sharing them with you. I welcome your input and would like to hear from you directly, so please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts.
Thank you in advance for helping us to learn together.