NorthStar Digital Literacy Assessment

The NorthStar Digital Literacy Assessment was developed by the St. Paul Public Library and the St. Paul Community Literacy Consortium. Through a set of online and interactive assessments users can identify skill gaps in Basic Computer Use, Internet, Windows Operating System, Email, Word Processing/ Microsoft Word, Spreadsheets/ Excel, and Social Media.

The NorthStar Digital Literacy Assessment is widely used in the U.S.  and by some organizations in Canada and South Africa. As of March 2016, over 150,000 assessments had been completed.  Although the NorthStar Digital Literacy Assessment was developed for the adult basic education community it is appropriate for ESL learners – the developers note that, “A mid-level English-speaking ability is needed to complete the assessments.”

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Integrating Digital Literacy Into English Language Instruction: Issue Brief

Harris, K. Integrating Digital Literacy Into English Language Instruction: Issue Brief [nd].

Digital Literacy, the ability to use digital devices and to participate in our digital world is now recognized as a fundamental skill in our increasingly digital world. This issue brief  from the U.S. is part of the LINCS ESL Pro suite of resources on Integrating Digital Literacy into English Language Instruction.

This short article provides an overview of digital literacy within the context of English language teaching and learning, highlighting its critical importance for students and providing a straightforward introduction to four aspects of digital literacy: (1) using basic digital skills, (2) creating and communicating information, (3) finding and evaluating information, and (4) solving problems in technology-rich environments. In addition the article provides practical advice on how digital literacy activities can be included in English language instruction.

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Exploring ESL Students’ Perceptions of Their Digital Reading Skills

Gilbert, J. (2014). Exploring ESL Students’ Perceptions of Their Digital Reading Skills. Ed.D. University of Nottingham.

A doctoral thesis exploring ESL students’ understandings of their own digital reading skills.  The study included  three sources of data: reading workshops created for the participants; interviews with participants; discussions with participants and analysis of participants’ reading journals. The study concludes that while the participants had the capacity to randomly search the internet they lack the information literacy skills to productively research and evaluate information online.  The study also found that the participants’ reading strategies varied when engaging with print and web-based text. Finally the research points to the need to consider teaching digital literacy skills in tandem with language instruction and to provide instructors and instructors-in-training with the means to develop robust digital skills to enable them to support students to develop these skills alongside their language learning.

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Digital Literacies in Foreign and Second Language Education

CALICO Monograph Series Volume 12. (2014). Digital Literacies in Foreign and Second Language Education.

This volume from CALICO is made up of 12 chapters that look at digital literacy in language learning from many different perspectives. Among others, there is a challenge to Prensky’s characterization of Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, a description of a survey-driven study of the use of digital tools for language teaching and learning, a framework that proposes how to close the digital divide, and an exploration of the affordances of digital social reading using the example of an open source tool called eComma. In this last example, in chapter 9, author Carl Blyth looks at some of the ways that e-readers can enable users to annotate a text and share their annotations with others. This new practice, called digital social reading, is similar to the way that readers of print text can write in the margins or meet as a book club to share their thoughts. Blyth presents and then addresses some of the opposition to this practice using examples from four case studies.

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English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Blended Learning Project Report

National Adult Literacy Agency.(2014). English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Blended Learning Project Report.

The report describes the findings from a research project carried out in Ireland in 2013 over a ten-week period with 41 learners. Learners in the ESOL program used a web site in conjunction with face to face classes. The study documents how they used this blended approach. The report provides a description of the two learning methods, a profile of the learners involved, and highlights the benefits to the various stakeholders of a blended approach for adult ESOL learners. The Write On site is open and accessible to users.

NALA acknowledges that there is not one agreed-upon definition of blended learning and sets out the one they have adopted: “Blended learning is about facilitating learning using a variety of approaches, best determined by the needs of the learner and the capability of the provider. It may or may not involve computers. It is simply a way of creatively matching different approaches to learners, content and contexts.”

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Digital Literacy: An Essential Skill for ESL Literacy Learners

Bow Valley College. (2015). Digital Literacy: An Essential Skill for ESL literacy Learners.

A short and lively  account of an innovative “Laptop Lending” program in the Bridge Program for  ESL learners  (ages 19-24) at Bow Valley College in Calgary. Through this program learners are each given a laptop to use while registered in the program and are encouraged and supported to use the laptops to develop digital literacy skills and to pursue their language learning using the online platform, Desire2Learn.

Instructors in the Bridge program are committed to helping learners to develop essential digital literacy skills to  increase their chances of success in further education and in the world of work. As one of the instructors says,  “Being able to read and write also means being able to read and write online, there’s a lot more involved in it than just simply pen and paper.”  

In this article the instructors provide an overview of the background to the laptop lending program, their  experiences with the program and they share some of the successes they have witnessed as a result of the program.

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Learning English with Modern Technology Student Survey Results.

Fahy, P., & Sturm, M. (2012). Learning English with Modern Technology Student Survey Results. New Media Language Training.

Results of an online survey of 176 language students (98.8% enrolled in LINC classes and 1.2% enrolled in ESL classes) in Ontario, and a related questionnaire by teachers in the surveyed programs conducted as part of the evaluation of the LearnIT2Teach project. The majority reported that they use portable digital devices, e.g., laptops and mobile phones. Most use these devices in the home, in the language lab and in local libraries. The major uses are email (90%) and staying connected with friends and family. Respondents thought that technology is helpful for learning English. Ninety-three percent of the students thought that newcomers should use technology to learn English; over half of the students surveyed reported a preference for a blended learning approach which they described as online learning with the support of a teacher. Barriers to technology use for English language learning, identified by the respondents, include lack of connectivity, poor English skills or lack of computer skills. The authors conclude that these results point to the need to ensure that students are comfortable in an online environment, and can profit from a blended learning approach. They recommend that programs leverage existing technology, integrate social elements since the majority of students use technology to stay connected and that funders and programs collaborate to remove accessibility and connectivity barriers.

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New LearnIT2Teach Learner Support Features for Blended Learning.

Allan, J. (2013). New LearnIT2Teach Learner Support Features for Blended Learning. Contact Magazine, November 2013(26-30).

This 2013 article provides an update on resources available to federally funded LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) adult settlement language programs in Ontario and a number of other Canadian provinces from the LearnIT2teach Project which began in 2010. It outlines new help that is available to learners in blended courses and what is available to instructors and administrators. It also describes just-in-time help for learners. An appendix in the article provides definitions for terms and thumbnail descriptions of key resources.

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A road to understanding: A qualitative study into why learners drop out of a blended language learning (BLL) environment.

Stracke, E. (2007b). A road to understanding: A qualitative study into why learners drop out of a blended language learning (BLL) environment. ReCALL, 19(01), 57–78.

The paper reports on the reasons that a small, highly motivated group of students disliked a blended learning class enough to drop out within a few weeks and explores what is needed to avoid this happening. Although this paper reports on only three students, the reasons they dropped out are discussed elsewhere in this bibliography and can be seen to reveal fundamental issues that programs need to be aware of when implementing blended language learning initiatives. The reasons identified by the students for dropping out of the class included lack of support, e.g., guidance, sequencing, review by a teacher; prior beliefs about learning, e.g., the need for printed materials, and learning styles out of synch with the teaching style of the course; lack of connection or integration between the selfstudy portion and the classroom; difficulty and dislike working with the computer for one participant who didn’t realize ahead of time that the course was blended and an inability to relate to the computer as a medium for language learning. Stracke concludes by suggesting that more research is needed to understand why individual students like or dislike such a course and how to ensure that all students receive the support they need to succeed in similar language learning environments.

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Making a Case for Learner Training in Technology Enhanced Language Learning Environments.

Philip Hubbard. (2013). Making a Case for Learner Training in Technology Enhanced Language Learning Environments. CALICO Journal, 30(2), 163–178.

The author focuses on the importance of learner training in technology-mediated language training. He presents four positions, (properly designed technology and tasks are transparent, learners have the ability to use technology optimally, digital natives don’t need training, specialized training for either teachers or learners is unnecessary), that would lead to avoiding learner training and then provides corresponding evidence that each of these positions is problematic and that learner training is essential. He presents a set of five learner training principles for teachers and developers that have had an impact on teachers as well as learners. The first principle is that as a teacher or developer, you should experience a computer-mediated course yourself. This is followed by a description of the result of teachers putting themselves in the role of language learner and the experience’s impact on them. He concludes that what really matters in technology-enhanced language learning is how learners use the technology and that teachers, researchers and developers should provide the guidance needed to use it well.
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Students’ perceptions and experiences of mobile learning.

Kim, D., Rueckert, D, Kim, D.-J, & Seo, D. (2013). Students’ perceptions and experiences of mobile learning. Language Learning & Technology, 17(3), 52–73.

This study examined students’ perceptions and experiences in using mobile devices for language learning outside the classroom. The 53 students were enrolled in three graduate TESOL classes in a US university. A mobile learning site was created and students participated in pre- and post-surveys to gauge their perceptions before and after the project. In the course of the research students were required to participate in five class projects which involved the purposeful exploration of the use of their personal mobile devices for language learning. The study found that mobile technologies can support important new learning experiences. However, the researchers strongly recommend that instructors consider the technological demands of mobile devices, e.g., connectivity and data costs as well as the pedagogical components as they plan for the use of mobile technologies in the classroom.

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Did We Forget Someone? Students’ Computer Access and Literacy for CALL.

Winke, P., & Goertler, S. (2008). Did We Forget Someone? Students’ Computer Access and Literacy for CALL. CALICO Journal, 25(3), 482–509.

The authors address the commonly held notion that because of their age, students coming into post-secondary language programs will be able to access computers readily, be computer literate, and have positive attitudes about learning with technology. They state that there is a shortage of research data to support this and that before programs are modified to incorporate technology, for example in a blended language program, learners should be surveyed to determine their access to the appropriate technology and to their interest in using it for language learning. Although some of the age-related assumptions are not relevant to adults in settlement language programs, issues of access to equipment, including hardware like headsets, microphones, web cams, and the Internet as well as the ability to carry out computer tasks, use software and a course management system are nonetheless extremely important. The study reports on findings from the responses of 911 university students’ in EFL classes. The technology survey questions are provided in the appendix and would be an important jumping off point for anyone considering implementing a blended learning settlement language program for adults.

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Identifying the Real and Perceived Needs of ESL Adult Learners with Limited or No Literacy in their L1

Thieves. C (2011). Identifying the Real and Perceived Needs of ESL Adult Learners with Limited or No Literacy in their L1 (M.A.). McGill University.

This thesis is a study using a mixed methods research design (pre- and post-class questionnaire, interview and observation data) in a 12-week ESL class to determine the opinions of students in ESL programs in two schools in a large U.S. city in relation to their L1, English and computer literacy needs. Results showed that adults enrolled in the classes considered computer literacy skills as a fundamental tool for survival in a digital society.  The author contends that these results can be used to guide ESL instructors in the modification of curricula and in the incorporation of digital technologies in ESL reading and writing instruction.

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Enhancing the Autonomous Use of CALL – A new curriculum model in EFL.

Smith, K., & Craig, H. (2013). Enhancing the Autonomous Use of CALL – A new curriculum model in EFL. Calico Journal.l, 30(2), p-p 252-278.

This action research study evaluates the effectiveness of a CALL Learner Autonomy course in a blended EFL program at a Japanese university. The study looks at a number of reflective tools to help with learners’ motivational setbacks in a CALL environment due to a lack of computer skills or knowledge about how to use websites and software. These included tools to help learners with planning, organizing, tracking and evaluating their autonomous use of CALL resources.  The researchers found that regular and critical learner self-reflection through using these tools was a key factor contributing to a positive shift in study culture. It is included in the bibliography as an example of practices that have been examined to improve learner autonomy.

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Assessing computer literacy in adult ESL learners

Meckelborg, A. (2003). Assessing computer literacy in adult ESL learners (M. Ed). University of Alberta.

This thesis documents a relatively early study of instruments to measure computer literacy in a group of adult ESL students. Although there have been many developments in digital technologies over the past ten years and the range and type of skills described in this study are somewhat outdated, the discussion of the design and analysis of the assessment instruments remains of value in relation to assessment in a blended learning context. The assessment instruments piloted and studied as an alternative to a performance measure of computer skills were as follows: a computer experience questionnaire; a vocabulary self-assessment questionnaire; a computer skills self-assessment questionnaire and a written test of knowledge.

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Exploration of Newcomers’ Access to Internet Literacy

Ascenuik, C. (2012). Exploration of Newcomers’ Access to Internet Literacy (M.A). University of Ottawa.

This thesis examines the impact of levels of access to technology, both within and outside the program, on a small group of newcomers to Canada enrolled in a federally funded Enhanced Language Training (ELT) program. The study explores this impact in relation to the general internet literacy of the participants and the educational, curricular and pedagogical implications for the ELT program.

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