The digital media landscape is changing at a fast rate and the technology that is evolving is allowing its users to see and interact with the world from a different perspective.
Breaking barriers was born out of the realisation that adults taking literacy classes were being faced with a distinct gap between the work covered in the classroom and the way society is functioning. Adult literacy has also been the focus of a number of EU working documents and strategies where the key elements for a successful practice, centre around self-expression, problem posing and solving, collaboration and team work, learning how to learn, and language awareness. Framing this context, literacy is seen from both a skills-based as well as a social-based perspective where communication using the shared experiences influenced by determined social practices becomes key.
Following this, the question that was asked was, how is technology linked to communication, and how does this link tie to the adult literacy curriculum? The answer to this question is provided by the toolkit.
The toolkit concept can be deconstructed if we think of it in terms of the metaphor of a traveller embarking on a journey. In this case the traveller is the teacher, and the journey is the practice of teaching. Before the traveller leaves on the journey, s/he needs to have a point of departure, and needs to pack a bag with items s/he thinks they might need. During the course of the journey, the traveller might remove some items from the bag, s/he might add more items, or else use the items which had an initial intention for use in a different way. The traveller doesn’t know where the journey is going to take her/him, and what or who s/he might meet on the way, but the bag, which in this metaphor is the toolkit, will empower her/him with what s/he needs to make the journey more successful.
Therefore, the toolkit needs to be seen as a dynamic representation of tools which are useful and necessary for the journey into teaching. However, the tools in the bag can be used differently by the traveller depending on the context and the setting, as well as the journey itself. To go back to the initial challenge posed by the gap between advances in technology and digital media and the curriculum, the toolkit itself provides insights into a number of digital tools and applications, and gives guidelines and suggestions about how such tools can be accessed and adopted to help adult learners in gaining literacy skills by exploiting the current digital landscape.
The categorisation of the information found in the toolkit has been designed and developed around to the learning outcomes framework (http://www.schoolslearningoutcomes.edu.mt/en/) for literacy, focusing around language listening and speaking, reading and writing. Although this framework was developed as part of the schools project, it makes reference to literacy for vocational purposes. This has been loosely used to be adapted to the needs in adult learning.
Therefore as part of the toolkit, the educator will find reference to a learning outcome and ideas about how a digital tool or medium can be used to achieve that outcome. As a specific example let us consider the learning outcome related to oral communication:
Creating a sentence stem that is appropriate for a discussion related to a set theme (for example tragic events).
In this case, the toolkit will provide information that can lead to a class activity. This information will be subdivided in headings such as instructional aims and objectives, tool/s that can be used, how the tool/s can be accessed and used, and any other additional materials and resources that the educator can make use of, for and with her/his learners.
This toolkit can not only be used by educators to make use of the ideas and strategies for teaching literacy in class, but it can also be used as a platform to exchange ideas and strengthen the adult educator community through communication and collaboration.
Following this reasoning, we start perceiving the toolkit in terms of broad guidelines, that every educator is free to adapt and adopt with her/his adult learners. Therefore, the toolkit can be viewed as various chunks of information, grouped under specific categories that would help searching for and filtering content in terms of target audiences, level of competences and set learning outcomes. The toolkit provides recommendations and suggestions about how applications, tools and media can be used to achieve a learning objective and a performance outcome. The toolkit goes beyond the notion of a static repository for handouts, and lesson plans created by experts and moves towards a shared collection of ideas, experiences and strategies for implementing scenarios in the adult classroom from teachers to teachers.