by Marie LeBlanc
It is hard enough to offer multimedia in a typical adult education setting. It is even tougher to offer multimedia to adult learners in a medium-security state prison, where I teach now.
photo collage from the DOC FaceBook page
Perhaps similar to yours, many of my students left school between the 7th and 9th grades due to learning disabilities, immigration issues, poor family support and complicated environments. Their lack of background knowledge is very apparent in many subjects. Add to that the prison restrictions on device and internet use within the classroom, and the general challenges of teaching inside the wall.
Still, it is possible. I would like to share how I have taught U.S. History in a memorable and easy-to-understand way, while addressing the College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education (CCRSAE).
I presented the evolution of our country through a multimedia timeline. This approach allowed me to show pertinent events, people, and documents through a variety of primary and secondary sources.
I tried to incorporate the strategies for Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences and Webb’s Depth of Knowledge into my activity questions and used reading, writing, math, and science texts to expand the scope of learning. I incorporated technology by including video and audio files containing music, speeches, podcasts, documentaries, and more.
I found that presenting formative and cumulative assessment activities individually and as a group allowed me to effectively evaluate the needs and progress of my students, and that I could use a variety of assessment activities such as cloze reading, matching terms, and games presented through PowerPoint, PDFs, Word documents, and websites. The hardware I used included SMART Boards, LCD projectors, laptops, and an Elmo document projector.
Many of the activities I created from scratch, but there are hundreds of shared online educational resources. When teaching outside of prison, I’ve also used smartphones and QR codes.
Following is an example of how multimedia may be incorporated into teaching the Declaration of Independence.
(2) Discuss vocabulary as a group
(3) Ask "reporter questions":
(4) Explore the main ideas from each part of the document
(5) Listen to this podcast and discuss the relevance of the Declaration then and today
Podcast with transcript and links at https://shapingopinion.com/writing-the-declaration-of-independence-episode-17/
(6) Analyze the Declaration as a primary source
The National Archives has a trove of resources for primary sources. I use the document worksheet pictured here.
I have also presented this U.S. History lesson online through a webinar to my adult educator peers in order to stress the usefulness of multimedia, and to show how it:
There are numerous ways to incorporate multimedia in any subject, and yes, it may take a little more work, but I can assure you that it will create an engaging and memorable lesson!
graphic by Starline at Flaticon
Being an educator today is a struggle for many of us, day in and day out. When I worked in a middle school, I felt like I had to wear many hats and not just be the teacher. I sometimes filled the role of a parent, a friend, a nurse, or just a shoulder to cry on. Then, of course, middle school brings its own challenges of bullying and puberty. I decided last year to make the switch to adult education. I found out that adult education is its own unique niche with its own set of issues and struggles.
To start, I don’t have a real curriculum geared to adult education, and the materials I do have seem really childish. I have to find and create materials that are appropriate not only for my students’ education level, but also their age, lifestyle, and background.
I can’t print phonics worksheets that have little hearts and teddy bears all over the page. These materials would make my students feel uneducated or stupid, and what I want is to empower them to change their lives and educate themselves.
To add to the challenges many of us adult educators face, I also work in a jail.
Working in a jail, prison, or corrections facility brings its own unique issues to this already challenging job. Our schedule is based around when inmates are allowed movement. From 11:30 to 1:00, inmates have to go back to their living units for count and lunch. Therefore, we cannot have classes during this time.
Then there are the day-to-day challenges of students not coming to school because they are in court, or they did something and ended up in segregation, or they just didn’t want to come. Students are given “good time” if they come to school, and they can earn five days off their sentence for being in school for the month. However, some max out their good time because they are in other mandatory programs, and many of our non-sentenced population don’t care, because they haven’t been sentenced and cannot earn good time yet, and are really hoping they can make bail and go home. They do face disciplinary consequences if they miss too many days; however, some students still do not care.
Summertime! How might we encourage our adult learners’ natural motivation to learn, outside of dedicated and supportive class time?
One answer, of course, is to share websites with our students. Some, like Khan Academy, are well known. Here are a few sites you may not know about that I will be sharing with my students.
BBC Bitesize GCSE exam prep: I find the revision units for Edexcel to be challenging but accessible for my HSE students. (Note: I have not been able to access the videos that are part of some of the units.)
If more background content knowledge is needed, I suggest the BBC Bitesize KS3 level instead, such as this revision and test for Solids, Liquids, and Gases.
If their work and family schedules permit, they may like to go on some "field trips":
Most public libraries have GED/HiSET/ABE practice books, which can be used onsite; a working library card would only be needed to check them out. Several (all?) have summer reading programs.
Lastly, the National Park Service offers free admission to many national historic parks, sites, and scenic trails within Massachusetts. Several are accessible by public transport.
Summary of Suggestions
What website, field trips, ideas, and resources would you suggest?
Do your students like podcasts?
Do they like to write?
Share your suggestions with me directly,
or through the Comments link at the beginning or end of this post.
Lakshmi Nayak is the coordinator of the SABES PD Center for English Language Arts. She taught adult education classes for six years in Boston, where she focused on bringing science and social studies to life for her students, as well as teaching writing, reading, math, "Health and Wellness," and "Science of Learning." She still teaches an evening ASE Science class in Cambridge. She has also taught, coached, and tutored people of various ages, on various topics (from singing to working in India to writing essays), and in various settings (including a boat).
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