Grant to help adult students learn computer skills

An observation that adult learners are more comfortable texting on smartphones than using a computer has led to a new way of teaching adult education courses at South Louisiana Community College’s campus in Abbeville.

The campus received a $7,000 innovation grant from the Louisiana Community and Technical College System for the purchase of Kindle electronic reader tablets to help students bridge the technology gap between smartphone and a laptop or desktop computer.

Students enrolled in the adult education classes are working on completing their high school equivalency diploma. While many are nimble texting and using their smartphones, they often get overwhelmed when they use a laptop or desktop computer, said Melinda Bynog, SLCC adult education program director.

“Our students are quite frequently tied to their cellphone,” Bynog said. “If we get them comfortable with the Kindle tablet, we can show them it’s the same as working on a computer, so they can grow more comfortable and then work with them on their keyboarding skills. The idea is to get them comfortable with technology because most of them don’t have access to a computer and they get frustrated. It’s to show them, ‘You can do this.’ It’s just a bigger keyboard.”

Bynog said the tablets will be incorporated into literacy lessons where students will be able to text in responses during a class. A teacher may also ask students to send a sentence or two as a writing sample related to the lesson, which is a helpful tool for the teacher to assess their abilities, but also allays any anxieties a student may feel by sharing their work with the class, Bynog said.

The texts may incorporate audio to help low-level students.

“Those who struggle can hear the words and see the words at the same time,” she said.

The new technology and literacy strategies will be implemented later this month at the SLCC Gulf Area campus and plans are to expand it to classes offered at the Acadian campus in Crowley, Bynog said.

She said a total of 200 students are currently enrolled in adult education classes at the two sites.

Bynog said she was inspired by a student to apply for the grant and incorporate the technology into literacy lessons.

“One day I watched a low-level student go to YouTube to find a way to reprogram his phone to put a video on his phone. I thought, ‘You’ll do that, but you’re not comfortable using a computer?’ ” Bynog said. “The idea evolved and I considered all the texting students do. If we can help their reading and writing and at the same time develop those reading comprehension skills, it will work out great.”