Hull, Stornaiuolo, and Sahni, 2010; Lam, 2000); and documenting the startling growth and new patterns of use of digital technologies, including cell phones and social networking sites, in mostly out-of-school contexts (Ito et al., 2009; Pew Internet & American Life Project, see http://www.pewinternet.org/ [Jan. 2012]).
There are several constraints on the evidence available. Currently, out-of-school uses of digital technologies for communication, self-presentation (on such sites as Facebook), work, and play far outstrip their use in schools for educational purposes. Educational institutions can lag greatly in their uptake and appropriation of new literacy tools and practices (Beach, Hull, and O’Brien, in press; Davies and Merchant, 2009; Greenhow, Robelia, and Hughes, 2009), thereby limiting the available research. With few exceptions, such as studies of the out-of-school digital literacy practices of youth (Hull et al., 2006; Ito et al., 2009; Lam, 2000; Lankshear and Knobel, 2003), which are only time-bound snapshots, the research base on ways to use new technologies outside classrooms to develop adults’ literacy also is slight.
Certain factors have constrained the use and study of technologies for adult learning. Historically, adult education has been underresourced, in terms of both access to literacy-related technologies and instructional tools and teachers skilled in their instructional use. Currently, some populations still lack Internet connectivity and access to instructional uses of digital technologies, although such gaps are quickly narrowing (Pew Internet & American Life Project, see http://www.pewinternet.org/ [Jan. 2012]). The technology usage studies described earlier, for example, may not generalize to the adult literacy learner population, or they may apply to only part of that population. Technology access for learning also can be a complex matter. Although access to technologies for particular subgroups of learners needs to be verified and understood better,1 we turn next to the large landscape of technologies for learning that are potentially available to adolescents and adults who need to enhance their literacy. Most are readily accessible on the Internet.
1An interesting example of the underlying complexity of availability arose in an urban school near one committee member. In that school, a foundation provides laptops for the students. However, only students whose parents attend weekend orientation sessions may take the computers home. So, all students have some access, but the subset with greater access has parents able and willing to attend a couple Saturday sessions. Many students have computers at home, but other family members compete for them and they may not contain support for instructional affordances.