Sunday, April 9, 2023

Generate Quick Dialogues for English Teaching Using ChatGPT and Narakeet

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Teachers spend a lot of time searching for recorded dialogues to use in English language classes. Finding the right dialogue for a specific language teaching situation involves a great deal of time and preparation which sometimes ends in disappointment or frustration. More often than not, the fit between a recording we locate and situation we want to teach around is far from perfect. There are also technical and legal questions around the reproduction, use and redistribution of files that can be unsettling.  How many of us resort to creating our own, home-made recordings which unfortunately can be of poor quality and take up even more time we just do not have?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now opening new possibilities for time strapped teachers. Here I demonstrate the combined use of two powerful, online tools to generate a dialogue.

ChatGPT and Narakeet can be used together to create engaging and dynamic dialogues for use in an English language class. 

ChatGPT can generate the dialogue itself by being fed some simple prompts, while Narakeet is a text-to-speech tool that can convert text into lifelike speech. (See Pictures 1 and 2 below) 

By combining these two tools, teachers can easily generate dialogues using ChatGPT and have them spoken aloud by Narakeet. There is the ability to select accents used by the speakers, to pause and control the speed at which the interlocutors speak as well as add audio such as sound effects and background noise. (See Picture 3 below) 

Narakeet has other powerful possibilities beside this text to speech facility including, creating slides to video, adding voice overs and supportive audio to text for those whose reading is not strong. (Note: some of these features require a paid subscription)

The screen shots below show how quickly a situational dialogue can be composed and generated. Picture 4 and Picture 7 show two transactional texts - both related to buying train tickets.

Teachers can, additionally, use ChatGPT and Narakeet to generate possible questions and responses that can be used for classroom and individual aural practice. (See Picture 6) 

ChatGPT is even capable of effortlessly generating exercises based on the dialogue that you can use at a later time to test student comprehension. (See Picture 8) 

You will undoubtedly think up other creative uses for these tools once you get started. This is new territory for teachers with immense possibilities for enhancing teaching and learning in the classroom and beyond. I encourage you to get started and have fun exploring.

*This post is based on notes taken from a guide I am currently producing for new EAL and ALLND teachers in Australia and the Asia Pacific region.

(Click on the Pictures below for an enlarged view)

Picture 1 : Prompt ChatGPT to create a dialogue

Picture 2 : Cut and Paste the generated dialogue (with your edits) to Narakeet. Choose accents, speaking speed, other variables

Picture 3 : Initially you will need to access the reference section of Narakeet to learn about "stage directions" ie. command lines for adding more than one speaker as well as adding various other features and elements.

Picture 4 : Generate the audio file

Picture 5 : Test and download / share the audio file

Picture 6 : Generating variation questions for aural class practice in Chat GPT 

Picture 7 : Generating a second dialogue in ChatGPT about buying a ticket 

Picture 8 : Generating some comprehension questions in ChatGBT based on the dialogue

ChatGPT can be located and freely used at : ChatGPT | OpenAI

Narakeet can found and freely used (with some limitations) at

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Potential Benefits and Drawbacks of HyFlex Learning for Adult Literacy and EAL Education

HyFlex Learning is a relatively new approach to education that has gained popularity in recent years across sectors. It combines the flexibility of online learning with the interactive experience of traditional classroom learning, allowing students to choose how they want to participate in their courses. HyFlex Learning is particularly suited for Adult Literacy and English as a Additional Language (EAL) students, who may have limited access to traditional classroom settings, are remotely located or who need a more flexible approach. This article explores the potential benefits and drawbacks of HyFlex Learning, with a focus on its applications in Adult Literacy and ESL programs.

Image: Elf-Moondance :

HyFlex : Basic Principles

HyFlex Learning is an educational model that empowers students to choose whether they want to attend classes in person, remotely, or both. This approach allows students to take control of their learning experience and manage their schedules more effectively, making it particularly beneficial for those with other commitments such as work or family responsibilities.

Instructors in the HyFlex model teach the same material to both in-person and remote students, utilizing a variety of methods to ensure that all students receive the same quality of education. This approach promotes interactive and collaborative learning, which enhances the overall learning experience for students.

However, for this model to be successful, teachers must engage in careful planning and preparation. This involves creating engaging and interactive lessons that can be delivered effectively in both in-person and remote settings. Teachers must also be prepared to manage the logistics of accommodating different modes of learning.

HyFlex Learning could be particularly effective in adult literacy and English as an Additional Language (EAL) teaching. Adult learners often have competing demands on their time, making the flexibility of this model essential. Moreover, the HyFlex approach can address the unique needs of adult learners by catering to different learning styles and preferences. This approach can provide a sense of autonomy and control over their learning, which enhances motivation and engagement.

To effectively implement the HyFlex Learning model in adult literacy and EAL teaching, instructors must be mindful of the specific needs and challenges of this student population. This requires creating culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate lessons and providing adequate support and guidance for learners who may be less familiar with the technology used in remote learning. With careful planning and execution, the HyFlex Learning model can provide a flexible, dynamic, and inclusive learning environment that meets the needs of a diverse student body.

Application of HyFlex Approaches in North America 

Several adult literacy and EAL programs have implemented the HyFlex approach, some it would appear, with positive results. 

One example is the Community Literacy of Ontario (CLO), which is a non-profit organization that supports adult literacy programs across the province of Ontario, Canada. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CLO launched a HyFlex pilot project to enable adult learners to continue their education remotely. The project provided teachers with training on how to use digital tools effectively to support HyFlex learning, and learners were able to choose whether to attend classes in person or remotely. The pilot was successful, and CLO is now expanding the HyFlex model across its network of literacy programs. (1) 

Another example is the program at the Pima Community College in Tucson Arizona, which has integrated the HyFlex approach into its ESOL classes. Instructors use a variety of digital tools, such as video conferencing and online discussions, to facilitate remote learning, while also providing in-person support for learners who prefer to attend classes on campus. The program has found that the HyFlex model has increased student engagement and has enabled more learners to complete their courses successfully. (2) 

These examples demonstrate the potential of the HyFlex model to provide greater flexibility and accessibility for adult learners in literacy and EAL programs. By offering a range of learning options, the HyFlex model can cater to the diverse needs and preferences of adult learners, enabling them to achieve their educational and career goals. 

Application of "HyFlex" Approaches in Australia 

There are claims that Adult Literacy and English as an Additional Language programs in Australia are using a HyFlex approach to deliver but what they means exactly I am not sure. My own literature search revealed little in terms of how HyFlex is being applied in Adult Literacy and ESL programs specifically. 

The HyFlex model should enable learners to choose between and combine in-person and remote modes of learning, allowing them to better manage their schedules and achieve their educational goals. 

No doubt there are programs which throughout the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond followed a model of provision not unlike my own but there is little to demonstrate how exactly these programs operated. 

Potential Drawbacks 

Initiating such innovation is not straight forward. There are barriers which exist in terms of perceived and actual resistance from funding bodies for any kind of literacy or language program which is not totally face-to-face.  There is even reservation on the part of some providers who are not confident programs other than those that are delivered in-person are effective or desirable from a management over-sight point of view. 

Despite this, the HyFlex approaches described above show that Adult Literacy and EAL programs can be adapted and developed even though we are just at the beginning of the project. 

While the HyFlex model has many benefits for Adult Literacy and EAL students, there are also potential drawbacks to this approach. One of the main challenges with HyFlex learning is the need for effective time management skills - for both students and teachers. 

Students may need to balance their study time between in-person and remote classes, find time for collaboration with other class members as well as self-direct some online learning tasks. This can be challenging for some students, particularly those with limited experience using technology or those who have limited access to reliable internet connections. 


Teachers too need to carefully manage planning and preparation, the technology, follow up and communication with their students. One of the potential issues for less experienced or tech savvy teachers may be a "blow-out" in time required to prepare and deliver with so many learning options being offered. Teachers also must be prepared and capable of working with various modalities of delivery and be critical in their application of technologies. 

Just how much time and at what hours of the day and night are teachers, for example, prepared to work with time strapped individuals? Are there industrial implications here? Is it realistic to expect students to make themselves available and communicate outside regular class hours? 


As mentioned previously, there are also concerns from the point of view of management around investment in technology as well as the effectiveness, accountability and oversight of programs. 

I am of the mind that such concerns are largely unwarranted. For the last two decades most providers, even those relatively small in the community sector, have availed themselves of funding for technology and have encouraged their staff to attend training in the use of the internet for learning. Streaming and recording of classes does not need to involve an expensive set up (an iphone, some basic lighting and tripod are sufficient). If there is concern, it should probably be directed at ensuring students have adequate connectivity and support if required.

The End of Community Building?

One of the greatest fears for those working in the community education space is the potential danger of reduced interaction and community building among students. In-person classes provide opportunities for students to build relationships with their classmates and instructors, and to develop a sense of belonging within the learning - and wider - community. In remote or online learning environments, these opportunities may be more limited, which could possibly lead to disengagement. 

HyFlex learning may not be suitable for all learners, particularly those who prefer a more structured and predictable learning environment or for those with no or very basic experience of learning. The flexibility of the HyFlex model may be overwhelming for some students, who may prefer a more traditional classroom-based approach. 

Personally, I feel this danger is a little exaggerated as HyFlex includes exclusive in-class learning as a valid student choice. No one is going to throw students without tech skills into a situation in which they are bound to fail. Increases in online learning can slowly be introduced as the least tech savvy students learn skills and if they need to change or combine the mode of learning.

Except for some, many students  already engage with technology on a daily basis via social media. Over the past three years they have in many cases developed skills while studying and attending classes during the Covid-19 health emergency. It places them in a good position to engage in new, Hyflex aproaches. 

While the HyFlex model has many benefits, it is important to restate that there may well be some risks when implementing this approach in Adult Literacy and ESL programs. It is important for instructors to provide adequate support and guidance to students, particularly in the areas of time management and online skills, and to ensure that there are opportunities for students to build relationships and a sense of community within the learning environment. 

On the other hand, HyFlex provides a welcome extension to time and location fixed types of in-person provision which deny many adults an opportunity to learn because of their inflexibility and inconvenience. 

One such group who come to mind and stand to benefit are adult learners who live remotely. By providing remote access to learning content and instruction, the HyFlex model also enables students to engage with the material and other class members whose time is compromised by long days working in agricultural settings or working in itinerant situations or living in locations distant from community centres and colleges. 

The use of digital technologies, such as video conferencing and online discussions, can provide opportunities for these remote students to connect with their instructors and peers, and to participate in collaborative learning activities even with the limitations and potential problems described above. 

Effectiveness and Pre-requisite Conditions for Success 

It is important, however, to note that the effectiveness of the HyFlex approach for remote students will depend on several factors, including... the quality and reliability of internet connectivity, the availability of appropriate technology and equipment, high levels of support and guidance provided by instructors. Instructors will need to ensure that remote students have access to the same quality of instruction and support as in-person students, and that they are able to fully participate in the learning experience. 

The HyFlex approach could be an effective solution for remote students, but it is important to carefully consider the unique needs and challenges of these learners, and to provide appropriate support and resources to enable them to succeed in their studies. 


HyFlex Learning is a valuable tool for Adult Literacy and ESL programs, providing students with the flexibility and convenience of online learning while still offering the benefits of a traditional classroom experience. While there are some drawbacks to the HyFlex approach, such as the need for a period of very substantial planning and technical preparation, the rewards of much greater flexibility, improved access to learning, convenience and student engagement, are worth the effort . 

Overall, the benefits of HyFlex Learning make it a promising option for Adult Literacy and ESL providers looking to innovate and broaden their teaching and delivery practices. Many adult learners in the community want to learn but cannot do so in the time and location bound dimensions of exclusive face-to-face provision. We owe it to them to innovate.


(1) Considering Use of the Hybrid Flexible Model in Adult Education, Amadapour, K., EdTech Centre for World Education, 2022,
from Digital Literacy Success Stories, Community Literacy of Ontario, Nov. 2020 

The article by one provider, PTP, is worth considering in terms of the development of some delivery beyond standard blending learning and into HyFlex: "We have also started to deliver a program in a HyFlex learning model with an in-class teacher using smartboard and a small number of in-class students with more students watching online with Zoom, all at the same time." 

(2) Building on a Pilot: HyFlex ESOL Class at Pima Community College, Hawes, Vi. 2022, 

This project is one of many based around the application of ideas found in Brian J. Beaty's excellent book , Hybrid Flexible Course Design: Implementing student-directed Hybrid Classes , EdTechBooks (2019) 

(3) Towards a HyFlex Model of Teaching and Learning in Adult Language, Literacy, Numeracy and Digital (ALLND) Education, Pobega, D, 2022.
My plan for this year is to add another layer (live streaming from the centre / downloadable recordings for those who cannot watch or attend in real time) which will hopefully allow students from a very wide range of geographical locations and problematical life situations a genuine choice of the type and modalities of delivery that are convenient to or preferred by them.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Towards a HyFlex Model of Teaching and Learning in Adult Language, Literacy, Numeracy and Digital (ALLND) Education

In October 2020, I published a series of notes and slides on a presentation I gave for the Learning for Employment (LfE) Consortium in Western Melbourne about developments in my initial online learning model which was hastily prompted by the appearance of COVID-19 and subsequent need for classes to migrate online. 

The presentation focused heavily on the need to facilitate collaborative work and communicative opportunities among Adult Literacy, Language, Numeracy and Digital Skills (ALLND) students rather than keeping them in isolation at home "studying" with a paper based workbook or electronic equivalent. It also outlined the logistical problems of delivering and retrieving print based materials to and from students which I immediately identified as a limiting factor for learning. The low level of effective group interaction was also indicated in the approaches I had observed taken by many providers of adult education, forced as they were to pivot to online delivery for the first time with some teachers having little or no training or experience.

I explored and presented ways in which greater levels and types of interactions between teacher and student, student and student and even students and family members or friends could be introduced into learning. A brief recapitulation of parts of this approach:

De-Centred Virtual Classroom

Click on the graphic for a better view
A mini-class convened by the teacher in which students review and screen share their work. The teacher can start the process and teleport out to other mini-classes or sessions.

Teaching students to form online study circles and mini-classes in which they direct some of their own learning has been a valuable addition to whole class synchronous sessions over the last year or so.

Time carved out to work individually with students on materials sent electronically, learning plans, review of writing, conversation and the like (while others may be engaged in their study circles or be doing some self paced work) provided a third pillar to the initial approach and subsequent developments. 

Read more about my approach at:


Click on the graphic for a better view
A one-on-one session in which teacher and student negotiate a learning plan.
A de-centred approach allows for time gains, a broader spread of teacher attention and arguably, better outcomes for all.

The attendant problems associated with the distribution, collection and correcting of print based materials during that period - as well as the issue of many teachers not knowing how to facilitate an effective virtual class, was on my mind. I did, however, see the practical side of producing sufficient materials or  "workbooks" for students but knew activities had to be created that were effective and not just limited to reading comprehension and flat grammar exercises. Why wouldn't we maintain similar classroom practices and norms by including interactions through technology that were communicative, pair or group centred, that engineered potential for some joint research, sharing and review of work? What simple tools were available to allow students to continue learning together? It was not just about using new technologies but thinking carefully about the nature of tasks being set and how to include group interaction rather than the individuals being left to navigate materials alone.

The new situation also provided an opportunity to test other ways of teaching - not always having to be the one who is front and centre of attention but to be more dispersed orchestrating different kinds of learning structures ranging from individual one on one to formations of students planning and meeting themselves whether it be on the phone, through email, chat, WhatsApp or Zoom. 

Click on the graphic for a better view
This is video snippet gives some idea of how I typically designed activities using Google Docs to which students could be assigned to work together on a common project or task.  The activity being discussed is one in which the paired students work individually and together on parts of a challenge - in this case, locating and finding out about the teacher's favourite icecream. They need to describe it, find out where it is produced, where it is available and how to get to the supermarket where it is sold. (The range of transferable language and technology skills here are fairly obvious).

The students also have a further opportunity to talk about their  answers and the set tasks as a whole group in a second  ZOOM class scheduled for later that week. So you can see that the material is covered in a variety of ways, with a range of skills being developed and many inputs being included from across the class over the week. The video also provides the students with points of comparison between their answers, those of the teacher and other answers from other workbooks the teacher might share with the class in the video (or in ZOOM later on).

It also provides precious time gains for the teacher, convenience and
structure for students as they work individually and collaboratively.

View some of the video at:

The results I am still getting from students, their satisfaction with the flexibility and variety it provides got me thinking how my teaching might look in the longer term. 

What I asked myself then as Covid restrictions eased and students started returning to f-2-f classes in limited numbers was  "why would we now jettison the changes and gains made during the worst of the pandemic?" Did a return to the bricks and mortar classroom mean abandoning more flexible ways of working? Why would you give up the possibilities that online learning provides - even if you are primarily operating out of the face to face classroom?

Is actual attendance always the best option for those who might also work, live remotely, have limited transport options, have disabilities or struggle with illness, have complex family and caring arrangements? There are those who can attend some days but not others. Of course there are very real advantages to be gained in attending an actual class and there are activities and personal interactions that cannot be easily replicated virtually. But why can’t we work and develop pedagogy somewhere in the middle? Why can't we design an approach that caters to variety of complex, adult needs and circumstances?

A Hybrid Approach 

There was a brief period in 2021 when f-2-f classes were able to return for one day a week. 

Two other days of class were conducted online. 

In that time I found myself wanting to use the f-2-f time we had together as best we could for certain activities but not de-couple the learning from the types of communicative online activities that were working so well. I also anticipated that some students would not want to attend or could not attend due to COVID-19 (10 of the 15 students I taught in that time fell sick) so how could I cater in these complicated circumstances? 

Click on the graphic for a better view
Continuing to access materials in the face to face classroom with a workbook of QR codes. 
Students attending remotely were able to access the same workbook through Google Docs.
Activities were designed to include students attending face to face and remotely. They worked collaboratively through learning circles. Some activities were individually based and could be completed by the "absent" students in a self paced fashion.
The next logical step would have been to stream the class live to those attending remotely and facilitate some of the activities synchronously between the two groups. The aim was to maximize possibilities for student interaction through a rich blend of study activities and learning arrangements.

The students were mostly able and willing to work from home but now instead of being able to connect with others virtually, they would be be excluded for the duration of their time in quarantine. This is an obvious downside of a delivery mode that requires all students to be physically present at the same time and in the same place. If you are going to have a face to face class, students who are either sick or unable to attend physically, still need to be to attend or keep up some other way. 

I created workbook is sent to the online students by email or WhatsApp - there are links and QRs and instructions about making contact and communicating with the teacher and other class members so the work can be completed in a similar fashion to the way it is in the "real" classroom but in a much more flexible, time friendly fashion.

Either way, the students were working f-2-f and online with most of the collaborative activities being designed to allow students who could not attend to plug into work groups out of hours. 

What my model tried to achieve was a blurring of the boundaries between the f-2-f classroom and online classrooms - learning is approached from both angles no matter where the students are located and what time they have available. 

I now realise we were moving towards a form of “Hyflex” teaching and learning which unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to continue developing.

As it turned out, the surging pandemic put an end to that brief blended experiment and the students went back to studying fully online for the rest of the year as infection numbers soared. 

Predictably, the pivot to returning online was not a problem for them. It was simply a return to the online modes in which they were well versed. The structure and arrangements for learning were clear and well understood. The learners took up from where they left off the term before. Ironically, there was less disruption to learning for those who fell sick during the brief period in which we were able to return to class physically. 

The question now is could the hybrid model described above be taken that step further? Could we actually transform delivery by providing students with even greater levels of choice and access? Imagine being able to also stream to remotely located students on top of using the other strategies described. 

This is the crossroads at which I now find myself but fear the almost total snap back to face to face delivery across all sectors of education will preclude the potential for further developing the hybrid model which worked for both me and my students in 2021.

What is Hyflex?

HyFlex is an approach which tries to combine or mix a use of modes to maximize opportunities for study. It is a form of teaching in which some students are in the classroom and others attend remotely - or both. There are different graduations and levels of synchronous and asynchronous, individual and group work as well as engagement with the teacher which takes place. By streaming the class in real time another option is added to students participating remotely. 

In a recent forum, I addressed the concerns of parents of immuno-compromised children who were nervous about their kids returning to the f-2-f classroom because of escalating prevalence of Covid across the community - at the time of writing almost 40 000 cases a day!

I commented:

What is disappointing right across Education - regardless of the sector - is the missed opportunity to introduce a HyFlex approach that could cater to a range of students with varying and diverse needs. By HyFlex, I mean forms of delivery which are either

1) fully face-to-face,
2) part f-2-f / part online,
3) fully online with real time streaming to students remotely located at home or elsewhere
4) fully online self paced
5) flexible, customised variations of the above which students can move in and out of. 

We have the technology to roll out such a model and with some thoughtful planning and teacher PD, could revolutionise the way we deliver across the educational spectrum. But that’s not going to happen is it, with the great snap back to the tired status quo of traditional schooling? Why are we so stuck on pushing an industrial era model of education that is largely out of date, inflexible and incapable of properly serving us at such a critical time?

Imagine if we could organise these delivery variations and provide a whole range of students with genuine choice and flexibility? 

I have no doubt that the level of planning and preparation would add greatly to workload of a teacher. An issue that needs a lot of attention in itself. Hyflex also involves a investment in technology for live streaming but I think even more crucially, a very substantial upskilling of teachers. 

And yet what alternatives do we really have in such uncertain times? 

The centre will not hold as far as traditional, classroom delivery is concerned. 

Post Script September 2022: Now in what some (erroneously) call the “post-pandemic” period, most students have returned to long days of face to face study. Absenteeism is rife, teachers are regularly sick themselves and at times educational programs seem to be at crisis point - right across Education. 

It appears, however, that inventive, flexible ways of moving forward do not actually have much traction or support. There has been a definite shift back to the classroom and almost dismissal of online delivery as a failure or at best a necessary evil or last resort in the event of a total meltdown. 

Ironically, the health emergency exposed a great deal that was wrong with education and offered some new ways forward. My personal sense of the situation is that the opportunity to create a more responsive teaching/learning pedagogy is quickly disappearing as we move back to “normal” life and learning again.  

Monday, August 16, 2021

Interview : Australian Council of Adult Literacy (June 2021)


This interview also appeared in Profiling literacy and numeracy specialists : Dale Pobega (June 2021)

How did you start your career in LN?

I returned to Australia in 1990 after living and working overseas for most of the preceding decade. I taught English and worked in journalism and publishing mainly in Latin America. While I was completing a second degree in Melbourne I taught Adult Literacy night-classes at a local Community Centre. I knew straight away that this was the field for me as there was a very pressing demand in the community at the time for classes and a real need for dedicated teachers to work with adults. I then went to work at the Duke Street Community House in Melbourne’s West which was a very forward-thinking organisation at the time and where I taught for the next 25 years with a couple of interesting ”sabbaticals”. There was a stint with the Victorian Adult Literacy and Basic Education Council (VALBEC) in the mid-90s as editor of their journal “Fine Print” and as the writer/producer of “The World Times”, a VALBEC / Oxfam “simple-English” newspaper on development issues funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs.  That work provided me with an entree into a new-fangled thing at the time called the “internet” and I immediately saw its potential for teaching and learning. I secured a position as Manager of an Online Learning Networking that operated out of the then TAFE Virtual Campus in the early 2000s. The rest is history – I continue to do work that straddles language teaching and E-learning. I currently teach EAL at Wyndham Community Education Centre for part of the week and do E-learning consultancy, teacher training and educational project work the rest of the time.


What motivates you to work in this profession?


The adult students I teach – they’re the ones who motivate and inspire me. Their struggles negotiating an increasingly complex world that demands a great deal in terms of a spoken additional language, literacy, numeracy and digital skill is very real to me. My own parents had very few opportunities to learn due to the dislocating factors associated with war, poverty, migration and disability. In my own students today I see reflections of them. That inspires me to stay where I am needed and do the best I possibly can as a teacher. I also find my work endless fascinating. There is a lot to learn about language. I’m a keen learner of languages other than English myself and have lived for a long period overseas so like my students,  I have some idea what it is like to be at a linguistic and cultural disadvantage.


How have you developed your professional skills and knowledge over time?


I’ve kept a blog (on and off) for about the last ten years dedicated to documenting my work and I think that kind of reflection is important. It helps me to focus on what I could possibly do better and moves me in new directions. Stepping back and reflecting on what works and what doesn’t is important to me. I’ve always been an active member of language and literacy communities, particularly online ones, from the early days of subscribing to mailing lists to nowadays regularly contributing to Wyndham CEC’s Digital Learning Centre.  I also joined LinkdIn last year. I’ve joined a range of ALLN and E Learning groups from across the globe. I always thought LinkdIn was just a type of Facebook for Corporates in search of greener pastures – I’m surprised at how useful it has been in terms of making contacts, discovering new networks and accessing resources.


Can you describe any key points in your career that have helped shape the way you work in delivering LLN or foundation skills?


I think my long engagement with technology to facilitate learning going right back to 1990 has been central to my approach. I have always incorporated some form of online learning into LLN classes. With the emergence of the Internet I immediately understood how crucial Digital literacies would become for all of us. And the pace of change in terms of key skills and literacies relating to technology shows no sign of abating. Many Adult Community providers – at least here in Victoria –  were very well placed in the 90s to be leaders in the field of online and blended delivery but somehow did not manage to build upon that success – during the late 90s and early 2000s the few community based learning networks operating out of the TAFEVC were, in my opinion, the most outstanding.


It’s interesting that the health emergency prompted by COVID has forced us back into that online space through necessity and what I think the experience showed was that many of us were not really set up or adequately prepared to meet the challenge, though there were islands of great creativity and skill amongst some providers. I just hope we don’t drop the baton this time round and that we take the opportunity to re-think our traditional models of provision and develop some new ways of moving forward as a sector.


How do you renew your ideas and practices?


Last year I became a mentor in the Adult Literacy and Numeracy Professional Development Program (ALNPP) funded through the division of Adult Community and Further Education (ACFE). It is an ambitious program promoting ALLN practice within the preaccredited education sector  and was delivered entirely online. It was interesting being the facilitator working with a range of participants – some new, many seasoned and highly skilled – who were drawn from across the field and the state. We met weekly online and worked through modules based on Theory, Frameworks, Practice and Reflection – it became a really valuable forum for learning and reassessing some of my own positions and assumptions about literacy, numeracy, teaching and learning in general. Being a facilitator or teacher always makes me realise what others can and do teach me. I’m always learning. I’m a student as much as I am a teacher.


I think too that as practitioners we all  need to be aware of the changing demands of our work — ie. understanding there are new things to teach adults and new ways of teaching. The Digital world with its own sets of skills and literacies, are now a very important part of what we need to know as teachers of language, literacy and numeracy more generally. Knowing the potential and limitations of technology, being open but remaining critical of these advances – while always keeping the interests of adult students struggling with language in mind – is really important.


What professional development do you value?


Like everyone else I’m strapped for time. I am often too busy to attend formal, face to face PD and I actually don’t like losing time with my classes or having someone else substituting when there is so much work to cover. So the PD has to be online and preferably bite size. During the first phase of COVID using Zoom for meeting with colleagues to do required validation and moderation was very convenient and I found more tends to get done than if you meet face to face. My only regret is that a lot of PD  – apart from participation in accredited course work of some kind –  is not captured and recognised professionally. I’d like to see a system of  micro-credentialling operating where all of the PD we do is officially recognised and becomes a part of a bigger whole that has actual currency. I also read a lot and keep abreast of developments through a range of online networks, including peak bodies like ACAL, ACTA and ALA.


How can vocational trainers prepare for LN needs in their classroom?


Mmm …”vocational trainers” – what are they? I’m not sure we should consider any teaching work as being something that can stand  outside its obvious connection to language, literacy and numeracy.  I don’t think you can separate content from the form of presentation or technique in anything you teach. By that I mean all teachers are, in a sense, LLN teachers because how can you facilitate learning if you aren’t able to assess your students’ English language, literacy and numeracy for yourself – in effect, to know who they are and what they are capable of as learners? How can you teach any subject unless you have knowledge of LLN and the skills to break it down and support learners ? This was something I discussed at length with the participants of the recent ALNNP program I taught for ACFE. It is all about breaking down complexity, recognising the particular literacy and numeracy difficulties of individuals in your classes and hopefully not throwing up your hands when you encounter problems.


During the first phase of COVID I was freed up to spend much more time than usual working with each student in my class on their individual learning plans. Rather than just eliciting glib responses from students about goals, challenges, needs and the like, I had a lot more time to genuinely find out about them and to assess in a meaningful way what they could and couldn’t do, to find out what their broader long term goals were and to set some tasks we could work on together – just me and that particular student. Students have particular goals and needs that have been articulated but then they are referred to LLN classes with a standardised curriculum and a standard set of assessments. It’s a systemic problem and it’s a contradiction of sorts. You wonder about issues of relevance for that individual and the time wasted – sometimes years – spent in classes where they don’t learn the particular literacies they actually need to realise those vocational goals.

Changing the current model would involve a lot more time being made available to teachers to work with individual students, many more resources – in fact, probably having more than one teacher – and it would also mean developing a more nuanced curricula approach that genuinely takes individually articulated goals, needs and facilitated learning into account. I don’t see that happening very easily, certainly not in the accredited education space.


Can you recommend a particular resource or professional reading to support vocational trainers meet these needs?


I designed a Digital Literacies Unit for my delivery of ALNPP and relied heavily on the ideas of Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis’ in the theory section. Their works “Literacies” (2016) and “E Learning Ecologies (2017)” are invaluable and have deeply resonated with me. In fact, they have established a very interesting space for learning communities on their CGScholar site and on their own website, “Works and Days” have linked many extra resources and companion readings to their books that are freely available.


Kalantzis and Cope actually discuss the future of education and offer five theses about the ideal directions they feel school, tertiary and vocational education need to take including the most controversial thesis : #1 There will be no pedagogical differences between learning in person and learning online.  It is a thesis I personally – to the surprise of some – do not accept when it comes to adult literacy and numeracy learners but is a part of a broader and timely discussion that ACAL has so bravely entered into about the advantages and disadvantages of online provision during the initial lockdown phases of COVID.


Literacies (2nd Edition) 2016

by Mary Kalantzis  (Author), Bill Cope (Author), Eveline Chan (Author), Leanne Dalley-Trim (Author)

Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (5 July 2016)


E-Learning Ecologies: Principles for New Learning and Assessment

by Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis | 17 February 2017

Routledge; 1st edition (17 February 2017)


Dale’s blogs

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Notes on Blended Learning (1) From Online to Blended ... and back again

Approach to online / blended learning in a nutshell over Semester 1, 2021

What impressed me about my own students over this period was their ability to quickly pivot back to full online learning mode during the sudden Lockdown at the end of Term 2. 

I think this is due to the skills they developed studying online over such a long period which have not been lost and are being maintained via the current blended learning model now being followed.

Here is a simple curriculum outline with some explanation as to how classes operated during Term 1 (fully online) and then transitioned to a blended model (one day face-to-face and two days online) thereafter.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Learning Circles - Extending Study Skills

Click on the images to get a better view

Students in this learning circle are practising screen sharing. They have started learning to create and schedule their own Zoom get-togethers for the purpose of doing collaborative work. They are also practising their spoken English both inside and outside scheduled class times. 

In face to face classes we are used to dividing students into various groupings to practice drills, work together on exercises and the like and yet in ZOOM it is easy to fall back into a much more traditional and narrow model (teacher front and centre stage orchestrating all of the interactions) in a situation that is hard to effectively manage.  Of course in Zoom and its video conferencing counterparts, there are break out rooms, a chat window, sometimes a whiteboard and these can be used for the purpose of facilitating small group discussion and collaboration. This is, however, not the case for all versions of these synchronous conferencing programs across operating systems and devices. The tools mentioned (breakout rooms, chat, whiteboard) are variously located across different interfaces or totally lacking, so planning and using them is problematical.

So there is a problem related to the narrowness of interactions possible with virtual "real time" meetings in which the whole class is present. What about the engagement we might like students to have with one another outside of the main group or scheduled class? 

One of the strengths of online learning is supposedly its flexibility but I wonder if this is in fact the case when it comes to employing synchronous environments? At best, they serve a purpose alongside asynchronous, planned activities that come before them and after. They are an opportunity to "meet" and for participants to bond, but I wonder if we are over-estimating their actual pedagogical value?

As I mentioned, it is hard for the teacher to manage large numbers of learners in a single, virtual space. Over the last year, I have been considering how to take better advantage of environments like ZOOM by thinking outside the box of its use as a total substitute for a face-to-face class - something it can never effectively be.

In this Learning Circle, these students work with the teacher on an activity that was more difficult for them. I started by creating a ZOOM meeting for them to meet and send the link via email or text. As their skills develop the plan is for them to learn to meet independently. In the first instance, they learn to work together through a simple exercise and to share their screens. Soon they will do this alone. Learning Circles can fulfil a number of purposes to suit the range of language levels and digital proficiency that may exist in the same class. 

The skills developed in Learning Circles are recycled back into the whole class meeting online. R. shares her screen with the whole class at a session in which work book exercises (completed in pairs) are being reviewed. She learned to do this in the previous week during her scheduled Learning Circle session with a limited number of classmates. What is interesting about this small grouping of students who meet socially, discuss or share homework, etc. is that it broadens learning possibilities for the whole class (17 in total). A greater range of activities can be done -- before, during and after scheduled Zoom sessions -- as students gain confidence, develop their skills and ability to work within the environment more efficiently and creatively. 

The Learning Circles concept came out of an earlier experiment aimed at improving the way student and teacher worked with Individual Learning Plans. I believe the virtual space provides much better opportunities for a student to work with a teacher one-on-one. 

See my article, Bringing Individual Learning Plans to Life Online

These sessions led to setting learning goals and I found that some students had very similar goals and interests - why not pair them up? 

Why not have them working together - sometimes with me, at others times together or alone? 

So there has been a natural kind of evolution happening that had its roots in this one-on-one work I was doing with students earlier last year. I'm very pleased with the progress made so far.

It will be interesting to see where this leads as students become more confident and proficient with the platform (ZOOM) as they assume the driver's seat and use it differently from the way it was presented to them as a "classroom" managed by the teacher.

There is some way to go getting all students involved and up to speed with the skills required to do this, but so far, students who started out studying online last March because of COVID are now up to the challenge.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The ALNPP and Digital Literacies 2020

The Adult Literacy and Numeracy Professional Development Program (ALNPP) is a course for those working in preaccredited education across the state of Victoria, Australia, through the division of Adult Community and Further Education (ACFE). 

For 10 weeks at the height of Victoria's lock-downs (August to November) participants from across the state met and worked through a wide range of topics across four broad areas - Theory, Practice, Frameworks, Reflection, Resources.

Digital Literacies

The development of a fifth major area for investigation - Digital Literacies - was an addition to the course I delivered for Wyndham Community Education Centre.

As the Australian Council of Adult Literacy (ACAL) has recently stated

Digital skills are increasingly being discussed and incorporated into programs and funding models. ACAL has started a conversation around whether digital literacy is different to digital skills/ the mechanics of using technologies. We are suggesting that digital literacy is the interaction between literacy and numeracy practices within/in technological contexts – digital literacies.

The ACAL definition seems a bit arcane to me but (I think) basically posits the idea that "Digital Skills" are the mechanics and "Digital Literacies" are the contexts in which communication using those technologies takes place. I think of the difference in terms of the types of "knowing" the French distinguish. Digital Skills are  a kind of "savoir" = "how to do" and Digital Literacies are more akin to "connaĆ®tre" = a kind of "deeper knowing" or more nuanced acquaintance. In this case it would involve understanding not only how to use a technology, platform or tool in the mechanical sense but understanding when it is best used, for, by or between whom and why you would use it.

There is a good discussion of the distinction here.

It was precisely the exploration of this intersection between "digital skills" and "digital literacies" that I was keen to explore with the group.

The approach taken involved an exploration of theory and practice specifically in relation to:

*Critical analysis of Kalantzis and Cope's Five Theses on the Future of Learning;

*Critical analysis around the practicalities of migrating f-2-f classes into various online environments;

*Critical consideration of the Digital Literacy Skills Framework (DLSF).

Access the Digital Literacies Unit website here :

Other Delivery Components

The course delivery also included these extra components :

*a supportive orientation stage consisting of a video guide, printed manual and tutorials for those new to to online conferencing;

*a rigorous communication strategy directing participants to readings, discussions , recordings, and resources before, during and after weekly conferences;

*a private archive of conference session recordings for for those who could not attend a particular session and subsequent reference, research and review;

*a program of "guest participants" (experts in a particular field) who would attend and participant in group discussion, leave a posting and other resources for the group to bounce ideas off. Many of the participants themselves also volunteered to do "mini-presentations" on aspects of the course which they felt they had particular expertise.


There was a great deal of feedback collected. It was overwhelmingly positive and reinforces my impression that teachers, not only in the fields of adult literacy, numeracy and language education, but much more generally, are looking for opportunities to extend the range of their practice. Once they are presented with examples of what can be done online, they seem keen to forge ahead. 

As one participant put it ...
The introduction of Digital Literacy to the ACSF and how it will affect our approach was magnified in this time of Covid.  I could not have imagined 6 months ago that this topic would have generated so much discussion within the group.  I was reassured that my concerns within this space were somewhat echoed by others.  However, it was not a tone of despair, it was a feeling of 'How as trainers can we do this better?'  The digital literacy unit offered some answers.  Why would you simply create a pdf of existing resources to deliver training?  The opportunity to deliver in a whole new way that actually enhances the learning experience is within our grasp, however the learner must stay central to the decisions surrounding the development of such platforms.