2018 TCAL Conference Tales from the Front Line

15 – 16 June

The annual TCAL conference in Hobart on June 15 and 16 saw adult literacy, numeracy and e-learning practitioners from a diverse range of providers bring together an abundance of experience to learn, network and share their ‘Tales from the Front Line’.

Friday 15 June 

Tales from the SLAMmer with Iona Johnson, Rachel Edwards, and the Hobart Slam Poets

Tales from the SLAMmer

Literacy co-ordinator at Risdon Prison, Iona Johnson outlined an innovative program teaching poetry to inmates, from first inspiration all the way to performance. She was joined by Rachel Edwards, who was Writer in Residence at the prison and they described the joys and challenges of encouraging groups of wary blokes not favourably disposed toward classroom-based learning into the vulnerable space of putting their thoughts and feelings on paper. That they were able to get a lot of the men to actually perform their work was a testament to the program’s success.

Hobart Slam Poetry group Silver Words then showed what slam poetry is all about with performances of their own work, some of which have been delivered in state-wide and national competitions. The standard was impressive, inspiring members of the audience to consider checking out Hobart’s monthly poetry slam.


Saturday 16 June 

The day began with a beautiful Acknowledgement of Country from Tyenna Hogan, in palawa kani and English. Tyenna explained the significance of the term nipaluna, the original name for the Hobart region, and the respect that is shown to Tasmanian Aboriginal people by using this name.
Vanessa Iles, Manager of the Reading and Writing Hotline NSW

The Reading Writing Hotline is a national referral service for people who want to access classes and build skills in literacy, numeracy and, increasingly, digital literacy. It has been operating since 1994 and uses specialist literacy/numeracy teachers to link potential students with a nationwide database of providers. The hotline also gives support to these providers and feedback to government and peak bodies. Increasingly, the hotline is using their wealth of data and experience to advocate for improvements in LLN policy and provision.

Callers to the hotline are often vulnerable people with significant barriers to learning and complex needs. Hotline staff are experienced literacy and numeracy practitioners. They often spend  up to an hour to talking with a caller to work out what they need and to find a service that is the best fit.  For many people ringing the hotline is a big step and needs courage. This makes it particularly important they are linked to the right support with their next contact. Hotline staff also brief the provider to remove as many barriers as possible for the caller.

Vanessa gave an outline of changes in the field in the last 20 years and the climate that now influences LLN provision and access. This includes a policy focus that prioritises skills for work rather than for meeting community needs, the competitive environment caused by an abundance of RTOs, less time for teachers to give individual help, and higher course fees. Vanessa also highlighted the unmet demand for specific cohorts, such as workers needing out-of-hours classes, those at ACSF pre-level 1 and level 1, members of Indigenous communities, non-job seekers and adults with intellectual disabilities.

The Reading Writing Hotline’s Literacy Links June 2018 newsletter includes a report on the TCAL Conference from Vanessa.

Lee Veitch, National Manager of Workforce Development, Aged and Community Services Australia and Cath Ralston Senior Sector Development Consultant, National Disability Services.

Lee and Cath gave an overview of two 26TEN projects run by sector peak bodies, Aged and Community Care and Disability. In different ways, each organisation realised that for a long-term impact an understanding of the literacy and numeracy requirements and how to deal with them needed to be built into organisations’ everyday practices,  and not bolted on. They shared how they had done this, the challenges and successes.

Each project created ACSF-aligned resources and toolkits to support member organisations to integrate LLN skills into organisational policies and practices. They did this by mapping the LLN demands of job roles, based on industry standards and mapping those skills to each task in position descriptions. Each in different ways provides a toolkit to organisations to save them time and get them started quickly.

Cath and Lee mentioned these helpful resources:

Literacy Net

NDS Workplace Literacy Project

FS Teach Facebook group

LLN Not and Afterthought Toolbox

What Works for LLN

Roundtable – What is the role of literacy in digital literacy?

  • Is digital literacy a new ‘language’, requiring tailored, new resources to support digital literacy skills and knowledge improvement?
    • Could develop tailored dictionaries and glossaries of digital terms, and include icons (simple common images) to support translation, spelling and understanding of new and/or unfamiliar terms e.g. ‘web’ or the verb/ noun ‘Google’
    • We could share any resources that are already developed, or in the process of being developed e.g. Broadband for Seniors resources, TasTAFE library A4 information sheets
  • There are specific literacy and language challenges and barriers for learners/students who are coming to English as an additional language.
  • Other barriers to improving digital literacy are addressed in the Australian Digital Inclusion Index: https://digitalinclusionindex.org.au
    • Tasmania ranks as having the highest levels of digital exclusion in Australia, across the three main indices of Affordability, Ability and Access
    • There are high levels of digital exclusion in some Tasmanian regions, particularly caused by poor internet coverage
    •  Access to software can be a barrier to digital inclusion, although it may be preferable to use open source software and programs

Roundtable – Teaching digital literacy

  • Simple, basic operations like learning to hover over icons and selectable functions on a screen can provide information about the function.
  • Not all contemporary communication occurs through digital technology e.g. there are still paper forms.
  • Students new to digital technology can feel overwhelmed and scared of breaking computers and other devices.
    • Encourage them to play with and try to ‘break’ the software.
  • Focus on:
    • what students are interested in
    • one skill or goal at a time e.g. smart phone use
    • model and demonstrate the multiple uses of devices e.g. use smart phone camera functions to record images on white and smart boards
    • making the steps in a task explicit – break a complex task into a sequence of achievable steps
    • provide incidental support, in the community when and where people have a need to use digital technology.
  • Do LLN practitioners need specific qualifications to effectively teach digital literacy?
  • Do we need to raise awareness of the importance of digital literacy i.e. to elevate the importance of digital literacy as a ‘core skill’ in frameworks like the ACSF, including a more sophisticated assessment regime for digital literacy?