Existing and Promising Technologies

Some of the following technologies for learning are available already and should be tried with adult learners, recognizing that they should also be evaluated since they have not been used or proven effective for adult literacy instruction. Other technologies are in development and not commercially available yet, but have promise for improving adult literacy.

Group collaborative communication software. This category includes the kinds of tools used in offices and homes every day—electronic calendars, email, text messaging, Facebook, wikis, and collaboration portals. New technologies for group communication, including tools for exchanging comments on written materials, are emerging regularly and may be especially helpful for adult learners.


Word processing software. The most basic tools that can help with literacy are standard word processing tools, which facilitate writing and especially editing. Controversies remain about features that make it easy to circumvent mastery of some literacy skills, notably spelling correction. However, for most adults and adolescents with limited literacy, the ability to get ideas on paper, read those of others, edit initial writing, and exchange ideas is dramatically enhanced by word processing tools and should therefore be encouraged. Word processing tools also can help adult learners engage in the many hours of practice they need to develop their literacy. Related tools, such as presentation software, are standard ways adults express their literacy in civic and work situations; part of being functionally literate today is the ability to use such tools effectively.

Bulletin boards and discussion tools. Once students are creating compositions and exchanging them, they need ways to hold conversations with each other about the texts. All of this is easily possible via bulletin board systems. On such systems, threads of conversation can be started about particular topics or posted texts. Students read additional documents and peer comments and then prepare and post their own com-

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