through five generations of development cost almost $2 million, but the cost for the fifth version was only $70,000 (Lesgold, in press). Moreover, first-generation development costs for many of the instructional approaches likely to benefit adult literacy learners may be borne by early adopters, such as the military.
Technologies with potential to support higher levels of adult and adolescent literacy development are appearing, changing, improving, and becoming more affordable at a very rapid pace. Technologies are vital to making the entire population literate because of their value for improving, leveraging, and making more affordable activities that require intense human effort, such as literacy instruction. Internet technologies also have the potential to alleviate barriers associated with limited times and places of instruction. Digital technologies are important to incorporate into literacy instruction as the tools required for literacy in a digital age.
Ten classes of technologies for learning are potentially available to support the literacy development of those outside K-12 schools: conventionally computer-based training, multimedia, interactive simulation, hypertext and hypermedia, intelligent tutoring systems, inquiry-based information retrieval, animated pedagogical agents, virtual environments with agents, serious games, and computer-supported collaborative learning. These computer technologies would be expected to improve learning because they enable instruction to be adapted to the needs of individual learners, give the learner control over the learning experience, better engage the learner, and have the potential to develop skills efficiently along several dimensions.
Numerous digital tools are potentially available to support adults in practicing their literacy skills and for giving the feedback that supports learning, among them group collaborative communication software, word processing, speech-to-text and text-to-speech tools, embedded low-level coaching of electronic texts, immersion environments, intelligent tutoring systems, serious games, and automatic essay scoring. Studies are needed to establish that the efficacy of effective instructional approaches can be enhanced by technology and to clarify which subpopulations of learners benefit from the technology. Some of this research is emerging with technologies for instruction, with intelligent tutoring systems among those with the strongest positive effects.
The ways in which adults will benefit from instructional technologies will depend on the subpopulation of adults. Given the technologies that are ready to be developed, studies are needed to develop and assess the effects of technologies for English language learners, adolescents and adults with less than high school levels of literacy, learners with disabilities, and college