On Tuesday I straggled back to Richmond late after attending the Effective Transitions conference in Providence, Rhode Island. This is the first year I’ve been to this conference, sponsored by the National College Transitions Network (NCTN). It has grown from a regional (New England) gathering into a national conference, with over 400 people from over 30 states attending this year. I had the privilege of presenting on my work on the PlugGED Incurriculum during the two mornings of the conference. Both sessions were well-attended and I got some rockin’ feedback, but it did mean that I had two less opportunities to attend other presentations that I was very interested in. Oh, well.
What really struck me about this conference is the number of years that educators in New England have already devoted to the issue of transitioning, while in Virginia at least, the issue has only recently gotten any serious attention. It is clear by the large number of attendees from outside of New England that college transitioning finally has some national mojo, and that the pioneering work of adult educators in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and other northern states is going to come in handy for the rest of us Johnny-come-latelys. These issues are urgent, and need immediate attention from our field. Hopefully by next year’s conference we will see significant progress.
I know I have quite a bit of catching up to do on this issue. Even though I have been working on a career pathway-slash-college transition project for the past year and a half, the curriculum that we produced was developed more from a foundation in workforce rather than transitioning research. Additionally, the technology plan for adult basic education in Virginia that I will be developing during the next two years will definitely need to correspond with Virginia’s transitioning efforts. So, time to brush up.
Here are a few other random thoughts about the conference:
Kudos to the conference organizers for providing an easy way for attendees to recycle their conference swag: the name tags & neck pouch-things, the noxious little tote bags (I have approximately 4,000 of them hanging on a doorknob in my office), and the glossy conference programs.
Having inflicted an untold number of poorly planned and ugly PowerPoint presentations on my audiences over the years (and having endured my share, as well), I decided to make this presentation different. Rather than simply present information, instead I told a story. I used humor,Â along with fun, engaging images that I acquired from Flickr’s Creative Commons collections. The responses I received were extremely positive and, it seemed to me at least,Â that I was able to hold the audience’s attention for the entire session. Yes, it was quite a bit of work, but it should be!Â It was also quite a bit of fun to create. There’s ust no going back to those dreary, bullet-riddled slides. Like the first time I tasted a good microbrew, I just couldn’t stomach that Black Label swill anymore.
There is no getting around it: Providence is quaint. I mean that in the best way, of course. I am happy that I made the decision to stay at a hotel downtown instead of at the conference hotel 12 miles away in Warwick. While I didn’t have too much time to see much of the town, I did get to go to the RISD museum, eat at Fellini Pizza(the white pizza made me squeal like a girl) and Cafe Noir, drive through Federal Hill, and walk around the very compact and scenic city.
I am looking forward to finishing up the report The Power of Technology to Transform Adult Learning, released a few days ago by The Council for the Advancement of Adult Literacy (CAAL).Â In it, the report’s main author, Mary McCain, makes a number of recommendations, including:
the establishment of a national web portal for adult basic education
support for the development of distance learning programs in adult basic education
creating a sustained, serious, and well-funded research effort in the field
I can’t argue with these recommendations,Â but I am skeptical that these very broad and comprehensive changes will come from the top down. I don’t see any demonstration of the type of political will needed to address the very large and very serious educational issues faced by bothÂ K12 institutions and the field ofÂ ABE.
Furthermore, the field of adult basic education is fairly balkanized and uncoordinated and is lacking the necessary leadership to help make these types of large changes happen. Until we build a unified professional field, adult basic education will be beholden to the whims of the political power brokers, most of whom don’t give a second thought to high school drop-outs or English-language learners. How long have we waited for those at the top to act?
Despite my cynicism, this report coincides with a number of positive developmentsÂ in the field of adult basic education: the slow but thrilling progress of the Adult Education and Economic Growth Act of 2009 through the House and Senate (sponsored by Virginia Senator Jim Webb and including lots of new funding for technology initiatives in ABE, among other things). And the upcoming Summit on the Future of Adult Education in the New Digital World at VCU (in which Senator Webb will provide some recorded remarks) that will hopefully create the necessary space for identifying and developing the needed leadership and vision for adult basic education in the future.
I am really excited by Frontline’s upcoming documentary series, Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier. The series addresses the profound ways that technology is altering the modern, human experience, from the way we fight our wars to how we manage our relationships and pursue learning. I am especially excited by the interviews with James Paul Gee and Henry Jenkins about the benefit video gamesÂ and social media can offer to learning and engagement.
While the series is not due to be released until the Winter 2010, according to the website, rough cuts of interviews from the show are posted to the site for viewer feedback.
“…clings to life.”
Detroit Free Press
“…remains very serious.”
“…edges near death.”
“…slides toward death.”
“…remains near death.”
“…on the verge of death.”
I need to make a list, a comprehensive list of All the Things I Need. Things run out before you know it. One day the pantry is near burstin’ with food, and the next it is a dusty wasteland containing only a few rusting cans of beets and a box of pistachio Jell-O.
So, the first thing on the list is bananas. Preferably super bananas that don’t ripen so quickly. Seems they are always either green or brown. If they are yellow at all, it is a brief burst of yellow, like a flashbulb going off. Then, it’s just brown spots, and blackness and gooey sap seeping from beneath the peel.
I need more beer, powerful beer, the kind of beer that will help make the world look a bit less like some kind of cruel frontier, full of betrayal and delusion. I’ll add honey to the list, too. To sweeten the hours and quicken the pulse. I’ll have honey on my breath all day.
I need a grocery store haircut. It’ll be a monk’s tonsure, with several product endorsements plastered on my pate. I need medicine for my rickets, and a new apron. I need clam sauce, genital numbing cream, and baby wipes, too.
I have been tossing around the idea of getting a private nurse. Not that I am sick. But, if I scrimped, stopped buying expensive coffees, canceled my subscriptions to Maxim, Mustache Aficionado and American Dildo, and sold my Curlique Collection on eBay, I could easily afford it. She could come in a few times a week, take my temperature, change my bedpan, and feed me some Malt o Meal. Who wouldn’t benefit from that? Besides, this Meals on Wheels thing isn’t working out.
It’s all Heart-of-Darknessy today, the clouds and drizzle ominously perched above our little house. It’s a sunny day everywhere else. Big fat menacing clouds with gruesome faces. I feel like I am plunging deeper into the untamed jungle. the jungle of Saturday. A rotten, viney Saturday, full of hooting noises and swarming insects. A decrepit Saturday with black teeth and wild eyes, leaning on a cane, beckoning me to come closer. It wants to tell me something. It wants to whisper a secret into my ear.
E. and I are off to my ‘rents this afternoon at 1. We haven’t seen them since getting engaged 3 weeks ago. I know my mother is constitutionally unable to lets us plan this thing ourselves, but she still is acting as if she is being laissez-faire about the whole W thing. It isn’t that I am not excited, but I fear that with her, the only topic of conversation between now and The Big Day is going to be about invitations, guest lists and caterers. She will pretend when we tell her we’ve decided on a lumberjack theme, with tree sawing and log rolling competitions, and a sit down pancake dinner, but I’ll see the panic and displeasure in her eyes.
I must insist to whatever Universal force or deity out there that needs to hear it that Spring break forth immediately. I want to see daffodils. And fluffy clouds in clear blue skies. I want to see twerping birds on tree branches bursting forth in leafy buds. I want to feel too hot in a long-sleeved shirt. I want to see a bright, bold sun and feel a hint of dewy perspiration on my upper lip. No more cold drizzles. No more bitter winds.
It is decreed.
Besides, all of my sweaters are about to expire. My tired scarves have places to be.