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Introduction

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Introduction  

This is the second year that Oregon Even Start personnel have been coming together at the request of Cathy Lindsley, our state Even Start administrator and Linda Eckert, NW LINCS Coordinator, to produce a pilot project and lesson plans that specifically target technology in the context of family literacy programs.  Our purposes of the project for this year are:

  • to create a new set of lesson plans that can be used with parents in teaching technology and English skills
  • to evaluate and enhance previous lesson plans
  • to chart an easy course for teachers and students to access and fruitfully use existing online resources that relate to specific needs of parents, teachers and programs

The three of us all work in family literacy programs with Hispanic immigrants. Two are long-time colleagues in the LISTO Program in the Medford area and the other coordinates the PODER Program in West Washington County. Our experiences and observations over many years of work in family literacy meshed nicely and helped us define the instructional needs in emergent technology we wanted to address. One of the current team also worked on last yearís project, bringing a useful bit of continuity without stifling a fresh new look at the work at hand.

Family literacy is generally recognized to have four integrated components: adult education (AE), early childhood education (ECE), parenting education and support (PES) and interactive literacy, also referred to as parent and child together time (PACT).   The overall goal is to strengthen families to improve child literacy and school readiness and performance, as well as to assist parents in improving job skills, integration into the community and increasing effective involvement in their childrenís education.

As in all the work we do, one of our intentions was to assure that these lessons be informed by the concept of component integration, a key to comprehensive family literacy. This means that the messages being emphasized in one component are reinforced in all components (NCFL, 2002, Foundations in Family Literacy, p. 37), that they are designed to be part of a whole. When the components are integrated, their individual effects are magnified. It is this reinforcement that truly helps adults transform knowledge into applicable skills and ultimately influences the future of the child. Itís a team effort with intentional planning. In its ideal form, integration unites parent educators, adult educators, early childhood teachers, home visitors and other staff in awareness and ability to reinforce the learning going on in the other areas. In practice, limited time and other constricting factors make complete integration across the components an ongoing challenge to the creativity of personnel. 

We have tried to construct these curriculum ideas in ways which will involve all teachers and home visitors in a mutual exploitation of materials and ideas and also in a loop of continuous feedback. For example, in some of the lessons video is used to help parents focus on specific stages or aspects of their childrenís development. The core message is that by understanding what they are observing in their children, they can better support early learning at every stage. Early childhood, adult and parent educators and home visitors all work together on content; taping goes on in the ECE classrooms; the tapes are used in class, in parent/teacher conferences; and outcome behavior is witnessed and reinforced in the adult classrooms, in interactive literacy and in the home by the home visitor.

As stated earlier, our families are Spanish-speaking immigrants with limited English and do indeed come to our programs initially because of their immediate need to speak, read and write English. As a result it is our high priority to integrate English instruction into our technology-based curriculum, while still helping our students take advantage of sophisticated Spanish-language educational resources on the Internet. We hope that through these lesson instructors will take the opportunity to develop English skills as much as possible for their students.

And finally, a major goal in working with online resources is to help teachers and students get to exactly what they need without getting bogged down in information overload. If you want to go for an enjoyable walk in the woods, itís a far better experience to find a well-maintained trail than to have to bushwack it. Bushwacking and surfing the Net have their place and time, but being able to get directly to information about childhood immunizations, or local school performance or studying specific course content online is what teachers and students need to make their relatively brief time really effective.

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