Using Digital Technology for Learning

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Coaching Story: The Cochrane-Iroquois Falls Adult Learning Centre (Newsletter summary)

At AlphaPlus, we’re we often asked questions like, What are other programs doing? or How are programs like ours using digital technologies and devices? To help answer these frequent questions, we’re sharing how one community-based program in Cochrane Iroquois Falls embraced technology solutions across their program. 

In February 2018, technology consultant Maria Moriarty visited the Cochrane and Iroquois Falls Adult Learning Centre to deliver technology coaching and training in collaboration with the learning centre team. Maria used this opportunity to ask the learning centre’s literacy practitioners what they’re doing with technology, how they’re using digital technologies and their advice for other programs. Here’s what they had to say. 

What technology devices are you currently using? 
We use a combination of devices. From most effective to least effective, they are:

  • iPads (we have nine between three program sites)
  • Smartphones (we have a BYOD approach to learners’ assistive devices)
  • Laptops and desktop PCs (mix of both)

Peripherals we use include noise-cancelling headphones, a scanner that is dedicated to a Kurzweil Pro Learn Station and a smart TV with AirPlay and Chromecast capabilities.

How are you using technology in the program?

  • Assessments
    • We sometimes use online assessments for learners to identify their learning style and digital technology skills.  
  • New technology
    • We introduce technology that learners may not have, like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, in order for them to be ready for their next step. 
  • Self-directed learning
    • The centre purchased iPads a few years ago, and they are being used daily now to access the internet while learners are working at their desks, using YouTube math videos, grammar websites and Khan Academy, and researching careers with Learners also use them to search online for sample cover letters, resumés and job-search documents.

What are the benefits of using technology in your program?
A tablet can provide much more than just access to resources. It can be a diverse teaching tool that gives more independence to the learner and can supplement every aspect of a learner’s progress. 

If they’re having trouble with a question that isn’t in the answer key, they can access Photomath to look up the steps. Those who would rather figure things out on their own and may only need one small part of the answer explained can fast-forward a YouTube video to the spot where they explain the one part they forgot. This gives the learner the freedom to succeed independently. 

With a class of 10-15 staggered starts on different goal paths and each with a unique learning style, a practitioner can really see the benefit of using a device that takes care of the pedantic parts. 

What have you learned from implementing technology into the program?
It really does improve the learner experience
Confident learning comes from having access to the best means of expression for each learner. If someone has information to share but cannot share it for whatever reason, everyone loses out. If you give a speech-to-text-enabled iPad to a strong orator (who is also a struggling scribe), that person can share written communication as well as anyone else. Likewise, a struggling reader can reinforce their understanding of difficult text passages and proofread their own written work by having Siri read it back to them.

This provides a new frontier of curiosity. When a learner knows they can solve most problems quickly and easily, they are often more likely to stretch to learn things they would not have felt comfortable inquiring about in a traditional pedagogy. When Google can resolve a question without the fear of being judged, some people are more inclined to seek out answers.

Technology helps build practical skills

  • It gives students more confidence in their abilities, which ripples to more conversations with other students and instructors and gives them more incentive to try new things or move ahead.
  •  The prompts for grammar and spelling especially help the visual learners; they pick up on and/or see the mistakes.  
  •  Using the aids or tricks like right-clicking for synonyms allows them to expand on their vocabulary and knowledge, which helps for more creative writing, and their work is not so repetitive.
  •  Using the speech-to-text feature for those who don’t have good keyboarding knowledge or who have a fear of touching the device allows them to see just how easy and effective these devices can be. 

What advice or tips do you have for other LBS programs?

  1. Start by putting the devices out there. Find a champion who’s willing to keep the devices in running order, and don’t be precious with their use. I started by leaving the iPads on the table every morning, and any time a student asked for anything, I made it my first stop. Once you have buy-in from one student, they’ll teach each other. 
  2. Develop a couple of easy protocols for backups and updates, secure storage of devices and passwords, and let the other protocols evolve naturally. For instance, we developed a simple sign-out sheet for devices after we installed tracking software and restrictions. This allowed students who were using the iPad in class as a text-to-speech device to cover dense textbook information more easily. This also allowed them to work during the weekends to complete their assignments. 
  3. Pick one technology tool that you like to use in your own life and share it with the learner. I can’t tell you many people I’ve introduced to Flipp for flyer shopping and coupon clipping! If the app or technology is useful, fun and easy to access, it opens the learner up to using a range of other tech tools.

Read the in-depth interview here: Encouraging experimentation and exploration



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