IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Integrated Opportunities: Addressing Adult English Learners’ Digital Skill Needs Through Supplemental Videos

In recognition of National Bilingual/Multilingual Learner Advocacy Month, we want to highlight an IES-funded research project, Content-Integrated Language Instruction for Adults with Technology Support (CILIA-T). This work focuses on the needs of adult English learners (ELs) to help them build not only language proficiency but also knowledge of U.S. history and civics, akin to what may occur in part of adult education Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education programs while also enhancing digital literacy skills. In this interview blog, Theresa Sladek (Northstar, co-PI of CILIA-T), Aydin Durgunoglu (University of Minnesota Duluth, PI of CILIA-T), and Leah Hauge (Northstar), describe a creative approach to building adult digital literacy skills as a part of their curriculum for adult English learners. To help ensure the learners will benefit from technology-supported instruction, the team has created a series of videos and an instructional guide that are all publicly available and free.

What are the videos about, and why did you make them?

In addition to building  knowledge of English, civics, and U.S. history, we are also building digital proficiencies through CILIA-T. For example, we want to help adult learners become efficient in using digital tools such as Gmail and Zoom as part of their coursework and build digital proficiencies such as digital safety, finding reliable and relevant information online, knowing how to solve technical problems in different contexts and with different tools, and accessing, comprehending and integrating information across multiple modalities and resources.  

To help learners build these skills, we created six short, free videos in partnership with Northstar Digital Literacy, allowing any individual, anywhere in the world, who has a device and internet connection to access them. By partnering with Northstar, we are increasing the reach of this resource, as the Northstar website saw over 800,000 hits in the last year alone, and its YouTube channel has over 2.18k subscribers. Since being posted about three months ago, the videos have already had 900 views. These free tools are a step towards removing the digital divide through clear and concise entry-level video tutorials.

The tutorials cover six topics: Finding Information Online, Zoom, Smartphone Apps, WhatsApp, Quizlet, and Gmail. The videos help learners build entry-level skills in each topic and can also be used to onboard instructors (teachers or tutors) to each topic.

In addition, we also created an instructional guide for teachers or tutors, which is available in the Educator Resources section of the Literacy Minnesota website. The instructor guide that accompanies the video tutorials supports every step of the teaching process, including instructions for teachers or tutors to guide learners before, during, and after viewing the video content. Educator Resources has an extensive national and international reach, getting over 20,000 visits a year. Through our work in the adult foundational skills system (also called adult education), we know that many programs have limited budgets, and free curricula and teaching aids are a key to those programs being able to provide much-needed services. Although we made these materials with ELs and CILIA-T curriculum in mind, these materials can be used in a wide variety of contexts, with both ELs and native  speakers and in settings outside of education.

Why are the videos important for your project?

Because not all learners, teachers, and volunteers are familiar with these tools, we did not want this to be a barrier to accessing the CILIA-T curriculum. Addressing this barrier is an intentional act to bring equity and access to adult learners and those assisting them.

As part of the CILIA-T project, these videos are critical not only because they teach digital skills that can be used in a wide variety of settings and purposes but also because they assist students in learning the civics and U.S. history content in the curriculum and English language through a variety of modalities. Learners will be using these tools to read texts, answer questions, use multimodal resources, make presentations, create and share content, perform self-checks, comment on others’ work, engage in discussions and group projects, and complete internet searches and evaluations.  

What did you learn about making videos and disseminating them as part of this process?

We learned a few things along the way:

  • Consider different operating systems. Because phones are the main device to perform digital tasks for most adult learners, we incorporated variations relevant to different operating systems (for example, iOS and Android) into digital skill teaching tools. For example, the process for downloading apps varies a bit between iOS and Android, so we have modeled both with our videos showing students when processes may vary between devices. 
  • Always consider viewers’ English language level. For example, CILIA-T curriculum was written to support intermediate-level English language learners. So, we had to design the instructional script with digital skill vocabulary for such speakers in mind and use many examples and visuals to define vocabulary in the videos.
  • Build in opportunities for learners and educators to pause, practice, and reflect. To do this, we intentionally divided videos into sections to make finding specific pieces of learning easier. We also added titled chapters to each portion of a video. 

We are excited about this new resource and invite teachers and learners to try them out and reach out to us with any feedback and questions: Theresa Sladek (tsladek@literacymn.org), Aydin Durgunoglu (adurguno@d.umn.edu), and Leah Hauge (lhauge@literacymn.org).


This blog was produced by Dr. Meredith Larson (Meredith.Larson@ed.gov), research analyst and program officer for postsecondary and adult education research at NCER.