CATALYST v23n2 - How To Make Pals

Volume XXIII, Number 2
Spring 1993

An idea/information sharing exchange about successful, innovative programs in community services and continuing education.

How To Make Pals

Eugene V. Giovannini
Dean of Instructional Affairs
Ivy Tech-Southwest

Nancee J. Hedrick
Director of Admissions
Pima Community College-West

Government agencies appropriate hundreds of millions of dollars for adult literacy, but, for the most part, have little idea where their dollars are going. Statistics also reveal only a small portion of the nonreading population ever signs up for literacy programs, and of those who do, more than half drop out within the first weeks. Further, literacy programs, statistics indicate, are dominated by misguided teaching methods that do more to frustrate students than to teach them. Options are indeed important to entice nonreading adults to seek help and retain an interest in learning.

Principle of the Alphabet Literacy System, PALS, is a research-based interactive instructional program. It is a writing and reading system designed to teach functionally illiterate adults through the use of the advanced technology of the interactive IBM InfoWindow system and videodiscs. The program also utilizes IBM word processors and typewriters for touch typing training and for writing composition.

PALS is delivered by interactive computer instruction under the supervision of an instructor. The technology used by PALS includes IBM InfoWindow computers with touch-screens and personal computers with software that "speaks." Through the use of this equipment and software, students are taught to read, to write, and to touch-type. A student Work Journal reinforces the audio and visual learning on the videodiscs. In addition to reading and writing skills, students receive valuable basic computer skills.

PALS is made available free to any adult who is reading at a low level and would benefit from this mode of instruction. The PALS software teaches students functioning below the sixth grade level basic reading and spelling skills. Another component of the multimedia program teaches touch typing. Students spend half of their time on the PALS software and the other half learning how to type. After they learn to type, students may begin creative writing and resume production, where they improve both reading and writing skills. The instruction is delivered in a guided laboratory setting and requires the student to spend four hours a week over approximately 25 weeks.

The PALS is divided into three phases. During the first phase, students spend one half of the class period viewing a fictionalized story of the invention of the alphabet in 3100 B.C.. Students use the IBM InfoWindow videodisc system to watch the story, narrated and dramatized by human voices, unfold in comic book style. Students utilize the interactive nature of the InfoWindow system by touching the screen to individualize the pace of the continuing saga of the Cave Gang kids, Wise King Alfa, Brave Queen Bet, and Evil Duke Haman. During the other half of the period students learn to touch type. Touch Typing brings an immediate adult skill to this population.

During the second phase of the course, students are tutored by the InfoWindow courseware and discover that sounds, represented by the letters of the alphabet can be used to write words and sentences. Students type responses to exercises on the keyboard and write them in a personal Work Journal. Students continue to spend half of the class period learning to touch type.

The third phase of the course emphasizes personal writing. Students use computers to write their own words and stories. Students dictate a biosketch (autobiography) using a tape recorder, and then transcribe their dictation. They are encouraged to write phonemically (the way words sound) as they begin the process of "putting talk on paper." It is critical that teachers discourage premature emphasis on correct spelling and grammar so that students are free to concentrate on using the best choice of words and phrases for meaning, regardless of spelling. Students progress to more advanced writing on topics of their choice. Less time is spent on touch typing exercises during this last phase. At the end of the course, students produce a personal resume and complete job application.

Funding for the PALS program was obtained through a state grant to the local Private Industry Council (PIC), which was matched by corporations, individuals, and the Ivy Tech Foundation.

For further information contact: Dr. Eugene V. Giovannini Dean of Instructional Affairs Ivy Tech-Southwest Evansville, IN 47710 (812) 426-2865 or Nancee J. Hedrick Director of Admissions Pima Community College-West Tucson, AZ 85709. (602) 884-6666.