Skills for the 21st Century

Cognitive and Literacy Skills for Success in a Fast-Paced Technological Age

More Online Resources

Posted by wrmcnutt on November 16, 2011

Registration deadline has been extended for the 3 EFF Online Mini-courses being offered in Nov 28 -Dec 12, 2011.

Register online now!  http://www.cvent.com/d/fcqmhf *****Extended Registration Deadline: Midnight tonight! (Nov 16th, 2011).*****

Each course provides participants one-on-one attention from a content-expert facilitator, and is designed to be completed on your own schedule in 8-10 hours over just 2 weeks. Course completion certificate and CEU credit available and included in the $189 course fee.

Designed for adult educators, these online mini-courses offer immediately applicable strategies on topics targeted to the needs of adult learners.

**** How Close is Close Enough?: Improving Estimation Skills  (for all levels of learners)

**** Standards-based Writing for Adult  Learners: Getting Started

**** Using Text Structure and Graphic Organizers: Strategies to Enhance Reading Comprehension

For more information on these courses see the Course Descriptions http://tiny.cc/9irbm  or contact us via eff@utk.edu

Cost:  only $189/person for each course – check/money order/purchase order only. Group invoicing available.

Information on Course Assignments and Completion information: http://tiny.cc/plqnw

Please review our Course Technical Requirements before registering! http://tiny.cc/g850r

Register online via:  http://www.cvent.com/d/fcqmhf/4W   Registrants will be invoiced at time of e-mail confirmation, payment (or proof of payment processing – PO#, e-mail with check #, etc.) must be received before course start.

For questions about these or other EFF services please contact us: eff@utk.edu or visit our web site at http://eff.cls.utk.edu/

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Online Hosted Discussion on ELA

Posted by wrmcnutt on November 15, 2011

The Adult English Language Acquisition (ELA) list will host a discussion on November 21 and 22, and 29 and 30. Dr. JoAnn (Jodi) Crandall will facilitate a discussion of “Issues in the Preparation and Professional Development of Practitioners Working with Adult English Language Learners” http://lincs.ed.gov/lincs/discussions/englishlanguage/11issues.

Discussion Description

Dr. JoAnn (Jodi) Crandall and colleagues from the Center for Applied Linguistics conducted a survey of teacher certification and professional development expectations for adult ESL teachers. The results of the survey revealed that although there are differences among the states, in general, states are paying more attention to issues of teacher quality. During this online discussion, Dr. Crandall will facilitate and discuss issues of teacher quality as they relate to the initial preparation and professional development of teachers of adult English Language Learners (ELLs) from initial preparation and expectations of newly hired teachers to issues related to more experienced teachers, including those who may be experiencing near burn-out from the stresses of several part-time jobs without contracts or benefits.

For a brief biography of the facilitator, guiding questions for the discussion, and a link to a reading related to the discussion, go to

http://lincs.ed.gov/lincs/discussions/englishlanguage/11issues.

If you are already a member of the ELA list, you may simply post messages at englishlanguage@lincs.ed.gov.

To subscribe to the ELA list, go to http://lincs.ed.gov/mailman/listinfo/Englishlanguage/#sub.

Miriam Burt

Moderator, Discussion List for Adult English Language Acquisition (ELA)
Center for Applied Linguistics
mburt@cal.org

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What If…Computers Could Converse Like Human Beings?

Posted by durencls on July 1, 2010

In our original presentation, and in at least one subsequent post, we brought up the idea of the computer surpassing the abilities of the human brain by 2040 – referring to Kurzweil and the Law of Accelerating Returns (which is based, in part, on Moore’s law regarding the growth of computing hardware).

Well, according to this article in the New York Times, it seems IBM thinks it is one step closer to making this a reality – it has a computer that can play, and win Jeopardy:

Code-named “Watson” after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, the IBM computing system is designed to rival the human mind’s ability to understand the actual meaning behind words, distinguish between relevant and irrelevant content, and ultimately, demonstrate confidence to deliver precise final answers. (From the IBM web site)

For more information on Watson – read the entirely of the NYT article – it is quite long.  You can also “play” Jeopardy against Watson  if you’d like (I won, but only barely). 

In addition to the NYT article (which came from a blog post I found in my reader when I returned from vacation), I was interested to note this recent article (through Twitter) from the Pew Research Center: Imagining Life in 2050: Public Sees a Future Full of Promise & Peril; Amazing Science, Familiar Threats

In this article, and in the full report, I found some interesting public opinions about the future and technology 40 years from now:

Fully 81% [of Americans] think computer science will have progressed to the point where a computer will probably or definitely be able to carry on a conversation indistinguishable from that of a human being – passing the so-called “Turing test” – by mid-century.

40% [of Americans] think computer chips will be embedded in Americans for identification [by 2050].

In addition, over 60% of Americans say by 2050 paper editions of newspapers will no longer exist; paper money will definitely or probably cease to exist, with all financial transactions being electronic; and almost no one will send personal letters in the mail .

And this got me thinking – what would be the effect of these kinds of changes on skills needed in the workplace?  What would happen if:

  • You could phrase questions to a computer just like you would a human? And get back a response that included intuitive leaps?
  • Computers had  processing power equal to or better than the human brain? Without all our frailties, tendency to get emotional or distracted? Without our biases and prejudices?
  • The world was generally paperless?  Most reading is done online? Would reading itself be old-fashioned? Would you listen or ‘view’ things rather than read?
  • People all had an embedded identification chip? (With a GPS? Or even direct connection to the internet at all times?) Hmmm… I suspect these will be voluntary to start – limited only to the very wealthy to start. When would they be mandated, do you think?

How would these types of changes affect what cognitive and “technology” skills you would need? As an amateur futurist, I predict (for 2050, mind you):

  • Humans would be needed to do fewer “routine” or “basic skill” jobs. Computers could handle most human-interaction tasks at a fast-food restaurant, for example, or customer service/tech support calls/tasks.
  • Computers would begin to design more innovative computers faster than humans could. Meaning the pace of technology advances/changes would increase even further.
  • Writing things by hand will seem old-fashioned and quaint. No one will write in ‘cursive’ any longer – just as no one writes in Copperplate now.  (Some folks will be able to write in cursive – but they won’t bother.)
  • Reading (or writing) long blocks of unbroken text – 100’s of pages – will be uncommon and limited to older, previously written materials.  New stories will be told in computer generated images. Visual literacy skills will be very important. (Hmm, this means a new employment opportunity might be ‘converting’ old materials to visuals.)
  • People will begin to have a more and more personal relationship with computers/technology. They will begin to feel it is a part of them, and ‘naked’ without a connection to ‘the network.’

In short, cognitive skills – the ability to think, reason, decide, evaluate, innovate, create, etc. – will be even MORE important than they are today. The ability to read and write would be less important than it is today.  With technology interfaces more intuitive and pervasive, what we traditionally think of as “tech skills” will likely be less important. Between now and 2050?  Folks will still need to read, write, type, and ‘figure out” non-intuitive technology tools, but more and more of these types of tasks will be done by the technology around them.  Employers will be looking for folks who can do what computers still cannot – be creative, innovative, collaborative, and/or provide a caring, human connection.

Before you dismiss me as  just a wishful thinking geek or radical technologist, think for a moment on this time line:

  • Today our focus for the 21st century is on *everyone* having Technology skills, post-secondary education/training, or career-readiness skills.  If you don’t have SOME specialized post-secondary training, you are struggling to make a living.
  • 40 years ago, the focus was on getting folks HS diplomas and into college. Those without a HS degree were shifted to lower paying, less attractive jobs.  College degrees got you the REALLY good jobs.
  • Only 90 years ago, in America, everyone was legally required to learn to read and write (and calculate) – those that could not, began to hide their lack of skills or worked lower level  jobs.
  • 150 years ago, in America, the ability to read was considered so powerful and so enlightening that it was a CRIME to teach reading to slaves – over 1/10th our total population in 1860.
  • 500 years ago, distribution of the printed word to the common man became cheap and easy, and non-secular writings began to flourish – the ability to read and write made you superior as an employee for many work sectors – but these abilities also caused suspicion and conflict for 100s of years to come.
  • 1000 years ago, only scholars read and wrote, and most of it was secular (in the western world at least) – you could gain great wealth and power without ever reading or writing a word. 
  • 2500 years ago, Socrates argued the written word as inferior to spoken discourse for learning and thinking – what skills were thus needed for academic success? 
  • 5000 years ago, the first alphabet was created – what workforce skills were important then?  What skills were needed to “succeed?”

The scary part is – I could still be alive in 2050.  I’d be 89 – what WILL I see then?  My daughter would be 43 – same age I am now.  What will SHE live to see?

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Again – Increased Access Does NOT Equal Increased Skills

Posted by durencls on June 25, 2010

Back from vacation and catching up on e-mails, tweets, and blog posts – Whew! This Web 2.0 stuff is tiring!  🙂

From my backlog of e-mail, here is more evidence that simply increasing access to equipment/software/internet does not necessarily lead to an increase in necessary technology skills (or even thinking skills).

Children With Home Computers Likely to Have Lower Test Scores, Study Finds

ScienceDaily (June 19, 2010) — Around the country and throughout the world, politicians and education activists have sought to eliminate the “digital divide” by guaranteeing universal access to home computers, and in some cases to high-speed Internet service.

However, according to a new study by scholars at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, these efforts would actually widen the achievement gap in math and reading scores. Students in grades five through eight, particularly those from disadvantaged families, tend to post lower scores once these technologies arrive in their home.

Vigdor and Ladd concluded that home computers are put to more productive use in households where parental monitoring is more effective. In disadvantaged households, parents are less likely to monitor children’s computer use and guide children in using computers for educational purposes. [emphasis added]

I found this highly intriguing, but knowing that articles don’t always tell the whole or unbiased picture, I found and skimmed the original report:

Scaling the Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement by Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen F. Ladd and Jacob L. Vigdor, Duke University, July 29, 2008. 

Here we find that the researchers had access to administrative data for ALL NC 5th-8th grade students from 2000-2005 – over 500,000 student surveys/observations per year – WOW! This allowed both cross-student and within-student analysis over a three year period.  The authors specifically note that the period studied is BEFORE the Facebook/Twitter phenomenon, but during a period of significant growth in computer and internet access. Within this document we find these statements [emphasis added]:

  • Relative to students with no computer at home, those who use a home computer for schoolwork once or twice per month score between 4 and 5 percent of a standard deviation higher on both reading and math tests.
  • Students who own a computer but never use it for schoolwork [regardless of ov erall computer usage pattern] have math test scores nearly indistinguishable from those without a home computer.
  • Students reporting almost daily use of their home computer for schoolwork score significantly worse than students with no computer at home.
  • transitioning from no home computer access to any of these use categories [rarely, monthly, weekly or daily use] is associated with a statistically significant decline in both reading and math test scores.
  • students who transition from having no home computer to having one and using it for schoolwork almost every day post relative test score declines on the order of 4% of a standard deviation in both reading and math. …the most plausible explanation is that students who transition into the highest computer use category are using their computers for much more than just schoolwork, and these non-productive uses are actually crowding out productive study time.
  • Results for both reading and math indicate that the negative effect of computer ownership on both math and reading holds fairly steady over the first three years.

The researchers conclude:

Our preferred specifications indicate that 5th through 8th grade students [from 2000-2005] generally perform best on math and reading tests when they do not have access to a computer at home. Conditional on owning a computer, the “optimal” rate of use is infrequent, twice a month or less. For the average student, introducing home internet service does not produce additional benefits. For school administrators interested in maximizing achievement test scores, or reducing racial and socioeconomic disparities in test scores, all evidence suggests that a program of broadening home computer access would be counterproductive[emphasis added]

So – programs to simply ADD hardware, software, and internet access to homes (or schools) are likely to have a NEGATIVE effect on traditional academic performance, unless partnered with efforts to ensure productive use of those tools as relates to those academic areas.  Just putting them AT a computer does not mean they will learn more. They still need those crucial Thinking Skills in order to use the computer for learning effectively. According to this study, this means not ONLY training teachers in effective uses of computers in the classroom, but ALSO training parents on productive uses of computers IN THE HOME.

Hmmmm… so what does this mean for children with parents who have low-literacy skills?  While the researchers did not focus their analysis on this factor, it was included in the research data they presented. Examining the tables and graphs presented we find that:

  • Parents with less than a HS diploma were FAR less likely to HAVE a computer in their homes (or internet access) during this time period – 60% had computers as compared to 85% on average and as much as 90% overall by 2005.
  • Of homes with a computer where parents had less than a HS diploma, student computer usage rates of ‘never’ or ‘rarely’ were 8% higher than homes where parents had at least a HS diploma or associate’s degree.
  • The decline in math and reading scores associated with the introduction of a computer into the home were highest for homes where parents had less than a high school degree – higher by far than declines noted for race or economic factors (free lunch participation).

In fact, the researchers do make the following statements about parent influence on computer usage:

The evidence is consistent with the view that internet service, and technology more broadly, is put to more productive use in households with more effective parental monitoring of child behavior. Survey behavior indicates that students very commonly use the internet, and computers more generally, both to work on school-related projects and for personal entertainment. In households with insufficient [parental] monitoring, unproductive uses may not only crowd out productive computer time, but may also crowd out offline studying.

Disadvantaged students may also receive less instruction in how to use a computer, either because their schools have poorer resources, because their parents have less technical expertise, or because their parents are simply less available.   [emphasis added]

 So low-literate parents seem to need skills in effective and productive use of computers for learning in order to isupport and increase their child’s performance in traditional academic areas. Which means that they TOO need those critical ‘meta-skills’ we’ve been touting on this blog! [I love it when empirical research backs up our theories/arguments! ]

In the conclusion of their paper, researchers Vigdor and Ladd do acknowledge that additional computer access/training may have other, more positive purposes/value:

Of course, administrators may have other goals aside from improving math and reading test scores. Computer literate students may enjoy improved job opportunities later in life, or may be poised to take better advantage of online resources once their internal mechanisms for behavioral regulation have fully developed. Evaluations of the Texas Technology Immersion Project have shown improvements in student proficiency with technology and student discipline (Shapley et al., 2007). It is not clear, however, whether computer literacy actually leads to better employment outcomes (Krueger, 1993; DiNardo and Pischke 1997), ** and also not clear whether access to home computers in the early secondary school years is critical to later computer literacy.

Not really a rousing endorsement, huh?  Essentially, the researchers are clearly biased against education systems spending money on “increasing computer access in the home” and feel those funds could be better spent elsewhere.  I’d point out, however, that just dumping hardware/internet in the home, without comprehensive training and support to parents (including basic literacy training) was, like so many “access” efforts, likely doomed to fail from the start.

I do find, however, that this paper adds to the research showing the importance of parental literacy skills in K-12 student performance and success.  Teach the parent, reach the child!

**OK, I find this statement laughable – especially since they are citing research that is OVER 10 years old at the time their paper was published.

Posted in Job Skills, Meta-Skills, Teaching Tech Skills, Technology In the Classroom | 1 Comment »

New Common Core Standards – Where’s the Tech?

Posted by durencls on June 4, 2010

On June 2nd, 2010, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) released  the Common Core State Standards  for grades K-12.

Developed in collaboration with a variety of stakeholders including content experts, states, teachers, school administrators and parents… [we think that the] standards establish clear and consistent goals for learning that will prepare America’s children for success in college and work. ” [Read press release]

Many in the K-12 field and the field of Adult Literacy Education have been closely following the development of the Common Core Standards (see our 4/21/2010 post). It is expected that these standards will have a dramatic effect on WHAT is taught, WHEN, and HOW in all education fields. Upon (an admittedly quick) review of these standards, I noted these things overall:

  • The English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards documents have signficantly different formats/approaches (clearly written by different folks). Thus how these two documents address technology skills is very differently.
  • The Language Arts document is organized around a set of “College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards” in 4 areas: Reading – literature, informational text and foundation skills, Writing, Speaking & Listening, and Language) – skills they feel students should have upon exiting K-12 education. They also provide a ‘vision’ of students who are “College and Career Ready in English Language Skills.”   
  • The Math document contains a general list of “Standards for mathematical Practice” – processes and proficiencies important to all mathematical processes (technology is only mentioned in one place here in the entire document). The remainder of the document focuses on grade-specific “Standards for Mathematical Content” listing the procedures and understandings students should have at that level. They note however, that order may vary and hope that implementation of the standard may “…allow research on learning progressions to inform and improve the design of standards...”
  • The Language Arts document includes skills as applied in Social Studies and Science, and strongly emphasize the integrated nature of language skills with all other disciplines. The Mathematics Standards do not seem to do so.
  • Overall the Language Arts document seems richer and more well developed.  There is much more mention of technology integrated throughout. [But, then, it was written by *writers* not mathematicians, who tend to think about writing in a different way 🙂 ]
  • Technology: While I have not yet had the chance to read every paragraph under every grade level, I believe the writers of both documents have approached technology as a tool, not a set of skills in itself, and mention of technology is found mostly in the more “overarching” sections of the documents.
  • Lastly, it feels (to me) like there is something of a bias in these standards towards skills needed for success in higher education settings, although Career Readiness is mentioned throughout, there seems (to me) an emphasis of prepration for more academic environments.

So – what do these standards say about Technology skills for success?

The Mathematics Standards document says simply this, under Standards for Mathematical Practice:

5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
Mathematically proficient students consider the available tools when solving a mathematical problem. These tools might include pencil and paper, concrete models, a ruler, a protractor, a calculator, a spreadsheet, a computer algebra system, a statistical package, or dynamic geometry software. When making mathematical models, they know that technology can enable them to visualize the results of varying assumptions, explore consequences, and compare predictions with data. Mathematically proficient students at various grade levels are able to identify relevant external mathematical resources, such as digital content located on a website, and use them to pose or solve problems. They are able to use technological tools to explore and deepen their understanding of concepts.

The English Language Arts Standards document has more to say in several different sections:

Key Design Considerations:  Research and media skills blended into the Standards as a whole
To be ready for college, workforce training, and life in a technological society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas, to conduct original research in order to answer questions or solve problems, and to analyze and create a high volume and extensive range of print and nonprint texts in media forms old and new. The need to conduct research and to produce and consume media is embedded into every aspect of today’s curriculum. In like fashion, research and media skills and understandings are embedded throughout the Standards rather than treated in a separate section.
(emphasis added)

In the Language Arts ‘vision’ statement – “Students Who are College and Career Ready in Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, & Language”:

They use technology and digital media strategically and capably.
Students employ technology thoughtfully to enhance their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use. They tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently, and they integrate what they learn using technology with what they learn offline. They are familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums and can select and use those best suited to their communication goals.

In three of the four College and Career Readiness (CCR) anchor standards:

Reading:
7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Writing:
6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

Speaking & Listening:
2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
5. Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
And also – New technologies have broadened and expanded the role that speaking and listening play in acquiring and sharing knowledge and have tightened their link to other forms of communication. Digital texts confront students with the potential for continually updated content and dynamically changing combinations of words, graphics, images, hyperlinks, and embedded video and audio.

WOW, that’s a lot to think over!  And you may have other things you want to investigate in this new document as well.  So Bill & I are going to give ourselves a chance to ruminate, and compare this standards document to both our list of meta-skills and the overall philosophy behind this blog and get back to you on this later.  (We’re going out of town soon and need to go do other stuff!)

In the meantime, you think on it too – and PLEASE feel free to make comments!

Posted in Changing the AE field, Job Skills, Meta-Skills, Teaching Tech Skills | 6 Comments »

Re-Making Humanity

Posted by durencls on June 2, 2010

In 1997, I was intrigued by the ideas presented in the film Gattaca.*   Set in a non-specific future earth, where genetic enhancement is the norm, the film tries to answer the question – is genetics everything? In this vision of the future, good, responsible parents consult with a geneticist before conception and work to give their child every genetic advantage possible.  Even simple dating decisions are made based on DNA comparisons – readily available from streetside kiosks.  In this future world, if you are not genetically perfect, it is assumed you cannot compete with those who are, and you are automatically relegated to lesser, more menial jobs. This science fiction idea could have significant implications for education – how do you teach in a genetically modified world?  Are those without genetic enhancement excluded from some educational opportunities?  What is fair?

Well, that future vision is now one step closer to reality:

ROCKVILLE, MD and San Diego, CA (May 20, 2010)— Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), a not-for-profit genomic research organization, published results today describing the successful construction of the first self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cell. [Read the entire Press Release]

Yes, there you have it, we can now manipulate genetic code to create artifical life. How soon until we are trying to teach genetically engineered children?

While our ability to manipulate genetic code is growing by leaps and bounds, neuroscience is experimenting with cognitive enhancement through chemical enhancement and neural feedback devices.  Off-label use of Adderall and other chemical neuroenhancers used to ‘strengthen’ ordinary cognition is already having an effect on how students ‘gain an edge’ at higher institutions.  Research and marketing companies are leaping to join the emerging  “Brain fitness” market.

At the same time, research is progressing on technological enhancements to human functioning – with implications not only for education, but also bio-mechanical engineering.  In one experiment by the School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading, Dr. Mark Gasson has had a high-end Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip was implanted in his left hand for over a year for the purpose of experimentation. This chip allowed him secure access to his University building and his mobile phone, as well as tracking his movements.  When he allowed his chip to be infected with a computer virus last month, he says that he, “…found it a surprisingly violating experience because the implant is so intimately connected to me but the situation is potentially out of my control.”  Further, Dr Gasson states:

“I believe it is necessary to acknowledge that our next evolutionary step may well mean that we all become part machine as we look to enhance ourselves. Indeed we may find that there are significant social pressures to have implantable technologies, either because it becomes as much of a social norm as say mobile phones, or because we’ll be disadvantaged if we do not.” 

If genetic engineering, neurological enhancement, and/or technological improvements to our cognitive abilities are clearly a furture trend, what are the implications for finding success in the 21st Century Workplace?  What skills and/or training will be needed by enhanced individuals for success?  And what of the likely “enhancement gap”?  What kinds of supports or preparation will this ‘disadvantaged’ group need to find success? To compete in this not-to-distant future?

This is an example of how the technologies themselves may affect not only how we educate, but also who and why.  And as teachers – will we ourselves have to be enhanced in order to serve an enhanced population or to qualify for our jobs?  [Oooo, creepy!]

Let us know what you think!  First person to comment on this post wins a free cognitive enhancement of their choice – performed in a hidden laboratory, during a thunderstorn, by your hosts! BwAH, ha, ha!**   

*The field of futurism is, of course, rife with references to science fiction films and writings, and as blog hosts we are certainly not immune.

**Just kidding! But Bill was sure ‘bwAH, ha, ha’ had to go in this post SOMEwhere!

Posted in Futurism, Meta-Skills, Pace of Change | Leave a Comment »

Project: Tech Skills Needed for Child Care Career Path

Posted by durencls on May 27, 2010

OK, so, following up on our project idea – What Tech Skills ARE Needed for Low Skill Jobs? , here is what I’ve found out about the Child Care career path so far.  Bear in mind that this is *informal* research, based solely on information I obtained from Tennessee sources.  I’d LOVE to hear how this compares to other states’ perspectives.

Now, child care is only ranked 29th in the 30 fastest growing jobs 2008-2018 (see the chart), with 142,000 jobs expected to be created (that’s only 1,420 jobs/yr nationwide, or an avg of roughly 28 new jobs per state/yr ). But it is one that appears inviting to many women with low skills (even those without a HS diploma/GED). It is especially appealing to those with young children as most child care facilities provide reduced fees to employees.

 As stated in the project, we’ll compare the federal information with reality (in TN), discuss what tech skills are needed for Child Care Workers, and then we’ll look at the training and tech skills needed to progress along that ‘career path’  in TN. But first, a bit about what “child care” means in TN.

In TN, most child care facilites are licensed, evaluated and overseen by the Dept of Human Services. Exceptions include child care for less than 5 children, less than 3 days a week, or less than three hours a day (this is important later*). Licensed Child Care (for both pre and in-school children) includes both ‘home’ (5-13 children) and ‘center‘ based (13 or more children). Licensing and evaluation criteria differ between these two types. TN also has two types of evaluation – a ‘report card’ required for licensing, and a voluntary ‘Star report’ that measures program quality. (Three stars is the highest rating, and concerned parents look for more stars.) This is all important as it directly relates to training and tech skills required for employees.

So – let’s check on our basic assuptions: The BLS reports that Child Care workers (in general) require only short-term on-the-job training to start, and earn, on average, $10.90/hr.  Is this true in TN? YES

  • For a Center-based facility: there is NO minimum education requirement to start, but you must complete 18 hours of inservice training in the 1st year and 12 hours thereafter. Minimum wage to start is typical for those with NO experience or training. To attain 3 stars, however, the facility requires employees to have a HS diploma/GED, and prefers them to have some experience or training.
  • For a ‘Home’ based child care: there is NO minimum education requirement to start, but you must complete 4 hours of inservice training in the 1st year and 2 hours thereafter. You must also be able to obtain and fill all appropriate paperwork with the state for licensure. You will make whatever your center nets after expenses and taxes – likely in the $10-12/hr range. Employees of this type of center (if any) are typically part time, minimum wage with no training requirements to start.
  • If you want to provide child care in your home that does not require licensing,* there is also no minimum education to start, and you require NO training. To compete with licensed (and ‘Star’-ed) facilities, you’ll need to charge lower than the average rate for care – which is around $100-125/week per child. So at a max of $95 for each of 4 kids, that would be $350/wk gross or $9.50/hr maximum (minus expenses and likely under the table/unreported). If one or more of those children is your own, then you’re going to be earning less than minimum wage.

Ok then, what technology do starting child care workers need to be familar or skilled with now?

For center-based or home-based care: NONE.

No kidding. TN DHS actually *downgrades* early child care centers in the star program evaluation process if there are computers or televisions, etc. in the classrooms. From the Star evaluation document for early childhood: “TV/video viewing and computer use tend to be passive in comparison to active involvement with materials and people. The use of each should be confined to subject material that is age-appropriate and mentally stimulating. Time limits encourage more active learning. Participation should not be required.” (No mention of computers/television etc. is made for school-age child care.)

In addition, most in-home and smaller child care centers can manage all their business records on paper/ledgers. So other than routine use of basic plumbing and kitchen facilities, right now most child care workers, to start, do not need/have to interact with anything more complicated than a microwave, battery-powered toy, or a cordless phone. (Now ‘lesser’ child care centers may use televisions/DVD players, but few will invest in a computer to “occupy” kids if it will detract from their overall evaluation.)

How might this change in 10 years? At the very least, as business practices move more and more to digital format, those running home-based child care may have to have the ability to locate, download, and complete state forms via the web – on a desktop or hand-held computer.  While starting employees at center-based care centers may need to apply online, or complete employment tasks online, they need no actual tech skills beyond those for everyday living. As current child development research frowns on technology as too passive for use in early childcare, a change in this pedagogy would have to occur to change this requirement.

*Addendum 5/28/10 SusanWB points out that currently, the internet is a great resource for instructional ideas and materials, and those making use of that resource will likely get ahead faster in this career path (and likely HAVE to have this skill to get their Associates degree).  In the next 10 years, it is highly likely that Child Care workers will have to have the skills to access and use online resources for instruction – if not at start, then to move up at all on this career path.

Ok, so now let’s look at the Caereer Path/future for a starting Child Care worker. To get ahead in this field, work for higher quality care centers, or be able to set higher fees, you need at least a High School Diploma/GED, and to participate in more than the required amount of training per year.  Below lists a path you might take in this career (note that, overall, this is not a lucrative field of work – top end is going to be in the $50-60,000/yr range.)

  • Lead teacher – requires a 30 hour certification or degree in any topic (Associates or higher). No additional tech skills currently required.
  • Center Director – Either a) same as lead teacher PLUS 7 years experience, or b) Associates degree +4 yrs, or c) Bachelors degree +2 yrs. Computer use for business-related applications & communication recommended, but not currently required. Likely to be required in near future.
  • Owner/Multi-center Director – Same as Center Director only further experience, possibly additional business management training. Computer use for business-related applications & communication strongly recommended, and likely to be required in near future.
  • Regional or State level Child Care Evaluator/Consultant– Bachelor’s degree in Child Development plus experience. Computer use for communication and professional development tasks currently required. (Moving on from here to further state level administrative/management positions, or research in Child development, etc.).

Alternatively – if you were in a home-based care situtation, your career path would likely be either to join a center as a lead teacher, start a center, or move directly to director of a center as you cannot care for more than 13 children in your own home – thus capping possible profits.

Note that most TN DHS  training is currently all face to face, but that is likely to change, requiring online study skills/internet use for all employees – as all licensed care facility employees must have SOME professional development every year. In fact, given the child care issues many in this career might have, online/distance training could be a real boon.

So, in summary, for Child Care Workers:

  • NO High School Degree/GED or technology skills currently required to start (although slightly higher starting salaries/better working conditions/future possibilities if you possess these).
  • Pay at or around minimum wage to start.
  • Additional training required to move along the career path – certificate (common for most long-term employees), Associate’s Degree for management jobs, and Bachelor’s to reach comon top end of field.
  • Additional technology skills expected for all workers in the near future (online training tasks), and currently necessary to move into management/administration.

Resources consulted in this process:

Posted in Job Skills, Meta-Skills, Projects, Skills 4 Low Skill Jobs?, Technology in the Workplace | 2 Comments »

Trends: Change in Phone Service

Posted by durencls on May 25, 2010

 Pew Research brought this to our attention:

Wireless Substitution: Preliminary results from the July-December 2009 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicate that one of every four American homes (24.5%) had only wireless telephones during the last half of 2009. In addition, one of every seven American homes (14.9%) had a landline yet received all or almost all calls on wireless telephones.

WOW – that’s almost 40% of households that are no longer depending on ‘landline’ or ‘wired’ telephone service!  Further details show demographic differences meaningful to the adult literacy education community:

  • Nearly half of adults aged 25-29 years (48.6%) lived in households with only wireless telephones.
  • More than one-third of adults aged 18-24 or 30-34 (37.8% and 37.2%, respectively) lived in households with only wireless telephones.
  • Adults living in poverty (36.3%) and adults living near poverty (29.0%) were more likely than higher income adults (19.6%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.
  • Hispanic adults (30.4%) were more likely than non-Hispanic white adults (21.0%) or non-Hispanic black adults (25.0%) to be living in households with only wireless telephones.

And this trend is in sharp increase! (see below)

So – why is this so important (and why is the National Center for Health Statistics involved in a cell phone survey)?

Many health surveys, political polls, and other research are conducted using random-digit-dial telephone surveys. Until recently, these surveys did not include wireless telephone numbers in their samples. Now, despite operational challenges, most major survey research organizations are including wireless telephone numbers when conducting random-digit-dial telephone surveys. If they did not, the exclusion of households with only wireless telephones (along with the small proportion of households that have no telephone service) could bias results.

Ahhhh, so this could greatly affect phone survey research results – especially amongst many folks considered part of the adult literacy education population.  We need to start asking, when we read research, if this was a landline only survey.

BUT this ALSO tells us that cell phones are likely MORE prevalent in adult education classrooms than in the typical population!  This survey also tells us, “Approximately 2.0% of households had no telephone service (neither wireless nor landline). ”  Wow – that’s low – so how many is that? “Nearly 4 million adults…”

Hmmm – OK, so now I want to know how that correlates to education level.  Our luck, most of them would be adult literacy education candidates….which means that the odds are your AE student has either no phone, or a cell phone.  Neither of which can be looked up in the phone book.  😉

Cell phone photo: CCC permission 2.0 photocapy

Posted in 21st Century Communication, Pace of Change, Technology In the Classroom | Leave a Comment »

Project:What Tech Skills ARE Needed for Low Skill Jobs?

Posted by durencls on May 21, 2010

So I did some more thinking about the “Is college necessary…” idea, and I had the following questions:

  • How good are the jobs that don’t need college? What do they pay? How desireable are they?”
  • What kind of technology  skills do these ‘no-college’ jobs require? (Both “hard tech” skills and tech-related meta-skills?)”
  • “Thinking about the current buzz phrase  ‘career pathways,’ what are the next steps up from these 30 fastest-growing jobs? What skills/training would you need to get ahead?”
  • “How accurate is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ assessment of the training required for these jobs? How will the training requirements (or tech requirements) likely change in the next 10 years?”

Oh goody! A mini-research project! (Yes, I’m strange like that!)

So I started by taking a closer look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 30 occupations with the largest employment growth, 2008-18 document.  It was already pointed out that only 7/30 of those jobs required a Bachelor’s degree or higher and that 12 only required short-term on-the-job-training. (This would seem to validate the “college isn’t always necessary” opinion of before.)

Let’s take a look at those 12 “short-term on-the-job-training” jobs. How desireable do these look to you? And what do you think the pay rate is like?  The ‘career pathways’?:

  • Child care workers
  • Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food
  • Home health aides
  • Landscaping and groundskeeping workers
  • Office clerks, general
  • Personal and home care aides
  • Receptionists and information clerks
  • Retail salespersons
  • Security guards
  • Teacher assistants
  • Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer
  • Waiters and waitresses

Hmmmm…seems to me that many of  these are the jobs that our adult literacy education students are trying to get OUT of (if they are employed).  Low paying, boring or pretty grueling – not attractive at all. But I thought I should check – what is the current pay rate for truck drivers, anyway? I found the May 2009 wage data for these jobs (national averages, also from the BLS), and then I build my OWN comparison  chart. Take a moment to look this over (pdf format):

Comparison of salaries and training for the 30 occupations with the largest employment growth, 2008-18

I sorted this by training, using the code #s from the BLS’ Measures of Education Training (which, BTW, starts to answer the “how accurate is this info” question), and then within each training type, by average annual salary.  I also ranked the jobs by # of jobs predicted over the 10 year period – in essence  “who is growing the fastest?”

Looking this over, I was mildy surprised to see how much you could earn (again, on average nationally) at a job that requires only short-term, on-the-job-training.  Now I live in Tennessee, where cost of living is pretty low – 9th lowest overall, nationally – but several of these jobs are in the over $25,000 range annually and several of those with moderate-term on-the-job-training are in the over $30,000 range – higher than I expected.  Well, that’s a national average, and includes both entry level folks and those with many years…

I also noted, however, that many of these jobs are those targeted by “certificate programs” and “vocational training schools.”  This tells me that while you CAN get the job without training, it is likely *easier* to get it if you do have training.

But by now I am just WAY more interested in doing some further research – testing the “validity” of the BLS information against reality, and finding out what kinds of skills ARE needed in these jobs. And thus a PROJECT is born!

Over the next several weeks, I’ll research “reality” for several of these jobs* – tech skills needed, training needed, and even look at the ‘career path options’ and skills needed to “move up.” My plan is to research locally – interview folks I know in these professions, as well as online and post my findings for roughly one job category a week.  My current plan is to investigate these jobs from the list:

  • Child care workers
  • Landscaping and groundskeeping workers
  • Office clerks, general & Receptionists and information clerks
  • Personal and home care aides & Home health aides (as well as Nursing aides, LPNs, & RNs)
  • Teacher assistants (as well as Elementary school teachers)

Please feel free to chime in via comment or e-mail – add what you know about these or other professions on the list, and perhaps, collaboratively, we can produce something very useful for the field of adult education (if not the NATION!)

Next week – Child Care Workers.

*Please note that this will not be empirical research, but rather anecdotal/”light” research – for the purposes of discussion and/or inspiring more rigorous research projects.

Posted in Job Skills, Projects, Skills 4 Low Skill Jobs?, Technology in the Workplace | 1 Comment »

Measuring iCritical Thinking Skills

Posted by durencls on May 18, 2010

Today,  almost like we’d planned it, Twitter brought us this article announcing a new assessment tool from Certiport and Educational Testing Service (ETS) for measuring students’  ” …ability to think critically within technology-enabled academic and workplace environments.”

New test measures students’ digital literacy (from eSchoolNews)

Exactly what I just asked about in our most recent post!  So – never trusting a secondary source, I went to Certiport’s web site and read over their marketing materials on this new iCritical Thinking exam. They say:

  • This certification measures the ability to navigate, critically evaluate, and communicate digital information to solve problems on the job in real-life scenarios. 
  • the exam is suitable for students from high school (grades 10 – 12) through college, as well as for working adults.
  •  The iCritical Thinking certification exam is aligned with the nationally recognized ICT literacy standards and is endorsed by the Global Digital Literacy Council (GDLC). 
  • Other stuff: The exam takes about an hour, is written at about the 10th grade reading level, and can be used as a stand alone exam, or used as a capstone to other Certiport exams (of course).

Also interesting was this list of “tasks”/activities their material says is covered by the exam: 

  • Understand and articulate the scope of an information problem in order to facilitate the electronic search for information. [define the problem]
  • Collect and/or retrieve information in digital environments. Information sources might include web pages,databases, etc. [research and prioritize]
  • Judge whether digital information satisfies an information problem by determining authority, bias, timeliness, relevance, and other aspects of materials.
    [evaluate and analyze]
  • Organize digital information to help you or others find it later.
  • Interpret and represent information, using digital tools to synthesize,summarize, compare, and contrast information from multiple sources. [visual literacy, analyze, integrate]
  • Adapt, apply, design or construct information in digital environments. [create, innovate, wing it]
  • Disseminate information tailored to a particular audience in an effective digital format. [communicate effectively]
  • Asks students to integrate these technologies into the above tasks: E-mail, Instant Messaging, Bulletin Board Postings, Internet Browsing, Search Engines, Data Searches, File Management, Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Presentations, & Graphics.

So, OK, on the one hand I’m all excited – I want to SEE it – review it (and maybe even take it!). Does it really do all it says? If so – well, that would be a pretty good start at measuring 21st century skills! 

On the other hand, I am skeptical – you have to be a fluent 10th grade level reader to take the test (about GED pass level) – so not so useful for our lower level adult literacy students attempting to get a job. Its also through Certiport, so its likely expensive. And it is brand new without a whole lot of user feedback.

Anyone out there tried it yet? Have anything to share?

Thanks to Debra Hargrove  for the link!  You can follow her on Twitter or see her work at  Florida TechNet.

Posted in Assessment, Changing the AE field, Job Skills, Meta-Skills | 2 Comments »