November 14, 2011

"I Stand for Literacy"

I STAND FOR LITERACY! This was the battle cry at the United States Conference on Adult Literacy last week. It was a great conference, one in which over 600 instructors, advocates, learners, program managers, and more came together to learn, share new ideas, inspire one another, and push the field of adult literacy ahead. It was inspiring to meet so many passionate individuals, fighters for this great cause!

During the opening ceremony, the conference host, ProLiteracy, asked audience members to share their stories. To share why each one of us stands for literacy. We heard some inspiring stories, some heartbreakingly sad, and some that just seemed obvious. That's where I think my reason for "standing for literacy" fits in, in the obvious category.

A mother's literacy level is the number one predictor of her child's success in school. An individual's health literacy level is the STRONGEST predictor of a person's health status. Twenty percent of the Central Texas population is reading below the 5th grade reading level! It's so obvious why we all need to stand for literacy. Literacy is the best avenue to a healthy, employable, empowered community!

So tell us, why do you stand for literacy? Share your stories with us here, and check out the ProLiteracy website to share your story with them, too!

I Stand for Literacy!

You can also hear other people's stories HERE

October 19, 2011

If Mr. T Had a Choice ... He would have picked his Bee Team

Are you grateful for spell check on your emails? YES (Me too!)
Do you enjoy happy hours and fabulous prizes? YES (Who doesn't)
Then you will LOVE this .... 

If you were a fan of the Coalition's Happy Bee and have been sad to see it go as the Belmont closed ... I have great news for you! We have a brand new format that is BIGGER AND BETTER! We have combined the fun of the spelling bee, with your favorite trivia night and are now doing it in teams! Teams of up to four will compete in the most unique trivia challenge in Austin once a month at the COOLEST new bar, the Yellow Jacket Social Club!

So you are probably wondering how this works, so let me give you the low down. In the new Bee Team Trivia Challenge teams (up to four) compete for just $10 (per team)! So you might be wondering how spelling and bees relate to trivia? Do you know how to spell? Can you use those words in a sentence? Do you know where words and phrases come from? Have you ever read a book? Well you have a head start on some of us ... and we made the questions! Here are a couple of examples from the first two rounds in the Bee from October that will give you a better idea of what to expect:

Spelling Example:This word, meaning "steady persistence in a course of action" is often mispronounced, leading to incorrect spellings.
  • persaverance
  • perseverance
  • perseverence
  • perserverance
Trivia Example:
What Hogwarts House did Harry call home?
  • Gryffindor
  • Slitherin
  • Hufflepuff
  • Ravenclaw
The October teams had a GREAT time and the feedback was really positive - people loved the game, working in teams & the location!  The next Bee Team Challenge is next week ... Tuesday November 1, 2011 @ 6:00pm!  I hope to see more new faces there, and would be happy to field any questions you might have about the event. Please feel free to email Shannon or call the office!

October 10, 2011

Is blogging worth our time?

This post may seem a little unorthodox, but hell, I need to know! Is blogging really worth our time? Are people out there reading this, and if so, what are you getting from it?

As most of you know, in the non-profit world there is never enough time to do everything we want to do. So here I am...7:30PM and I'm trying to catch up on list of "overdue" items on my (a great tool but can get frustrating when you have a list of 10+ things that are bolded with the label "overdue") and sure enough, in red type, bolded, is the word, "BLOG!". Written just like that. Except there may even be two exclamation marks added to it.

I know my colleagues are in the same boat. I mean, I hope they at least have it on their calendars! But really, I understand if they don't. Blogging can seem futile. Unlike Facebook, where everyone and their mom "likes" your status that took three seconds to write, a blog post takes thought. Am I being engaging? Do people actually care about what I'm saying? Getting a comment on a blog post seems harder than winning a Grammy.

Here at the Literacy Coalition, we started this blog to "put a face" to our organization. As an organization that doesn't provide direct support, you won't see us out in the community feeding the homeless and you can't come to our office to watch an ESL class in action, we thought a blog would be a good way for the community to get to know us a little bit. We wanted to provide a little window into the everyday work of the Literacy Coalition. A novel idea, if you ask me.

But as noted above, blogging seems to take a backseat. And now I'm asking you, readers, to inspire us. Should we keep writing? If so, what do you want to hear about? Scroll down through some of our older posts and tell us what you think.

Thanks y'all,


September 16, 2011

It made a difference to that one... (Part 2)

I must jump in and piggy back on what my colleague, Peter, wrote about: the issue of feeling too small. I manage the Literacy Coalition's digital literacy project, and it's easy to feel like we're not making a big enough difference--just a drop in the ocean. Thousands of hours have been devoted to trying to help people learn how to use a computer and the internet in hopes of moving them into more meaningful jobs. But how much good are we really doing? More often than not I need a reminder that we really are changing lives, even if it's just one. So as a weekend send-off to myself, here's what our digital-literacy learners have to say:

"There’s a whole world in the computer and I didn’t know that. I suspected it, but I had no idea how to access any of it. But these classes showed me how."

"[My new computer skills are] going to help me in school. Before I took the class all I did was check my email and my facebook. And that’s it. I’m entering university in the fall. And I’m going to use the computer for I suppose all my classes, any research I’m going to do."

"[Now]I can find anything I want. Simply type it in and there it is."

"I feel better about how I can use the computer. I don’t feel helpless now. I’m learning. It’s easy to catch on. Sometimes I get lost but I ask the teacher and he helps me get back on track."

"Now that I am doing the computer I’m thinking about going back to work. I’m thinking about writing a book on the computer.

We all need an ego boost once in a while.

August 31, 2011

It made a difference to that one...

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."

Sometimes in my work I feel as though the issue at hand is too big for one person, or one organization, to make any difference. That we can't do enough to affect literacy rates because we don't have the support we need from the system. Or in regards to health literacy, that poor communication and lack of empathy for the low health literate patient is commonplace, and that no matter what we do, the change will be minimal at best.

This story, written by anthropologist, Loren Eiseley, reminds me that everything we do as individuals really does make a difference, albeit minor. But when all of our individual efforts are combined, these minor differences become much greater, lasting changes.

It's worth it, y'all! Keep doin what you're doin!

August 18, 2011

Discussion Series: Social Innovations for Adult Literacy

Did you know that 1/3 of American adults own a smart phone and that African Americans and Latinos are more likely to use their phones for non-voice applications (games, videos, etc.) than whites? In today's rapidly changing world, we must expand our definition of literacy to include the influx of new media available at our fingertips. With new technologies emerging on what seem like a daily basis, how can programs change the way they're addressing communities' literacy needs to capture the skills necessary to stay competitive across the lifespan?

The National Coalition for Literacy is currently hosting a discussion series that addresses these issues of digital literacy head-on, starting with the most basic question: What is digital literacy and how can we best define it? There's a whole slew of guest bloggers and lively discussions taking place. Check it out!

Social Innovations in Adult Education

August 10, 2011

We’re not crazy, we’re just a non-profit.

I won’t lie, it’s not uncommon for us to get told that we should scale down our plans, or that we may be getting in over our heads. LCCT has been dealing with that feedback for years, and dealing with it very successfully.

Today, we met with another small organization doing very big things for the Austin community. The meeting reminded me of how small organizations can have such a large impact, and it never ceases to amaze me how these groups are making the most of their resources. The literacy programs in our network also do this every day, and it’s their support and dedication that in turn makes our influence on the community possible.

It’s difficult for some organizations and companies to understand the dynamics of the small nonprofit world. It’s understandable that we find ourselves up against doubts about our capacity, and our ability to reach a large audience from those outside of the non-profit world. In a non-profit, you have to be creative and open enough to transform limited resources into valuable services. Unfortunately, good intentions don’t always make successful organizations, and several end up closing their doors soon after they’re opened.

I’m proud to be part of a successful, 9-person organization that does the work of a mid-sized company. From my time at the Literacy Coalition, I’ve learned that the mutual respect and dedication built among a small group of hard working individuals can make for a surprisingly efficient non-profit machine. At LCCT, we’re open to changes that will allow us to make a greater impact on the community. We’re supportive of each other. We base our decisions on the people we serve. We believe in a solid work-life balance. We’ve built the trust of local non-profits and for-profits alike, and as a result have a network that helps us reach a variety of audiences. These are the things that have allowed LCCT to grow its services exponentially over the last three years, and we have no reason to slow down.

Less can most definitely be more. If you don’t believe me, take another look our previous blog posts, our Facebook page, and our website. Now that you know a little more about our inner workings, you’ll see all of those projects we’re working on in a whole new light.

Now I want to hear from other organizations in our shoes. What obstacles have you overcome as a small organization playing with the big shots? What are you proud of? What advice do you have for other small organizations?

July 18, 2011

Learner Web Turns 50!!

No not really. At least not in terms of age. But last week we did reach the milestone of 50 learners enrolled in the project, and that's something to celebrate!! When I first joined the Coalition and was handed this nebulous project with the basic instructions, "Here, run with it!" I had no idea what to expect. I didn't have a clear vision as to what Learner Web was or how it could be most beneficial to our partner agencies and the community at large. I couldn't really define 'digital literacy' much less talk to others about the need for increased computer literacy in Central Texas.
Now that we've got a full quarter of implementation under our belt, we're at the very beginning stages of seeing the fruits of our labor take shape. The ambiguity is gone, and we're growing by the day! We've brought on partners beyond the initial implementation team and we've trained almost 40 Learner Web tutors (affectionately referred to as CLICs or Computer Literacy & Internet Coaches). These CLICs have spent over 150 hours in the computer lab helping learners. Now that's a whole lot of giving!

June 27, 2011

advice from my mom

I turn 25 next week and have been a health literacy trainer since the ripe age of 23. Just writing that sentence is liberating. In my job, I feel like I am constantly avoiding any discussion about my age or "credentials." Healthcare providers are incessantly asking me how old I am and what my background is. To them, 25 is the same as 23, and 23 is the same as 18. At least that's how it feels to me when I walk into a room of established healthcare providers who have been taking care of their patients for more years than I have age. And credentials...well, I have my B.A. I double-majored and did two internships abroad. Both things I'm very proud of, but when everyone else in the room has an MD, RN or MPH...well, my BA is something I'd rather keep tucked away.

But c'est la vie! I'm 25 (wait, 24!) and don't have any degrees above a BA...judge me if you will, doc. But I'm also a damn good trainer (excuse my french). And in my two years of researching health communication, patient-centered care, patient-empowerment, yada yada yda, I've become a subject matter expert. And in our research-based, half-day workshops that teach healthcare providers about the prevalence of low health literacy and their role in improved communication with patients, the providers learn A LOT! 96% of providers who attended our workshop reported increase awareness and knowledge of health literacy, and learned at least 3 communication interventions that they planned to utilize with their patients. I think those numbers are something to call home about.

So that's what I did. I talked to my mom about the ageism hangups I was experiencing and, per usual, she had some great advice for me.

"You have a unique knowledge, this health literacy thing that you do. It's obviously important and will help the doctors provide better care for their patients...maybe even save lives. If you go into the trainings with the mindset of, 'I have this knowledge that you all don't, and it's my duty to share it with you.' Then your age won't matter. You've studied this stuff because they don't have time to. And you're sharing it with them because you know it's important...and they'll learn that it's important."

Thanks, mom!

June 24, 2011

Interview Tips....

Literacy AmeriCorps Central Texas begins in September and I have been in full swing planning mode since January.  In the last two months we have had nearly 300 applicants, conducted more than 80 interviews (a few more scheduled), and I have absolutely loved getting to know all of these terrific individuals that are interested in serving in AmeriCorps!  I have learned a lot about myself and the millennial generation throughout this process. People I’ve talked to throughout the last few months have introduced me to new ideas and sometimes just new music!  The creativity, passion for service and engagement of these applicants has been obvious. As you can imagine the interviewing process – recruitment, review, interview, assessment, matching, etc has taken up the majority of my day time hours in the last two months so I have a few tips for folks that find themselves interviewing out there.

First off CONGRATS to all the new graduates out there!! I remember the elation from that time in my life, and the anxiety that quickly followed as I started searching for a job. In this tough economy I can’t imagine what you are all experiencing and I hope that this will help someone out there… I have a few tips I have been mentally collecting over the last few months for job seekers:
  1. Remember that you are a perfect fit for some agency/corporation out there. If you don’t get the first, second, third, or even eighteenth job you interview for - continue to go on interviews with your head held high.  You are learning something new at every interview. You will be better prepared at each and every interview….

  2. LOOK PROFESSIONAL. The interview is your first and sometimes only chance to make a good impression. People that show up to an interview looking disheveled don’t leave the interviewer with a sense of confidence in your professionalism. Show your interviewer how confident you are by looking them straight in the eye dressed appropriately – slacks, appropriate length skirts, nothing to tight or revealing. Don’t wear jeans – no matter what, no matter where. Don’t wear tennis shoes. Wear something that you are comfortable in but be classy folks!  Carry a lint roller in your car – get the dog/cat hair off of you on the way in! Iron your clothes whether you think they need it or not!  Sit up straight, don’t slouch … it will wrinkle your clothes!

  3. Interviewers CAN SEE YOU on Skype. Make sure that you have something behind you that is blank or appropriate (i.e. beer signs and pictures of your friends doing a beer bong are a bad idea for interview backgrounds). Dress up for your Skype interview, at least waist up. Showing up to a Skype interview in your PJ’s is not winning you any points!

  4. BE ON TIME.  Don’t arrive too early. When someone is conducting interviews, particularly for multiple positions schedules are tight.  If you get there more than 20 minutes early wait in your car. Arrive no more than 5-10 minutes early for your interview.

  5. Know what you have to offer. Be prepared for all the basic questions – “What can you offer to us?", “What is your strength/weakness?”… Know how you plan to answer these basic questions.

  6. Take time answering questions and give depth. It's better to answer slowly, accurately and with detail than it is to go on and on or add "umm", “you know”, and "like" in between every word. Give examples, even when people don’t ask – but especially when they do!

  7. Don't wear perfume. I am personally highly allergic to a lot of perfumes, as others are and in a small office sometimes even a little is overpowering. There were a few interviews that I had a horrible headache by the time my interviewee left the office because of the perfume in the air.  Take a shower, be clean and don’t smoke on your way in to the interview. Just smell naturally nice!

  8. RESEARCH the place you are interviewing with. When someone walks in for an interview and knows NOTHING about your company/agency it does not leave the impression that they really want to be there. Know everything you can about the place that you can – Google them, look for their partners, know what the job is and the programs that they offer. Study for this like you study for a test in college to make a good impression.

  9. Have questions. Along with doing your research, you should have questions about the job and about the supervision prepared. Candidates who don’t ask questions also come across as unprepared and unengaged. Questions show interest, prove again that you did your research and help to make sure that the position is a good fit for you.  Not having questions communicates you don’t have any interest in the company and are just looking for a paycheck.  If you have no specific questions make sure you have good general questions like “What would be the three major goals in this position,” or “What are some qualities of successful people at your group?”  Sometimes interviewers are more impressed with a candidate based on the questions that they ask rather than the answers that they give… if you walk in with good, insightful questions and show them that you did your research they will remember you when you walk out the door.

  10. Closings are not just for realtors and lawyers. When you think about it an interview is about selling yourself.  You want to be a good sales person – be the closer!  Your goal for an interview is to get a job, or at least move to the next round so don’t walk out (or hang up) until you have made your final pitch. Ask what the next steps in the process are and what the decision-making timelines might be.  Reiterate your interest in the position and why you are a good fit!
I sincerely hope that this helps someone out there looking for a position right now! I wish you the best of luck and just want you to remember - know what you want and where you are!

June 20, 2011

Derailed by thieves

Devastating news lurked in my inbox this morning. One of the Literacy Coalition's partners will have to shut down indefinitely due to vandalism and theft. The air conditioning units at the Austin Public Library's Ruiz branch were destroyed by vandals over the weekend leaving the library without A/C units. Why anyone would want to derail the wonderful services our libraries provide to the community is beyond me. Clearly the vandals have never taken advantage of the library's open door policy, welcoming anyone in the community in need of its services. They've never met the wonderful, often volunteer-driven staff that dedicate their time and energy to answering questions, promoting local programs, checking out books, meeting members of the community, and helping to provide computer and internet access. An awareness is missing that by forcing a library to close, the vandals are hurting their very own community! There's nothing quite so satisfying as stepping in to a cool library on a hot Texas afternoon and sitting down to read in a quiet corner. What an unnecessary tragedy this is! Our thoughts go out to our wonderful friends and partners at the Ruiz branch.

June 14, 2011

Fragile fund raising for fragile families

Yesterday evening I participated in a panel discussion at the University of Texas. There were for of us; all Executive Directors of local non-profits. One non-profit has a very large client population of families that were very affluent. His fundraising efforts looked VERY different from mine. He was able to go to the users of his services, appeal to their inside knowledge and appreciation for the value of those services, and raise millions of dollars from the very families the agency services. I have a starkly different perspective- I am trying to raise funds to support a very vulnerable, often very silent, invisible population that has little to no financial means available to donate to a non-profit. Low literate parents most often work one in very low-paying jobs, barely making ends meet, unable to afford clothing for their kids, a night at the movies, or a sports uniform for team sports. I cannot ask them to donate to our cause. I have to ask other families to try to understand their struggle, and the fragile nature of their existence, and donate on their behalf. And I undertake my fund raising efforts with very fragile, meager resources, because I work for a relatively small non-profit. I can't afford a massive staff to run a capital campaign or multi-million dollar planned giving initiative. Each day my team and I devote our very limited time to try to raise tens of thousands of dollars for a multi-million dollar problem. But miraculously, we're doing it. By very strategically allocating our time and attention, we've been able to secure hundreds of thousands of NEW dollars for literacy programs in 2011 alone. It's a fragile, but amazingly effective effort. And I'm so proud to be a part of it.

June 13, 2011

Test Your Knowledge of Health Reform

Who's read the full Affordable Care Act? … That’s what I thought.

We’ve now got a Public Health Intern at the Coalition, so we’re looking forward to getting his expertise in this area out to the community! Until then, here’s a 10-question quiz to assess your understanding of recent health care legislation. The tool even ranks your performance against the rest of the nation! Come on… You know you’re curious!

What was your score? Were you surprised? Let us know!

June 2, 2011

Now go, develop for us!

A few months ago, our talented Development Officer moved on from LCCT. It was a sad time for us and we missed her (self-proclaimed) snarkyness around the office. On top of missing her personality, we gravely missed her high-quality development work. But rather than stretching our budget to hire a new development employee, we decided it would be best to split her roles (and they were many!) between a few of us here at LCCT.

Here's how my initial development meeting went down...

"So Peter (who admittedly has very minimal development experience), how would you like to take on the role of event manager, individual giving cultivation (huh, what's that!?!), and health literacy grants writing and management?"

"Umm, yeah that sounds good. Thanks." (Peter immediately heads to his computer to Google "Individual giving cultivation" and spends the following nights reading books on "The Benevon Model.")

Well, maybe it wasn't that simple...I mean, I did have a bit more to say than "umm, yeah that sounds good." But walking away from the meeting I felt like I was in a whirlwind trying to wrap my head around the new roles.

It's been a sharp learning curve (that I'm still in the midst of!), and my first big event is coming up this Sunday. It's called Literacy on Tap and it's going to be a friggin blast! It's an invite-only event (ooo la la!) and we're going to have live music, free appetizers from Zax, free beer from Jester King and Live Oak Breweries, and lots of word games. All is coming together these last few days before the event and (the purpose of this blog post) I have collaboration to thank for it.

Although I came into this position feeling a bit nervous about my new jobs, I was fully supported by colleagues, board members and volunteers. Take the Literacy on Tap planning committee for example, our planning committee is comprised of a development coworker and our ED, two members of our board of directors (one of which is the chair), and three highly committed volunteers (who happen to be two close friends of mine and my gf). This eclectic group coalesced and planned the most successful event in LCCT history! Well, that's a bit of stretch considering the event hasn't even taken place yet, but I can say that with only three more days to prepare I'm feeling very calm and stress-free. I'm confident it'll be a great event.

I've been with the Literacy Coalition for 2 years now and I've come to realize that it's the collaborative effort on projects and unending support that allows me to really love my job. I know that on any given day I can reach out to colleagues, board members, volunteers and community members for guidance and collaboration, and they'll be there without hesitation.

May 30, 2011

Fish Have a Philosophy?!

I hope that this long weekend is treating everyone well! We had plans to go to the beach this weekend with some friends but plans fell through and I found myself stuck in town.  It has been a great weekend and I decided to catch up on my reading with some of my free time... Recently a friend told me about these Fish! books, and I was a little intrigued but also a little unsure. I read a lot of productivity, leadership, non profit management and business books and the books sounded a little sappy to me at first. I have to tell you I devoured the first book in about three hours (quick read)!!! I discovered that Fish! is a book that should be read, shared and lived.

I think we all go through periods of burnout. Times in our lives or work that where you are just too overwhelmed or too tired to feel like you can keep moving forward. I personally have not been burnt-out but I have been tired and like many of you have been working lots of extra hours and could easily let burn-out set in if I gave myself too much time to think about it!  This book helped me develop a new energy for my work, and brought me to understand a little bit better how passion and attitude play into our daily tasks.

The book told a story to illustrate how work issues that we are all too familiar with - including employee retention, employee engagement and burnout - and deal with them in a positive, productive, meaningful way. There is a series of books in the Fish! family and I just ordered Fish! Tales from an internet bookstore, and borrowed Fish! for Life from a friend so I will keep you posted!! I am super excited to get further into this series and I plan to pass the books around the office too! I would highly recommend the Fish! books!

May 22, 2011

Though It May Be Too Early to Start Shopping for a Halloween Costume...

It's never too early for LCCT to start gearing up for October's National Health Literacy Month! You might be thinking, "do they realize that October is almost five months away?" The answer is yes, but don't worry. We do have a reason! We've got big plans for Health Literacy Month and want to get everyone involved, so we're loading up the bandwagon starting now! That means there's no better time than the present for you to tell us about what you’ve been doing, or what you’d like to do to improve communication between Central Texas patients and their healthcare providers.

Your efforts are making a difference in our community, so don’t let them go unrecognized. No effort is too small! Tell us what you're up to and let us promote your commitment to improved health communication during National Health Literacy Month!

Here’s what we need to know: What are you doing to combat low health literacy? What projects or discussions has your organization started to address the problem in our community? Do you want to join the health literacy movement, but don’t know how to get started?

Comment and tell us about it! Let's put our heads together to make this Health Literacy the biggest Central Texas has ever seen!

May 18, 2011

Just the Facts: The need for digital literacy in our community

Did you know?
  • Almost 1/3 of American households still lack a broadband connection.
  • Adults age 25 and older with college degrees adopt broadband at almost triple the rate of those with only some high school education (84% versus 30%).
  • The broadband adoption rates for White and Asian non-Hispanics exceed those for Black non-Hispanics and Hispanics by 18% or more.
  • 73.4% of employed Americans are broadband users, compared with 61.9% of the unemployed and 50.5% of individuals not in the labor force.

For those of us comfortable in this tech-driven world, it's hard to imagine just how wide the digital literacy divide still is. Let's make digital literacy awareness and education a priority in Central Texas--it can only make our community stronger!

May 10, 2011

Finally, a moment to blog

Take a moment. Breathe. Austin's 8th Annual Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee for Literacy was a success! So many hours spent chasing sponsors, writing sentences for words, marketing, scripting, recruiting spellers, wranglin' together decorations, Rudy's BBQ, Texas Tea, bee-shaped chocolates, noise makers, black and yellow napkins, yada yada yada. But praise be, for our efforts were not done in vain! Months of preparation and support from all of the LCCT staff and our incredible volunteer Beehive Committee helped us host the BEST Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee ever!

And what's more, we didn't make this error on the certificates...

April 14, 2011

Volunteer for Computer Literacy!

I’m excited about LCCT bringing volunteers and students together through the Learner Web... and the launch date is almost here! I like to know what volunteers experience with different opportunities, and there’s only one way to find out. So I decided to co-tutor a computer class at LCCT's good friend and partner program, Manos de Cristo.

So far it’s been an interesting, fun experience, and I’ve learned a lot in a short time. With ESL and ABE, I’ve worked on giving concise directions, but now I try to say each step in 3 words or less. Of course, the most rewarding aspect is getting to know the students. Almost everyone in our evening class has a job, but they still go to class after for two hours, two nights a week. What motivates them? After our first class together, I asked them to do a quick notecard quiz. Here’s one question with their responses:

Why is it important learn computers and the internet?
“I want to learn email and pictures, I want to use the computer to look for information and not fall behind on the internet.”
“Porque quiero aprender mas ingles y tener mas oportunidad en mi trabajo.”
“I want to learn to manage files in order to easily manage my small business in the future.”
"To be updated with the rest of the world. So when my kids ask me questions about anything, I can be able to say something positive and answer. Learning basic computer lessons can help me achieve part of it."

If you can get online and find this blog, you can help the workers, small business owners, and parents in your community. Most tech-savvy people of my generation take their skills for granted, not realizing the amount or value of their expertise. By sharing your knowledge, you can share the opportunity and free information that the internet can bring. Volunteer to be a Computer Literacy and Internet Coach!

April 11, 2011

Quick Health Literacy Resources To Get You Up To Speed

Do you ever read our blog posts or get e-mails from us about health literacy and think, “This sounds really important, but I’m not sure I’m ready to add another issue to my catalog of causes”? We know, you need quick proof that health literacy is worth your time, and quick ways to keep up. Here are a few resources that will get you up to speed on the facts behind health literacy, and keep you in the loop once you're hooked. Who says advocacy can’t be efficient?

1. Partnership for Clear Health Communication’s Health Literacy: Statistics at A Glance is a great place to get the basics.

2. Low Health Literacy: Implications for National Health Policy-- for an added body slam of relevance.

3. The Health Literacy Discussion List is a low-maintenance way to keep posted on new issues and efforts in place to fight low health literacy. Plus, you can post your own questions or announcements to get some national input.

What is Family Literacy?

By Erica Schmidt, MSSW Intern

A mother’s literacy level is one of the most significant predictors of a child’s future success in school, and family literacy is one service that works to overcome that reality and increases literacy rates throughout Central Texas. Many family literacy programs exist throughout Central Texas, and the Literacy Coalition is working to gain a better understanding of them one-by-one.

A pre-analysis of seven of the larger LCCT family literacy providers revealed that these organizations strongly believe there is great need for program support in Central Texas. For that reason, we have been conducting a needs assessment with all family literacy providers over the past weeks.

Some of what we are looking at includes populations served, program content, best practices, availability of resources, challenges, as well as establishing a standard definition of family literacy through our five-county area. We are also curious to hear about the interest of providers to participate in the expansion of literacy services in Central Texas. All of this is important for providers and us to know as we build community capacities to ensure the success of family literacy programs.

So what is family literacy exactly? Family literacy programs are most effective when they deliver services through a holistic approach that empowers families by educating the children and parents together. Family literacy fosters an ability and readiness of families to interact with printed materials of any kind. The hope is that families not only feel confident in their literacy ability but that they promote it throughout their children’s lives.

April 8, 2011

Come to the First Instructor Meet-up!

This coming Monday we are going to initiate an exciting new Literacy Coalition event - the Instructor Meet-Up! Come network and share your classroom stories with other ESL, ABE, and GED instructors. Instructors of all levels of experience are welcome, and we hope to turn these gatherings into a monthly opportunity to hear about what's happening in adult education around the area. In the future, we may also tailor some of our Meet-Ups to specific topics based on your suggestions, such as how to lead multi-level classrooms, strategies for teaching low-literacy students, etc. For now, however, we just want to start with a big group discussion about your experience teaching - and we're eager to hear what you have to say!

Monday's Meet-Up will be from 12p-1p at the Carver Library Branch at 1161 Angelina, in East Austin. To RSVP please click here!

We hope to see you there!

March 24, 2011

Graphs and Global Health - A Great Tool for Your Next Adult Ed Lesson

In our health literacy workshops for adult ed instructors we encourage instructors to incorporate at least one health topic into every single lesson. That may seem like we're asking WAY too much because as we all know, time is always an issue in the classroom. But it really isn't all that hard to do! Health is such a major factor in all of our lives; all day, every day we make decisions that affect our health and the health of the community as a whole. What we eat and drink, washing our hands, taking our meds, and on and on. Because our health is so intertwined with all we do in life, it's easy to incorporate health-related information into any lesson. Take for example, a lesson on graphs and charts - check out this great video. It's perfect for an activating background knowledge activity to spark discussion at the beginning of the class, or the focal point of the lesson, around which you could have students work together to create their own graphs!


Try using this video in one of your next lessons. I bet your learners will be engaged in the lesson, and the video will foster active participation and lively discussion! Good luck!

March 18, 2011

The Literacy Coalition Takes on Digital Literacy

These are exciting times here at the Literacy Coalition. To enhance our efforts of raising awareness and addressing the problems of illiteracy in central Texas, we're spreading our wings and taking on the ever-growing issue of digital literacy. Many centrals Texans either do not have access to computers and broadband internet or are unable to access what is available due to affordability, lack of computer skills, and a perceived lack of content relative to their daily lives.

Enter the Learner Web! Through a nationwide partnership funded by the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program through the U.S. Department of Commerce, central Texans will now have access to this innovative, online system of self-paced learning plans. The aim of the partnership and the Learner Web is to increase computer literacy and broadband use among low-income, low-literate, ESOL, and other vulnerable populations. The learning plans focus on digital literacy and consumer broadband education where students will learn how to use computers, how to access broadband in their communities, and how to use the internet including email, social networking, and job searching.

We've just wrapped up the pilot phase of the project and are ready to offer the Learner Web at computer labs in and around central Texas. The initial labs will include the San Marcos Public Library and the Austin Public Library with plans to expand the program to over 20 labs the coming months. Stayed tuned as this exciting, new project breaks ground!

March 15, 2011

Never a Boring Classroom!

Only one thing will get me out of bed early on Saturday—an LCCT training for literacy instructors. Maybe you don’t kick off your weekend by getting up early to talk about the fascinating world of language acquisition, but there are some seriously smart and fun people who do. The volunteers and staff instructors I meet through LCCT never fail to impress me with their passion, insight, and ability. Yet what I enjoy most of all is how our classroom becomes a community.

We’re like-minded: we all care about literacy and the people we serve. We’re driven toward a common goal: to learn and share what we know about good teaching. We reject that a classroom should be boring, repetitive, or pointless. We pursue the prop or image that engages people, the lesson that builds on itself, and we want meaningful communication most of all. Here’s a look at last Saturday’s ESL Instructor Training!

Interest Inventory Cards let students look at images and make associations: they depict people at work, a doctor, a person holding a map, etc. Participants rank them based on what’s important to learn in class vs. what’s less important. I’m amazed at how many different associations one picture can produce.

One picture on the cards has a little blond kid holding a boombox. People in the training have said this image represents music, technology, dancing, childcare, entertainment, spending money, and Justin Bieber. Now that I think about it, I guess those are all related.

Authentic materials are props to represent the real world in the classroom. A volunteer, Ray, uses an authentic toy cellphone to make an authentic imaginary phone call.

Hard at work planning an ESL lesson—this group’s topic was “Housing” and they did a great job. If you need to find a new apartment on craigslist, I highly recommend them!

Another group hard at work planning… wait, is that a Toblerone? This group is hard at work planning a lesson and eating a Toblerone.

Classrooms don’t have to be boring, and with the people who show up for LCCT trainings, they never are. We had teachers, writers, gardening enthusiasts, musicians… and each person had a unique story that would make them great company on the weekend. I wish I could write here about how awesome all of these people were, but I’m out of space. So if you want to meet great people who make the classroom a fun place to be, get involved with literacy! Go to