Montana LINCS Update
Happy Thanksgiving from Montana LINCS


1.  What's happening?

So what's happening out there?  Any new ideas?  New Materials?  Are you all keeping your heads above water and the alligators off your backsides?  Or are you just trying to drain the swamp?  Or maybe, more appropriately, are you trying to keep your head about you just like a turkey during Thanksgiving?

Whichever may be happening, these may be stressful times for all of us.  So with the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, it's time to munch on some turkey and let the L-tryptophan do its job.  Sit down, take a deep breath, and relax.        

2.  MTLINCS Book Club

Looking for a good book to read?  Looking for suggestions for your ESL students?  Have any suggestions for your Montana colleagues?  Click here to see the MT LINCS Book Club.  Send in your suggestions to MT LINCS!


3.  A New Way to Teach Math

Marie Cora, moderator of the NIFL Assessment Discussion List, posted the following information about a new way to teach math.  Have any of you looked at it?  What do you think? 

A New Way to Teach Math

In the meantime, I came across this information below and thought I would put it out there for subscribers to read, think about, and respond to.  These studies are focused on grade-school age children; however, I found some of the discussion very interesting and thought some of it might be appropriate for working with adults.  So!  Do you find that either of these resources could be applicable to adult literacy education?  All of either report?  Some of either?

Are you familiar with similar efforts that are focused on adults and if so, could you please share this information with us here?  If you feel that this is not informative for adult educators in any way, can you say why?  And finally, do folks have methods or processes they use to diagnose gaps in math skills/abilities with the adults they work with?  If so, can you share what you do with us here?

Two new studies from Teachers College, Columbia University, examined teacher practices and early outcomes of a dynamic classroom assessment approach known as Proximal Assessment for Learner Diagnosis (PALD). The reports find that sixth graders who were taught by PALD scored significantly higher on standardized math tests than peers who weren't exposed to the method. In addition, fifth graders who participated in the program outperformed their peers in geometry. The method requires teachers to break down math problem solving -- or any academic task they want students to learn -- into a set of connected skills and concepts. Then the teacher assesses student performance at each step to understand precisely where students make errors or show lack of understanding.

4.  USA Learns

Here is more specific information on USA Learns.  Has anyone tried it yet?  Click here and let MTLINCS know what you think about it. 


U.S.A Learns A New Web Resource to Help Immigrants Learn English 

On November 7, 2008, the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), U.S. Department of Education announced the availability of U.S.A. Learns a new Web site to help immigrants learn English (  The site was developed by Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) in conjunction with the University of Michigan and Project IDEAL, as part of a larger project on technology innovations and distance learning for adult education (  

U.S.A. Learns is a free ESL instructional program developed primarily for immigrant adults with limited English language skills who cannot attend traditional classroom programs because of difficulty with schedules, transportation, or other barriers. The site offers practice activities in listening, reading, writing and speaking skills as well as life skills necessary for success at work and in the community.  All instructional materials are online; there are no videos, workbooks, or other materials for printing. Learners can use U.S.A. Learns independently or under the auspices of a tutor or teacher. The potential learner might work from home, a public library, or a workplace setting.

Three Courses of Study

The U.S.A. Learns Web site consists of 3 distinct programs:

- First English Course:  20 video-based, beginner-level units
- Second English Course:  17 video-based, intermediate-level units
- Practice English and Reading:  42 intermediate-level stories and activities
The First English Course in intended for beginning-level learners functioning at NRS levels 2-3.  These students are often considered Low Beginning to High Beginning ESL.  
The Second English Course is intended for learners functioning at NRS levels 4-5, generally considered Low Intermediate to High Intermediate ESL. Some aspects of this course may contain slightly lower and higher level material.  Those familiar with English for All developed by SCOE will recognize the Second English Course as an upgrade and expansion of that popular online course.
The activities in the Practice English and Reading section will be beneficial to ABE and GED students, as well as immigrants building their English skills. The stories in this section are designed to build vocabulary and comprehension skills.
Computer Skills and Technical Requirements
Learners do not need advanced computer skills to use U.S.A. Learns.  Our usability testing to date indicates that learners with fairly limited computer skills and only moderate educational attainment in their native country can do well in the program.


Basic computer skills needed to navigate the learning activities:
- Mouse (click and scroll)
- Keyboard (letters, punctuation, backspace, shift key, space bar)
- Web browser (open a browser, navigate a basic Web site, click buttons and links)
Hardware Requirements
The U.S.A. Learns site is accessible from almost any computer with a fast Internet connection. U.S.A. Learns will not operate via a dial-up modem connection.


Learners need a computer with:
- A fast broadband Internet connection (384 Kbps or faster).
- An up-to-date Web browser with the Flash plug-in.
- A sound card.
- Speakers or headphones.
A microphone connected to the computer is recommended for speaking practice, but use of the microphone is optional.
School or Classroom Use
The wide bandwidth requirements for U.S.A. Learns make it unsuitable for use in classrooms or computer labs.  Even with a fast Internet connection in the school or lab, simultaneous use by as few as three learners could slow the program to a crawl and make the learning experience frustrating.
The Role of Teachers and Tutors with U.S.A. Learns
U.S.A. Learns is designed primarily for individual distance learning outside of the traditional classroom.  But a tutor or teacher can use the Web site's learning management system to create an online class and support one or more students in their studies. The learning management system enables educators to view students' work and provide feedback online.


Teacher management features allow teachers to:
- Create an online class.
- Print an instruction document to help learners sign up for the online class.
- Monitor a student's progress and scores.
- Score and comment on writing assignments.
- Post messages to the online class.
To access the management system, go to
Students who enroll in an online class with a teacher go to


One of the appeals of distance learning is the freedom it gives students to study at their own pace and at times and places convenient to their busy everyday schedules.  However, it also removes the social support of a classroom teacher and fellow students who offer encouragement, feedback and motivation. Teachers and tutors of U.S.A. Learns will need to develop strategies to support and motivate students to stay focused on their learning needs and goals in the online learning environment.

P.S.  Remember -- if you are having trouble with the links in this email, go to the Email Archives at the top of the MT LINCS homepage at  .  Also if you no longer wish to receive this mailing, please let me know!  Thanks!


Norene Peterson
Adult Education Center
415 N. 30th
Billings, MT 59101