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JUNE 2005

Channel 13 Hosts 15th Annual Literacy Conference

By Gillian Granoff

Channel Thirteen recently hosted the fifteenth Annual Literacy Day Conference. The conference, with 148 participants, brought together adult literacy educators, computer and technology and community outreach professionals, and representatives from New York’s Department of Education. The emphasis was on finding ways to improve curriculum and resources to combat Adult Illiteracy.

The Conference featured a series of engaging speakers on topics ranging from advocacy in adult literacy to presentations featuring the latest innovations in technologies to help facilitate curriculum planning. The day opened with opening remarks from Ronald Thorpe, The Vice President and Director of Education Channel Thirteen/WNET New York. “Since 1990, Adult Literacy Day has been our opportunity to bring together adult literacy educators and leaders to share these resources and many others with the network of institutions in the adult basic education community and ultimately the students who are empowered through our efforts.”

Participants had the opportunity to attend workshops on a range of issues from advocacy to action. Speakers spoke of the challenges faced by Adult ESL students, the challenge of sustaining adult literacy programs in a climate of government cutbacks. Channel Thirteen executives presented a sample screening of Channel Thirteen’s four major adult literacy programs: TV411, GED Connection (a biweekly program which includes lessons on reading, writing, mathematics, social studies and science to help prepare students to pass the new GED), GED en Espanol, and Learn to Read (which airs Monday through Friday 5:30 to 6 p.m.). Anthony Tassi, Special Assistant to Mayor Bloomberg, spoke on the Mayor’s behalf to express appreciation and support to the adult educators for the important work they do and affirmed the Mayor’s commitment to support their effort. Jeanne B. Mullgrave, the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Youth spoke passionately about the critical role of parent involvement in fostering adolescent literacy. She encouraged parents to be involved and support their children in their homework and schools even if they do not understand the material. Afternoon breakout sessions presented workshops on a range of topics from community outreach, activism and advocacy, curriculum development, and strategies to expand literacy services. The sessions featured hands-on workshops for adult educators on how to utilize the latest visual and computer technologies to enhance their curriculums. Keith Eisenberger, a representative from Channel Thirteen’s KET affiliate station in Kentucky presented a workshop on how teachers can use the stations on air broadcasts as an adjunct to classroom instruction.

Toni Schefflin, Manager of Instructional Television, introduced educators to Channel Thirteen’s latest innovation. The Video On Demand Programs, a project still in development, that integrates video from a local website to help instruct students on a variety of topics using downloading video clips. A Workshop Encouraging Independent Writers, emphasized instruction methods that encourage ESOL students to correct their own writing. Sessions also included basic information on the GED, and Post-GED Academy, the collaborative effort of four alternative high schools that help prospective graduates to interview, resume write and filling out applications.

Elyse Barbell Rudolph, the Executive Director of the Literacy Assistance Center, also spoke passionately about the importance of advocacy and perseverance for adult literacy in a challenging political era of government cutback.

The conference came on the heels of a rally challenging the proposed 64 percent budget cuts to adult education. The proposal, called “The Workforce Investment Title II,” proposed a decrease in spending in adult literacy programs from $569 million in 2005 to $207 million in 2007. A workshop gives educators skills to increase lobbying and to increase government spending, while using local resources to enhance community awareness.

The air of enthusiasm and camaraderie reflected the deep-rooted commitment and devotion of these educators to their cause. President and CEO of Channel Thirteen Bill Baker echoed Thirteen’s commitment. “Thirteen Literacy Services are a major part of what we do in this community. And they are at the heart of what sets this television station apart from others. Broadcasts of GED Connection and GED en Espanol, TV 411, and, of course, Learn to Read are among the most important programs we put on the air. Through online resources, educational newsletters and resources guides, tutorials and help lines, and professional development activities, Thirteen provides invaluable resources to the institutions that serve adult learners.”

The conference helped to empower educators and inspired them to continue to improve adult literacy, empowered with practical tools to families to become more effective communicators become productive and successful and functional member of the community (I’m having trouble getting at what this sentence is trying to say—I don’t know if I can correct it!). Yvonne Neil, a computer teacher and adult educator was inspired to bring to the variety of resources and thing she learned to back her work as a caseworker in the classroom. “In my room, students come down and talk about problems such as housing issues and how to fight on their own behalf without physical violence. I learned that I can be my own best advocate.” Indeed, this valuable lesson is one she hopes to impart to her own students by applying the skills she acquired in the conference to her work as a computer teacher and caseworker. #



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