- A Pro Literacy conference update by Laura Priebe, Literacy Administrator, Hoosier Hills Literacy League
Originally published on the Hoosier Hills Literacy League website
The first day was a Pre-Conference on Volunteer Management, presented by the Minnesota Literacy Council. Minnesota uses hundreds of volunteers to address the problem of literacy, which, by the way, is the world’s largest solvable social ill. So, needless to say, they have a lot to say about managing volunteers!
It’s commonly assumed that volunteerism is not as common today as it once was. “Those Millennials” just don’t want to volunteer…well, I discovered that this is a misconception. There are only slightly fewer volunteers today than there have been in years past, but the type of volunteer has changed. Click here to read more about current volunteer opportunities for HHLL – from arm chair volunteering, also known as “slactivism,” to short term projects, to helping set the course of the future of the HHLL – there’re lots of ways to help!
This word means so many different things to people than it did in years past. Community used to be synonymous with neighborhood. Now we talk of on-line communities, a concept that removes the barriers of geography, but with different limitations. Community can also refer to the feeling of connection you achieve when you gather around a common goal. A physical place, such as a classroom, office or workplace can promote community, and many free-standing literacy organizations consciously seek to build a “community of learners,” where adult students can feel supported and connected to others who have similar goals and struggles.
HHLL does not have a permanent public area in which students and tutors regularly gather. We are grateful for the community organizations that host our programs and office (THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU LPL, Ivy Tech and ARCC!). That doesn’t mean we cannot build community among our tutors and learners, however – we just have to be creative! This blog is a part of that effort (comment comment, comment!) and we also now have an Adult Literacy Class Facebook group, and we plan to have regular tutor gatherings. I have realized that I personally have a need to feel more connected to others involved in local literacy efforts, so I will be reaching out to “build community” with those that are already involved as well as with those who might like to join us.
The Barbara Bush Foundation launched the XPrize to invite edtech companies and entrepreneurs to develop technology specifically for adult learners. Three of the 8 semi-finalists were present at the conference, and I got a good look at their products. One product, an app / on-line game called Learning Upgrade, is free to 30 of our students for the rest of 2017. Xenos Isle is another, and Cell-Ed are the others. (Click on those to check out the demos!) Depending on learner response, we will likely seek funding to launch one of those learning platforms sometime in 2018. In addition, I will be reviewing and gathering several free resources into a “Learner Resources” tab on our homepage. Technology also extends to tutor training /professional development, so I will also add another tab to our homepage labelled “Tutor Resources.”
This month we're asking YOU to share! September is a huge month for literacy. Last week was International Literacy Day and just around the corner is Adult Education and Family Literacy (AEFL) Week. The National Coaltion for Literacy (NCL) created this week to raise awareness about the need and value of adult education and family literacy. We hope that you will make the most of this opportunity and set aside some time to plan how your organization will recognize AEFL Week. The NCL and Pro Literacy have created many excellent resources to help you promote the importance of literacy. Here are a few links to get you started:
All current ILA members are invited to the 2017 ILA Annual Meeting. Your attendance will be highly appreciated. The meeting will be held online via a GoTo Meeting on Friday, September 29th at 1:30pm EST
Please RSVP to email@example.com at your earliest convenience. The GoTo Meeting link will be sent out a week before the meeting.
Among the topics we will be discussing is amending four of our bylaws which have been emailed to all members.
We will be sending an agenda prior to the meeting, which will also be available via our website.
If you are interested in becoming a member please visit our Membership/Contact page.
Last month we asked you for ideas and suggestions on how you find and recruit new volunteers. Here are some of the suggestions we received. Please continue to let us know how you are doing in your efforts to recruit volunteers!
1. Donate adult books with a bookplate/inscription for the literacy program/volunteer, to the public library.
2. Place upcoming tutor trainings in the events column of your local newspapers.
3. Put up a display at the local farmers market.
4. Have “a general interest workshop” (i.e. birdhouse building) and recruit volunteers from among the participants.
5. Set up an information table at the mall.
6. Enlist the support of the mayor and council members.
7. Place a ‘Thank You” advertisement in the local newspaper’s volunteer section.
8. Rent a portable sign and have it placed on a major intersection.
9. Advertise in the newsletters of local retirement communities.
10. Place help wanted ads at the local community college.
11. Participate in college job fairs.
12. Blend traditional face-to-face workshops with online opportunities so that ongoing training is available to volunteers without overtaxing staff.
13. Distribute flyers at major bookstores.
14. Design a special tutor recruitment insert to be added to the city water bills one month.
15. Advertise in your city’s community calendar e-mails.
16. Partner with a 4-H group to provide literacy information and training to its members or with older Girl Scouts.
Sources: Florida Literacy Coalition, Community Literacy of Ontario, The ABCs of Volunteer Recruitment, ProLiteracy, Reducing Waiting Lists.
Our original blog post "How Do You Recruit Volunteers" also contains valuable suggestions on recruiting literacy volunteers. Re-read it here, and as always, feel free to contact us with comments.
As all adult literacy programs know, volunteers are the lifeblood to our programs. We use volunteers to tutor students, to assist in the office, to serve on boards, etc. But the challenge is always the same: where do we find more volunteers? This month we would love to hear some of the things that you do to find and recruit new volunteers. Here are a couple of examples to get you started.
We asked a few of our members to provide us with a comment or two about why they are members of the ILA. Here's what they had to say:
Bob Stephenson, The Literacy Coalition of Howard County and ILA President:
I joined ILA for the networking opportunities. In the 18 years I have been at the Literacy Coalition so many great people have mentored me and I love the opportunities to share ideas and experiences. My ILA membership gives me that opportunity and has helped me keep my program viable through good and bad times.
Dan Helms, Board Member:
I believe in the mission of literacy organizations, and in the need for the statewide leadership and coordination of adult literacy activities provided by the ILA.
Pat Griffin, Interlocal Association and ILA Board Member:
I was encouraged to join by Tom Miller who thought it would be good to expand membership to workforce development board staff to add a new perspective. I now have a better understanding of literacy programs and their significance in preparing people in getting jobs as well as higher educational attainment. I have met many compassionate instructors and directors, realizing the commonality of our professions.
Laura Priebe, Hoosier Hills Literacy League and ILA member:
Joining a state professional organization makes sense for a lot of reasons! As the sole employee of a small non-profit, I often feel like a one-woman show! Connecting with my colleagues across the state helps me exchange ideas and keeps my practice fresh. It’s great to compare notes on what works in different areas, and get ideas and encouragement to try new strategies. Besides the practical exchange of ideas, ILA membership reminds me that I am part of a team.
Cynthia (Cindy) Cates, Kosciusko Literacy Services and ILA member:
Kosciusko Literacy Services was a member of the Indiana Literacy Foundation. Before it was dissolved, I attended the conference and was impressed by the training session. KLS joined ILA to share best practices. Since each adult and family literacy agency is managed differently in the 92 counties, ILA remains a clearinghouse to share ideas, problems, and solutions.
Dawn Schmidt, Huntington County Literacy Coalition and ILA member:
ILA membership is valuable to us for all the networking that it can provide. Although we are a small literacy program it is good to be a part of a community of like minds, with shared goals and concerns. It is a good resource group.
Become an ILA Member today!
Our goal is to be THE voice for literacy programs and students in the State of Indiana. We strive to be the place that helps tell the stories, make the connections, offer the assistance that will allow our member organizations to grow and succeed. Your support will allow us to achieve these goals.
Individual/Literacy Organizations: $45
Visit our membership page to sign up or renew!
We asked our board members to provide us with a comment or two about the Literacy Strand at this year's IAACE conference. Here's what they had to say:
Jennifer Wigginton, Vice-President:
I loved hearing the input from all the participants in my online tutor training workshop. Check it out here. If you are a member of ILA and want full access, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We of course welcome input on improvement.
The other great thing I learned about is the http://learntoearntoolkit.org/. It is a free resource we are implementing!
Check out https://www.facebook.com/IndianaLiteracyAssociation/ page for a video feed of part of Tom Miller's presentation, Using Music and Pictures to Teach Reading and Writing. It includes some sample pictures within post. Superb!
If you didn't make it to my session, High Level Learning for Low Level Learners, Here is the handout: https://sites.google.com/litcenter.org/highlevellearning/home.
Mike Landram, Treasurer:
Dana Nelson’s session on “Grow Your Non-Profit’ with Email & Social Media provided new ideas for our organization in improving the effectiveness of our email content and tying our social media channels together.
* If you would like to hear from Dana and view her presentation slides let us know! We'll connect you with Dana.
Pat Griffin, Board Member:
- The literacy strand was a valuable resource and since a first time offering, if repeating in 2018, it should catch on fire, with higher participation by literacy providers. More sessions on literacy would spark more interest by those attending. Others in attendance learned about literacy programs, including training your tutors online, on literacy day.
- Denise Bissonnette provided a reminder of the importance of the unique skills of each person, and the importance of trying to utilize those in job development, as opposed to trying to fit someone who may not be a "natural fit" into an existing job.
Darcey Mitschelen, Board Member:
As a person new to the world of literacy, I am hungry for information. The "Training Your Tutors Online" offered much needed insight and guidance as did the "Less Talk, More Walk - Creating a Culture of Ethics and Accountability" session. Well, actually, all of the conference sessions were very helpful! But in the end, the most helpful was, and continues to be, the ability to have one-on-one casual conversations with expert practitioners and dedicated educators beyond the sessions. The relationships that were forged are of the deepest of value.
* Please feel free to share your comments with us via email or by posting your feedback in the comments section below.
By Bob Stephenson, ILA President and Executive Director of The Literacy Coalition of Howard County
We serve “The hardest to reach, the hardest to teach with the least amount of resources.” That is how an outside observer described what we do to me. I agreed then and I agree now but things are changing. The Indiana Literacy Association is working hard to give all of us access to more resources, more mentors, and more support.
One way we are providing access to resources is at the IAACE Conference in French Lick. This year there is a day with a literacy strand. Wednesday, April 26th will have three sessions with concurrent workshops devoted to supporting literacy programs. You can register and attend the Wednesday session for just $50.00.
We all know that adult literacy programs require us to be competent in a wide variety of skills from training tutors to using social media. Wednesday’s schedule provides help with these and more. Click here to see a listing of scheduled presentations. It is not too late to register for Wednesday and you can even show up and pay at the door.
The ILA is also preparing to possibly survey all of the literacy programs in Indiana. Over the years many were shut down and now we are seeing new programs getting started to take their place. If you know of programs, please forward their contact information to us so we can be sure to include them.
As a Board member with the Indiana Literacy Association, my background is not in providing literacy services, rather, my career is in the administration of workforce development programs. While participating less than a year now as an ILA Board member, I have become increasingly aware of the connections as well as disconnects regarding coordinating literacy programs with workforce development program offerings.
The Workforce development system provides services to the general public in WorkOne locations but often times in many other places within a community, such as Community Based Organizations and Libraries.
Staff employed by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and local service providers follow a set of policies and guidelines set by DWD as well as local Workforce Development Boards as they operate their services throughout the State, primarily in WorkOne locations. There are more similarities than not.
In past years, it was a mode of operation for staff in the workforce development arena to make referrals to literacy providers when the customer coming in the door was not able to complete certain basic assessments that were identified as necessary to show work readiness or readiness to participate in any advanced educational training programs. This barrier of low reading, writing and math skills created an image of someone that was not yet able to meet the needs of the employer community, thus a referral was made to get this necessary ingredient taken care of first, then they were asked to return for further consideration.
It is important in today’s world to know one another and share our resources. Together we can raise skill levels, provide job readiness and offer training programs as well as get our customers employed. Lower literacy skills may not keep someone from getting employed after all, and there are many short term career ladder programs people with lower math and reading levels may participate in, funded by the WorkINdiana funding source. There are some criteria for being able to access this training, and staff in the WorkOne can identify this for you if there is a certain student you have in mind. Be sure to take the time to look up your local Workforce Development program staff and get to know them. We have encouraged our staff to do likewise and get to know their literacy providers.
We can join together to celebrate the success stories of our mutual clientele!
By Dawn Schmidt, Coordinator, Huntington County Literacy Coalition
At last fall’s Indiana Literacy Association's annual meeting, many of us were interested in tutor training. So I’ll share what we have done at Huntington County Literacy Coalition. Please share your practices and ideas too!
We have around 35 tutors who meet with adults and children for individualized tutoring. Our volunteers are exceptionally caring citizens of Huntington County giving their time to help others learn. They epitomize our literacy’s tag line: “YOU CAN LEARN”.
Each fall, we have new tutor training one night a week, for two weeks. This was a
change from previous years of a four week training. We use the book, “Litstart,
Strategies for Adult Literacy and ESL Tutors” and have found it a good resource. It is available through New Readers Press. It does not address math or science.
With reducing the initial new tutor training to two weeks, we added a spring and fall continuing education on Saturday (9:00 a.m. -12:30 p.m.), for all tutors, where we have more time to address their topics and concerns. 2016 was our first go at it and it seemed to work well, so we’ll keep it for 2017….On February 18, 2017 we will have our school corporations’ (Huntington County Schools) psychologist and counselor speak on helping the students who deal with ADD and other attention deficit problems. Last August we had a recently retired teacher (and our board member) teach the basics for reading and also Huntington University’s Assistant Director of the TSOL Institute. Both were very helpful and appreciated by the tutors.
We have evening quarterly tutor meetings too, with the September meeting as our appreciation dinner. I usually use this time to share and instruct about anything that has come across my desk in the past three months that will help them, e.g. a new series of books. I may use something from a recent “Notebook” from the ProLiteracy publication or review a strategy out of the Litstart book. ProLiteracy’s website has tutor training videos too. Last December, we reviewed the resources on our library’s website, (could have made this a definite subject for a Saturday program). After conferences, I pick one or two workshops that I attended and discuss/teach and share any handouts. As an example, I went to Laura Smart’s workshop last year on “Creating Motivating Learning Environment” and we used her handouts. We adapted her classroom ideas to tutoring. The tutors were responsive and grateful for the information. I also showed a video on line multiplication with handouts.
Our quarterly meetings are a time to review and be reminded of general practices such as the monthly tutor report, the initial phone call(s) process with new students, and any situations that may need to be clarified. The two hours go quickly and the tutors are totally engaged. I ask for input for the effectiveness of our meetings (I should make up a 3 things sheet) and always invite them to give me ideas for upcoming meetings.
One last thing….have great snacks!