(Reviewed Winter 2010)
Reviewer: Clara Galan
Recommendation: Highly recommended
The purpose of the California Distance Learning Project is to “help expand learner access to adult basic education services in California.” Its goal is to build and promote a distance learning knowledge base, test new materials, provide technical assistance from a distance, and help to create a “statewide distance learning infrastructure.” In the “Adult Learning Activities” of the website, users can choose between 11 topics to build their “reading and life skills”. Examples of these topics include “Law and Government”, “Working”, “Family”, School”, and “Nature”. Each topic consists of a list of articles which the user can click on. Once the user has chosen a topic-related article, he/she is shown the article in three different ways: The paraphrased text of the article with audio, the original text of the article with audio, and a news video that relays the same story as the article. Also, the user can play various games or complete exercises related to the topic of the article. The main sponsor of the California Distance Learning Project is the California Department of Education’s Adult Education Office. The California State Unviersity system managed and directed the project, while the Sacramento County Office of Education’s Outreach Technical Assistance Network (OTAN) was the subcontractor for all Internet and information distribution activities including Web site management. The CDLP main project director is Dennis Porter from California State University, Dominguez Hills School of Education.
I would strongly recommend the adult learning activities from the California Distance Learning Project because the exercises solidfy reading and listening skills. I love the fact that learners are able to receive related information in a variety of ways. When using the website, learners are initially introduced to an abridged version of the article. The audio, along with the text, creates two methods of input that fully engage the learner’s attention. When reading the abridged version of the article, students are most likely engaging in meaning-focused input. The initial version of the article requires meaning-focused input because the majority of the words in the article are common and non-academic. This way, the learner can understand the main ideas of the article. When the student is later introduced to the original version of the article, he/she begins to notice more academic words. Because the learner already understands the main ideas of the article from the first version, he/she can now focus on integrating the new vocabulary into his/her understanding of the story. A slowly developed understanding of text is essential when building reading skills. Lastly, watching the news video activates learners’ visual schema. Due to this, audio, lexical, and visual elements are all utilized. The activities at the end of each topic are also beneficial for further practice. If the student is interested in the topic of the article, the webstie also provides other articles under the same category.
Subject Headings: distance education, ESL learners, self-study