Florida's public school system is using the Web to retrain special education teachers


Literacy g'es beyond the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic and includes computer and other technology-related skills in the context of the workplace. This was stated in the report Adult Literacy and New Technologies, Tools for a Lifetime, which was distributed in late 1993 by the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), U.S. Congress. Even prior to that report, the 1991 National Adult Literacy Act defined literacy as "...an individual's ability to read, write and speak in English, and compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency to function on the job and in society, to achieve one's goals and develop one's knowledge and potential."

No Longer a Static

Literacy demands have become more complex with literacy not a static function. Technology is having a profound effect on the ways people do their jobs. It makes it possible to serve more learners and enables the learning to occur anyplace, anytime.

The OTA report lists the following advantages of technology:

  • Reaches learners outside of classrooms;
  • Uses learning time efficiently;
  • Sustains motivation;
  • Individualizes instruction; and
  • Provides access to information tools.

The need for technical literacy is especially critical in today's environment. More than 3/4s of the approximately five million jobs added to the economy since 1993 require professional, management or technical skills. It is projected within a decade that only 10-12% of the workforce will be blue collar production workers. A principal function of many modern jobs is to be a "knowledge worker."

Trends in Training

Companies recognize continuous learning is essential to their growth and development. According to Training Magazine's 1995 industry report, about 48% of companies with more than 100 employees are involved with computer-based training.

Use of desktop PCs to simulate hands-on-work experience is increasing. For example, Motorola and Northern Telecom have invested heavily in classroom and training centers. Learners interact with software that simulates work tasks, hearing the same sounds as working with real equipment.

Computer-based training is also coming to the World Wide Web. Educators' use of the Web for inservice training is being explored. For example, Florida's public school system is using the Web to retrain special education teachers. However, bandwidth remains an obstacle to having the Web completely replace CD-ROM, LAN and mainframe distribution of multimedia training material.

A Priority Worldwide

With increasing access to technologies, creating a literate, well-trained and skilled workforce for an increasingly competitive world becomes a top priority for many nations.

At the Program Committee meeting held in Moscow, Jan. 25 - Feb. 3, 1996 to prepare for the worldwide UNESCO Second International Congress -- Education and Information Policies and New Technologies, I worked with my colleagues on the main working document, which sets the tone for the meeting to be held in July, 1996, in Moscow. A major focus of the working document is on Technical Literacy.

The UNESCO Program Committee's document states "Technology is significantly changing the nature of jobs and work skills needed today and in the future. The digital technology revolution, integrating text, graphics, video, voice, music and data in digital form, provides science, business, medicine, engineering, as well as other fields with powerful new tools for the representation and communication of knowledge. The confluence of these and other technology trends provides the education systems of the world with unparalleled challenges and opportunities that require careful consideration and planning as we enter into the next century."

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.