1.2 TYPES OF TECHNOLOGY
It is useful to begin with a brief discussion of the different types of technology that adult literacy programs may consider. These can be grouped in many ways (example), but one simple and practical way is based on how they are used. These purposes can be summarized as follows:
Equipment that is used to perform/support the administrative functions of the program such as fax machines, telephones, photocopiers and so on.
Various technologies that are used to support the learning of students with learning/physical disabilities (e.g., tape recorders, computers, calculators, speech-to-text writers, etc). This category of technology includes the various pieces of equipment and programs used to assist or support students with learning/physical disabilities. Learning disabilities can include deficits in memory, attention, organizational skills and/or impaired visual, auditory or motor tactile processing. The use of various assistive technologies can help these students to compensate for their disability. For example, a student with a visual processing dysfunction will have difficulty with text, but can compensate using a tape recorder. It allows the student to tape and then replay directions to complete an assignment, take notes from a class discussion or lecture, and so on. Similarly, for a student with an auditory processing dysfunction, it allows them to tape and then replay class interactions as often as necessary to obtain needed information. For someone with difficulties concentrating, a tape can be made and replayed using headphones to shut out distractions and increase concentration.
Assistive technologies range from the 'low tech' such as the tape recorder in the example above, to multimedia or 'high tech' equipment and programs. Fortunately, not all 'high tech' technologies are expensive. Audio/video streaming over the Internet is becoming popular and an increasing number of not-for-profit organizations are making educational materials for free. Assistive Media produces spoken-word recordings of short-subject literary works that are available for free over the Internet. It requires a faster modem, the ability to install a "player" (i.e., a program that allows you to hear sound or see images) if this is not already installed on your computer, and a certain amount of power to run the audio and/or video clips. Note: We will look further at these "higher tech" features in Module 2.
In this course we will be looking primarily at instructional technologies. While there are many types, the "basics" include:
There are both complete channels and individual shows that can be accessed via cable and/or satellite. Cable programs are less expensive and require "lower tech" equipment, but satellite programs are generally more timely, specialized and can be interactive (i.e., programs are broadcast live and participants and program hosts/guests can interact via telephone, fax and/or e-mail. See the Public Broadcasting Service [PBS] site, an American organization that offers specialized learning programs via cable, satellite broadcast and more recently, online.) Dotto's Data Cafe is an example of an "edutainment" show available on cable. It is a Canadian "how to" show about technology and is broadcast weekly on Canadian Learning Television, a specialty cable channel dedicated, as the name suggests, to learning.
Tape and Videocassette Recorders
Tape recorders are particularly useful for students who have an auditory learning style (i.e., learn best by listening). For example, if you are teaching homonyms (i.e., words that sound alike, but are spelled differently such as they're, their and there) to a student with an auditory learning style, you might tape yourself reading various sentences. The student would have to listen to the tape and when they hear the homonym, write the correct spelling based on how the word is used. In addition to taping class activities, there is an increasingly wide range of audiotapes and videotapes available for use in literacy instruction.
Computer and Computer Peripherals
The versatility of the computer warrants a complete section and therefore, is covered in a separate section (Module 2). There are also many "peripherals" (equipment that is used in conjunction with a computer) available and new ones being developed daily, but the basics include printers, as well as scanners, digital cameras (both of which can be used to create many different styles of electronic student portfolios), and data projectors.
In addition to how technologies are used, they may also be distinguished by whether or not they are multimedia. That is, whether or not it allows us to communicate information in more than one way. For example, overhead projectors enlarge a static image whereas a data projector enlarges moving images and provides sound, therefore the latter is considered a multimedia technology and the former is not. The fact that the newer technologies tend to be multimedia means that they can be challenging for many of us. We must know more than how to turn on a fairly simple piece of equipment and perhaps change the occasional bulb. Multimedia technologies indeed are more complex and demand more of us. However, in terms of teaching and learning the rewards also increase (we will discuss these in greater detail in Section 1.3.2 and Module 2).
In that there will inevitably be bumps in the road to mastery then, it is important is to approach multimedia technology with a positive attitude. One simple principle to keep in mind when first starting teaching and learning with technology is KISS or Keep It Simple Sam. While this may seem obvious, all of the "bells and whistles" that technology possesses make it difficult to resist trying to produce something that is "all singing and all dancing" (e.g., creating an instructional web site with audio and video). The more that is added in, however, the more that can go wrong, especially when one is inexperienced. So, it is best to start off slowly. Once you are more comfortable and experienced with the various instructional technologies, you can then begin to experiment and use the more advanced features of the technology.
Optional: PowerPoint Presentation - Introduction to Multimedia Instructional Technology (Note: The slides can take time to load if you have a slow modem)
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