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Computer_literacy Powered By Docstoc
					        Flemington Reading and Writing Program
        28 Farnham Street Flemington Victoria 3031 Australia
       Tel: 9376 1281 Fax: 9376 7739
Email: flemrw@bigpond.net.au Web: www.vicnet.net.au/~flemrw ABN: 50 045 268 703




                            Supporting computer literacy
                                       in our community




        Case study on the development of FRWP
            Information Technology program



                                                            Liz Suda &
                                                          Manrico Moro



                                                            1 June 2004
                                        flemington reading and writing program




Contents



Introduction .................................................................................................................3

Challenging Times ....................................................................................................4

Solutions ......................................................................................................................5

Developing Pathways ...............................................................................................7

Outcomes ....................................................................................................................9

Learning Theories for Information Communication Technologies ...............12

Multimedia .................................................................................................................13

Lessons Learnt ........................................................................................................14

The Next Step – Planning, Innovating, Dreaming ...........................................17




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                               flemington reading and writing program




Introduction
Flemington Reading and Writing Program (FRWP) is a not for profit community adult education
program which specialises in language, literacy and general education for adults.
FRWP believes that all people have the right to a fair and decent education and seeks to
ensure that that those who may have missed out in their youth are given the opportunity to
experience knowledge and learning as adults.

Being “literate” is an essential component in the development of a broad general education
and is essential to real and active participation in a democratic society - at work, at home and
in the community. Literacy involves not only the ability to read and write but also listening and
speaking, critical thinking and being able to communicate in a range of social and cultural
contexts. Increasingly we refer to literacies or multiliteracies in recognition of the many different
types of literacy one requires to be an effective participant in contemporary society.

As well as providing opportunities for developing language, literacy and general knowledge, we
believe people should have access to new technologies and to the skills required to make full
use of them. Computer literacy means more than being able to follow the prompts on a
computer screen or in an instructional manual. Our Information Technology (IT) educational
activities are designed to support people to become familiar with new technologies within an
environment which is supportive of the development of Language and Literacy, general
knowledge and community participation. It is about informing and empowering; providing skills
training in the context of real and purposeful learning that responds to learner needs and
acknowledges a range of learning styles and approaches.

This case study then seeks to describe and provide a rationale for how the IT program at
FRWP has evolved. The story you are about to read is about how one community provider of
adult education sought to integrate computer literacy into its teaching and learning program.
It‟s a story about challenges and solutions, but more than this it is a story about
responsiveness - responding to the needs of students and to the demands of changing times
and rapid technological change. FRWP began computer classes in 1993 which is a relatively
short time in the time frame of a community, but a very long time from the perspective of
information technology, computer professionals and computer users.




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Challenging Times
In early 1993 when the Commonwealth Government‟s Special Intervention Program (SIP)
provided unprecedented levels of funding for Language and Literacy programs it was already
clear that computer literacy would increasingly be required for participation in the workforce.
FRWP assembled limited but solid resources to provide Language and Literacy students with
some initial exposure to IT, some ideas on how computers worked, and some necessary skills
to begin to use them as learning and working tools. All students in the SIP program were given
basic introductory courses in computers.

At this point in time computer skills were seen as an additional skill, outside of the Language
and Literacy domain. It was a skill unemployed students required to facilitate re entry into the
workforce. Their significance as a learning tool was underrated and we had not yet heard of
the internet. The key challenges facing the organisation were that none of the teachers were IT
professionals. All were primarily language, literacy or general education teachers with limited
knowledge of computers, IT or the complex technical issues involved in setting up a computer
laboratory. Hitherto the organisation had one Macintosh computer and printer that was used in
the office. Moving into the IT area presented numerous challenges:

   Finding suitably qualified tutors who could teach basic computer skills
   Understanding what sort of equipment to buy
   Anticipating demand for courses
   Finding a suitable space to locate the computers
   Knowing which software to buy
   Finding resources to support a laboratory
   Knowing how much time was required to manage such a lab
   Finding appropriate teaching and learning resources for our learner groups
   Developing appropriate teaching methods for our learner groups
   Accommodating different learning styles and abilities
   Staff Training

In short, introducing computers into FRWP‟s delivery plan was akin to a leap of faith into
uncharted and potentially hazardous waters. The journey continues to be uncertain but
certainly less turbulent.




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Solutions
Skills for beginners

FRWP was not unique among community education providers in offering beginner computer
courses to language & literacy students and people in the community. The computer classes
became increasingly popular. However the importance of providing a pathway for computer
students who had completed their beginner classes and were looking to continue developing
their newly discovered abilities in IT became clear.

In 2000 an intermediate computer skills class was developed to provide a second step to
students who were now familiar with the basics of using the internet and writing and saving MS
Word documents.

The combination of beginner and intermediate classes became a valuable setting for the
FRWP computer teachers to discover how quickly community students could progress past the
basics, the best lesson plans that would achieve competencies, and very importantly what the
students themselves wanted to learn once they had enough computer knowledge to be able to
make requests about their possible progress.

A very important aspect of the development of the IT program at FRWP is that it has been
driven by student demand. The Language and Literacy students soon began to see that the
computer was a powerful tool and could be used to further their learning.




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On-line learning

The advent of the internet and the world wide web also added another dimension to FRWP‟s
IT program. The idea that students could use the internet to research information and access
on-line courses provided another series of challenges in terms of resourcing and training
teachers to use the software needed for this purpose. FRWP was one of ten community
providers to join the ACENET consortium and experiment with the development of on-line
learning materials for students with low level language and literacy skills. Liz Suda and Mex
Butler developed the Dream Holiday Unit which has been cited as an excellent example of
using hypertext and the world wide web in a unit of learning. Other teachers in the program
were invited to participate in the development of on-line learning materials. The team decided
on the theme of cultural identity and worked together to produce a unit of work entitled „Who do
we think we are‟. Both units of work are available to registered users on the TAFE Virtual
Campus within CGEA offerings for students.

On-line learning has not however been embraced by the teachers and students at Flemington
partly because the method of delivery requires individuals to work on their own in front of a
computer screen without much interaction with their fellow classmates. Despite
encouragement to participate in on-line forums and learning there has been a degree of
resistance to this kind of involvement with technology. Nevertheless this is an area that we
intend to keep exploring, particularly with more advanced students. However students and
teachers have been far more interested in developing their own web sites and learning about a
range of multi media software.


Multi Media @ FRWP

The development of multi media classes at FRWP has been a slow and evolving process and
perhaps the most interesting aspect of IT curriculum development at FRWP. Initially the FRWP
website was built as a means of providing a space for the publication of student work. The
Federation Project involved students in the writing of stories and essays around the theme of
Federation. The web site provided a focus for student activity and they were involved in
developing the content.

In 2001 FRWP was given a grant from ACFE to explore the possibilities of using Adobe
Premiere and Macromedia Flash to develop digital stories with low level learners. This
experimental work provided an insight into the sorts of language and literacy, conceptual and
technical skills students need to be able to access these powerful technologies. In particular it
demonstrated the skill levels required by teachers both at a pedagogical and technical level to
harness the potential of multi media for the development of computer literacies.

It was clear that we had to develop the students‟ skills on a number of levels and that
collaboration was required between Language and Literacy teachers and those whose
specialisation was more in the technology area.




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Developing Pathways
It became clear that students were very keen to learn computer skills beyond basic level,
regardless of whether the students had arrived at the FRWP Computer Class through
Language and Literacy classes, from advertisements in the library or through word of mouth in
the community.

The classes therefore had to service the needs of Language and Literacy students as well as
interested and often economically disadvantaged members of the community who wanted to
acquire computer skills but did not necessarily see themselves as language or literacy
students

It soon became clear to FRWP that in order to implement this strategy three separate areas of
activity would have to be prioritised: The curriculum of computer classes would require
evaluation and development, the computer equipment used in classes would need to be
maintained and when necessary upgraded, and a pathway to more advanced computer skills
would need to be constructed.




                  This screenshot shows student work folders on the FRWP server




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Curriculum development

When FRWP computer classes began it was quickly recognised that there was a general lack
of available up to date teaching manuals for beginner computer classes.

The reasons were not hard to find. Hardware manufacturers and software developers tend to
release new and much more powerful products every year or in many cases every six months.
These products reach the market with support manuals that are usually very inadequate.

Books that are produced by independent publishers are much better, but they are very
expensive because they have a very short sale period, as they will be made obsolete by the
next product release.

This means that up to date computer manuals are effectively unaffordable for individual
community students or as classroom sets for a community education provider.

So the teaching content for each class was developed as a set of tasks that would create a
finished outcome during each lesson. Finished outcomes were documents such as a letter, or
a menu or a notice for a garage sale. The outcome would be the result of applying a particular
type of computer software function. Achieving the outcome would be evidence to the teacher
that students were achieving required competencies in computer skills. But importantly it would
be objective evidence to the students that they were making progress during each class. This
is very important in a community setting, where many students are dealing with the insecurity
of whether they will be actually able to learn new concepts and become comfortable with new
technologies.

The aim was to make each lesson memorable so that students would remember the overall
effect of their actions during a lesson, and in future they could rediscover the steps to produce
the result, even if they did not have a manual with them, even if they were faced with a
different computer, or a different operating system or a different software version than the one
they learned on in class.

This process worked well, and students were able to complete lesson after lesson with saved
documents on their personal diskettes that showed increasing complexity and increased
familiarity with computer tasks.




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 Outcomes
 The pathways strategy has been very successful with greatly increased demand for the
 service. Student demand for increased levels of skill development seems to be endless and
 the computer teacher is constantly looking for new directions to take the students. In order to
 meet demand additional classes were established.


2000               2001                  2002                  2003                  2004

                                                                                     Workshop
                                                                                     Web Design
                                                                                     Multimedia 2
                                                               Multimedia            Multimedia 1
                                         Web Design            Advanced 2            Advanced 2
                   Web Design            Advanced              Advanced 1            Advanced 1
CGEA Multimedia    Advanced              Intermediate 2        Intermediate 2        Intermediate 2
CGEA Beginner      Intermediate          Intermediate 1        Intermediate 1        Intermediate 1
Intermediate       Beginner 2            Beginner 2            Beginner 2            Beginner 2
Beginner           Beginner 1            Beginner 1            Beginner 1            Beginner 1

           This table shows the development of FRWP computer classes over the last few years



 This has had two important consequences for the FRWP computer program:
 It created a large group of students in the community who had the expectation of being able to
 follow the established pathway beyond beginner and intermediate computer levels. And it
 placed strain on the facilities and equipment, making equipment upgrades necessary.

 However, the challenge of meeting increasing student demand has provided very positive
 developments for the program and led to a strengthening of the partnership with Flemington
 Library. The computer lab has now become a community resource which is jointly owned by
 the FRWP and Moonee Valley Library Services which increases the sustainability and future
 growth of the program




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Equipment upgrades

The aim of the upgrade was to attempt to provide community students with industry level
resources, that is, with equipment that students would be expected to encounter in a large
business or in a college of advanced education. This was a significant decision in a community
provider, because it was understood that this strategy meant having to deal with the speed of
constant innovation in computer hardware and software, and constantly matching this
innovation by finding the human resources (the teachers) who were able to explain the new
technology, as well as the financial resources required to purchase required hardware,
peripherals, consumables and software.

Upgrades were always planned over considerable time, evaluating the possible benefits of
different types of equipment for the kind of lessons and classes that we were developing. It
was understood that it was necessary to avoid simply buying the fastest and cheapest
computers, because there was a cost to additional performance, in terms of possible
complexity to beginner students, and there was a hidden cost in bargains, in terms of future
maintenance time for the FRWP teachers. In time business relationships were developed with
suppliers who would build machines that could support our classes, and who provided
particularly advantageous support and warranty contracts.

Apart from the regular equipment upgrades, two significant configuration upgrades deserve
special mention, as they made our class work much more functional.
In 2002 the FRWP network was split from the Flemington Library network, and provided with
high-speed Internet access through ADSL with router and firewall. This made a great
difference to the ease of accessing websites. Importantly it made an even greater difference to
being able to download software and antivirus updates, making the entire network more
configurable and stable. In 2003 this configuration was strengthened further by providing a
Linux file server to save students work. This was supported by adding a Windows XP
computer in the role of image server, dedicated to scanner and camera image downloads. This
configuration took a great deal of pressure away from the computers used by students,
provided central locations for student files, and introduced all students to the principle of
networked computers in a practical setting.

As pieces of equipment were upgraded to more powerful models, old machines were recycled
into supporting less critical functions in classes, or they were donated to other community
organisations that would be able to use them in a practical way.




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Impact of hardware on curriculum development

When FRWP decided to extend the pathway for computer students this was achieved by
developing an advanced computer skills course for students that were now beyond the
beginner and intermediate level and wanted to learn additional skills.

Advanced classes were a very important step in driving forward the overall development of the
FRWP computer program.

They provided teachers with a way to evaluate their lesson content and delivery, as a real test
of the beginner and intermediate classes became the progress of students into advanced
classes, and their ability to absorb complex technical concepts and display evidence of having
achieved competencies at more advanced levels.

The advanced classes also allowed the performance of each computer in the network to be
measured against much higher performance targets as work done on computers became more
complex, often graphic-intensive, and increasingly geared towards multi-tasking. This allowed
FRWP to better plan upgrade brands and models, as well as the best ways to achieve a class
configuration that would support our teaching program.

Advanced classes also gave FRWP students a visible target in terms of competencies that
could be reached, and very importantly many students began developing important workplace
skills that were simply beyond their reach previously. A number of students left the program
because they started employment, and many of them credited the computer classes with
providing them with the skills and importantly with the confidence to take the new steps into the
labour force.

Finally and very significantly advanced classes provided students and our community with role
models. These were students who had come into our program with zero computer knowledge,
and who were now participating with confidence in complex technical discussions, and who
were able to produce professional-looking material on a multimedia computer during the period
of one lesson.




              This diagram shows the current configuration in the FRWP computer class



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Learning Theories for Information Communication Technologies
Curriculum development is of course an ongoing process. FRWP has also provided computer
training for staff in the Hume Moonee Valley Library Services. These courses have been
designed to meet the needs of staff in their workplace where they are required to have fairly
advanced computer skills. These classes were very valuable for FRWP in planning and
developing professional level courses for community students.

Developing pathways for students has required a careful evaluation of student progress. The
atmosphere in the classrooms is one of collaborative problem solving and development. The
community computer classes cater for people who have little confidence as learners; often
they are older learners, women returning to learning, or people from culturally and linguistically
diverse backgrounds. Computer teachers have to be sensitive to learner vulnerabilities. The
process of pathway development has therefore also been a learning process for the teachers
and the management of the organisation.

Perhaps the most significant insight gained was that one of the most important elements in
successful computer teaching was the ability to produce a recognisable result for the student
within the time of a lesson. If this is achieved then the students tend to remember that they
once produced the final product (whether it is a letter, a notice, a report or a web page) and
they will tend to remember major features of how they achieved this (such as what software
they used and main commands or software tools that were used). This provides students with
a level of understanding of the capabilities of software and of the procedures that are normal in
developing projects using computers, even if every single step in the development of a project
is not remembered. Doing this in beginner or intermediate level course is quite easy. Writing a
simple letter or making a garage sale notice in two hours is a valid project for people starting
out in computers. But achieving a final product in two hours in advanced level courses is much
harder, because elements of theory have to be covered in the lesson, including issues of
different operating system environments, different software versions, the effect of updates,
security or networks on the software, and often even discussions about what open source
software is available to produce similar projects for students who can‟t afford software
licenses.

The professional development classes for librarians were very useful in developing a very
valuable advanced level lesson plan covering integrated advanced features in MS Word and
MS Excel with elements of professional naming, saving and backup procedures. This came to
be known as the “Lolly Report”, a fictitious report to government about how many lollies were
consumed by children at school, and the competing costs and benefits, in terms of revenue
from tuck shops against the costs of hospital admissions for sick or hyperactive children.




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Multimedia
FRWP began developing its multimedia capacities as soon as it was able to develop its IT
capacity.

The website was established in 1996 as an information board for the community, to provide
our contact details and course information to community organisations and libraries in the
region. Again our students eagerly received the available information and asked for more.
FRWP responded by becoming involved in on-line learning.

Originally the entire website was developed by FRWP staff. But in 2000 a new section of the
website designed around the Australian centenary of Federation was developed through
workshops involving FRWP English and Literature & Computer students.

This process was very successful in producing the FRWP Federation website, and it showed
the possible way ahead in involving students in additional and very interesting aspects of the
computer program. The website now hosts many examples of our student work to show the
benefits of being involved in the pathway that is available through our English and Literacy and
Computer Programs.

The experience evolved into the project of developing multimedia classes. These were begun
in 2001 with a few students, and they proved to be extremely popular. Just like the advanced
computer classes the multimedia classes placed additional requirement upon FRWP
resources. The teachers now had to be familiar with many types of software from a number of
software developers. Peripherals such as digital cameras, microphones, web cams, minidisks
and DVD players and writers were now required. Our software had to be very much up to date.
And very importantly our computer upgrades now had to be configured with multimedia
capabilities in mind, requiring fast and powerful computers, much closer to industry standard
level then ever before.




                            This screenshot shows the FRWP homepage


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Lessons Learnt
The development of the IT program at FRWP has been a steep learning curve. Looking back
over the past ten years it easy to see where different decisions might have been made had we
foreseen the rapid development of ICT. We lacked the technical expertise and resources to
implement a long term strategy so found ourselves constantly behind the eightball, trying to
keep up with the ever changing IT world. With the benefit of hindsight it is now clear that the
development of IT at FRWP required simultaneous attention to: hardware and software,
technical support, professional development of staff, curriculum development and promotion.
Added to this the program would have benefited from developing a long term strategy for IT
development. There are particular lessons we have learned in relation to these that we can
share with other community providers.

Hardware

1. Invest in the very best equipment you can afford. Taking short cuts or getting the cheapest
one can find is false economy, as it generally needs to be replaced more quickly and cannot
be upgraded.

2. Having said that, there is always something better and faster around the corner! Plan for
regular upgrades of equipment.

3. Have a strategy for recouping some costs by selling old equipment.

Software

1. Upgrade software as often as practicable. Education Department issue software is cheap
and accessible

2. Invest time and money in researching and trialling the best software. Only buy things you
know you will use

Technical support

1. Regular technical support and maintenance means systems work when you need them to.

2. Technical support people should have a clear understanding of what the hardware and
software is used for.

3. All computer users should be familiar with troubleshooting strategies

Professional Development

1. Technical support people should be involved in program professional development. They
should be aware of curriculum innovations taking place

2. Teachers of Language and Literacy require on-going professional development in new
software and internet resources.

3. A variety of professional strategies should be used, both formal and informal
„Just in time‟ PD should be incorporated into the day to day running of the organisation where
possible.




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Curriculum Development

1. Ongoing evaluation and development of computer curriculum

2. Integrate computers usage into Language and Literacy classes

3. Provide pathways for students to develop skills according to need.

4. Innovate, innovate, innovate

Vocational Focus

1. Emphasis on computer skills as vocational skills

2. Focus on processes that might be required in workplaces

3. Task base rather than skill base approached to learning

Responsiveness

1. Responding to students need is not as straightforward as one imagines, Learners don‟t
always know what they want to learn, or they may be too frightened to say what they would like
to do.

2. Actively encourage reluctant or tentative students to „have a go‟

Integrated Learning – knowledge and skills

1. Link computer skills with other learning

2. Use learning to learn strategies e.g. metacognition - what do I know, what do I still need to
know

Community Development – collaborative involvement

1. Collaborative approaches to learning to develop a sense of community amongst students

2. Partnerships with other community providers to build a sense of community

3. Showcase student work for the community to see.




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Issues still to resolve

1. Moving into accredited curricula is a dilemma, as it may not allow the same responsiveness
to learner needs, in terms of the pace of the learning and the approach.

2. Integrating learners with very mixed abilities in terms of language, literacy, learning to learn
skills and technical inclinations means that some students are frustrated at not moving quickly
enough.

3. Establishing a sustainable partnership to ensure the maintenance and upgrade of the lab.

4. Recurrent funding for computer pathways for a range of students.

5. Adequate resources to attract suitably qualified staff and keep them.


What would we change if we were repeating the process?

1. Develop an IT policy with a long term strategy, sooner
2. Run more fee for service programs, sooner
3. Seek funds from further afield…philanthropic organisations or industry
4. Charge higher fees for non-concession holders much sooner
5. Compulsory professional development of staff – ongoing!
6. Invest in new rather than secondhand equipment
7. Invest more time and energy at management level into integrating IT into the total program
8. Invest more time and energy in documented curriculum development
9. Customize materials to meet learner needs
10. Invest in a crystal ball!


What are the key messages for the sector?

Plan, innovate and dream




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The Next Step – Planning, Innovating, Dreaming
It is easier to read the past than know the future. Whilst there are many lessons that we have
learned from our experience of developing the IT program at FRWP the future is still an
unknown quantity. We are certainly better placed now than we were 10 years ago in managing
another element of a Language and Literacy program. What is clearly reflected in the FRWP
timetable is that Computer Literacy represents at least a third of the core business of the
organisation. This is a long distance from our first forays into „Introduction to Computers‟.

FRWP now recognizes that IT skills are fundamental to lifelong learning and lifelong literacy.
Literacy includes reading the texts of the times, and the internet and computers are clearly
here to stay. Any future program plan must therefore incorporate the teaching of computer
skills and computer literacy in it‟s many forms. This is an essential aspect of FRWP‟s
planning, innovation and dreaming process. There are many possibilities for where the
program could move:

   Expanded pathways for students in general software applications
   More opportunities for real life use of computer and internet software
   Further development of multi media and web design programs
   New courses which provide increased technical knowledge in maintenance of hardware
    and software
   Enterprise projects where students provide IT services to the community

In the short term we would like to further develop the IT curriculum so that it provides a range
of opportunities for students who have different levels of interest in Technology. Some might
like to pursue a more technical troubleshooting pathway, while others might prefer the more
creative aspects of multi media and web design. Others again may wish to pursue a more
vocational path and develop their skills in Office skills.

There are two clear directions that we have already begun to experiment with which have
developed as a result of student interest and demand:




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   Workshop

A number of students have expressed interest in the technical maintenance work that is
involved in maintaining the computer lab. A number of them have been involved with the
various equipment upgrades and have developed troubleshooting skills. Many bring technical
problems they are experiencing at home to the computer class. One of our older learners
described the process of installing Norton‟s anti-virus on her home computer. We would like to
build these problem posing and solving technical issues into the curriculum. Whilst still in the
very experimental stages this development has attracted considerable interest amongst
students who are well down the path in terms of computer literacy.

The possibilities for team work, problem solving and technical skill development are very
promising


   Web design

Students in the multi media classes at FRWP have also developed an interest in
understanding how their fledgling web pages are incorporated into the FRWP website and are
made accessible to the world wide web. The logical progression for these skills would be to
teach students, not only how to build web pages, using Dreamweaver and Photoshop, but also
how to manage and build a website. Hitherto the web site has been managed by staff, with all
the decisions about the content and navigation made by the web designer in conjunction with
the manager. The Federation web site involved students in the decision-making process about
content within a given framework, but we are interested in involving students in the
management of the web site. Such a program could provide students with excellent vocational
skills both in technical skill, team building and project management.


A Connected Community

The FRWP experience demonstrates very clearly the possibilities for community building
through technology. The computer lab provides the students of FRWP with the opportunity to
mix with people from different cultural backgrounds who have varying degrees of English
language and literacy competence. More than any other course we offer, the computer classes
provide the opportunity for genuine cultural diversity and the mixing of many different learning
styles and abilities. We would like to think that the support we offer in developing computer
literacy in the community will contribute to building a stronger and „connected‟ community.




                                              End




                    Flemington Reading and Writing Program
                                           June 2004




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               Flemington Reading and Writing Program
                                           June 2004




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