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Fall 2012 - 62075 - PA680PA - Policy Research Project

Distance Learning: A Family Learning Strategy for Helping K-12 Students

Instructor(s): Rhodes, Lodis
Unique Number: 62075
Day & Time: Th 2:00 - 5:00 pm
Room: SRH 3.355
Waitlist Information:For LBJ Students: UT Waitlist Information
Section Description

The Austin Learning Academy (ALA) is a community-based educational research and development lab. It has used a family-focused strategy for over twenty years to develop innovative, award-winning learning programs that helps kids succeed in school. ALA was an original national Community Technology Centers (CTCs). CTCs were funded by U.S. Department of Commerce in 1996 and charged with finding ways to bridge the digital divide. ALA is still actively engaged in testing and adapting digital technologies for appropriate use in low to moderate-income communities.

ALA’s current effort is a pilot project funded by the Texas Education Agency’s adult education program. The pilot project tests whether or not ‘distance learning’ can complement traditional classroom instruction. The short-term goal of the ALA pilot project is to increase the number of instructional contact hours for adult learners while decreasing the clock time they need to achieve their academic goals. The longer-term ‘distance learning’ activity for ALA and the LBJ School policy research team involves about 100 adult learners. These learners will be participating in the second year of the pilot project. While they will continue pursuing the usual short-term objectives of adult learners — ABE, GED, ESL, citizenship certification —, they will also begin incorporating a longer-term, innovative dimension to their distance learning activities. It involves developing and testing ways home-based learning activities can integrate the learning skills and competencies expected of adult learners with those expected of their children in the children’s own school work. In effect, the challenge is creating a robust home learning environment that uses more of the digital technologies (i.e., apps) now widely available even in low to -moderate income communities.

The LBJ policy research team will work with the ALA team of teachers and technology staff in two ways. One is through fieldwork. The ‘fieldwork’ involves interacting with families and family members participating in the pilot project. The task here is for LBJ School team to learn more of the ‘if and how’ families use home-based digital technologies: social media; the internet; and media tools school provide that are intended to help students and their parents stay in touch with each other. This insight can be gained only through direct interactions and conversations with family members. The second task for the LBJ team is to begin exploring and assessing the array of online curricula aimed at both adult and school age learners. This second task is significant. It focuses on technological changes as they are silently though purposively redefining ‘school choice’ as a public policy issues.

This policy research project allows students to work side-by-side with a small but highly effective group of community educators. It also allows policy students to explore ways low to moderate income communities can define and control how digital technologies are used in their communities and schools.