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Leading adult education through support for and the effective application of technology.


Making the Transition at Santa Clara Adult Ed

Posted on 12/16/2020

As we come to the end of a tumultuous 2020, we want to acknowledge some of the amazing work that adult education agencies have done this year. Our field has not stopped working on behalf of our students and communities and has risen to the many challenges that have come our way.

OTAN started Cohort 3 of our two-year Digital Leadership Academy this fall, and our teams of adult educators across the state are busy at work learning and planning for a future with more and better technology integration at their agencies. This is a story from one of our teams – Bijal Varia and Patricia Pottorff-Croghan from Santa Clara Adult Education – on how 2020 has gone for them. We hope you will find this story as inspirational as we do and it will help you think about some of the possibilities for when (fingers crossed!) we return to in-person classes in 2021.

Santa Clara Adult Education Logo

This past year has been a real positive and a change for our school, Santa Clara Adult Education. I term it as highly procrastinated and challenged change. Why do I say so?

The ESL program is a program where people learn English language to improve their functionality to integrate within the larger and wider community. By learning and improving their English language, they are able to seek better job opportunities, college and career pathways, or simply to make more and new friends. In this time and age, blended learning is the way forward and when the pandemic struck, we made a seamless overnight transition to the digital learning environment. How?

Our school has a reputation for maintaining strong relationships with the students. We as a staff made an extra effort to keep in touch with our students during "shelter in place." All the teachers and the management team worked together to come up with a teaching strategy that would work for all students in different levels, within different learning environments, multiple learning styles, and resources. Flexibility is the key word; SCAE gives teachers a lot of flexibility with their usage of different learning platforms which allows the teachers to adhere to their own teaching styles and techniques and their students' learning styles.

Morning Classes were reduced to three days a week, which gave an extra day for the teachers to plan, evaluate, and complete all the other required documentation. To maintain the privacy of both students and teachers, SCAE provided the RingCentral App with personal phone numbers for the teachers to get in touch with the students in case of an emergency or urgency. Our students felt comfortable in transitioning to a virtual classroom with strategic and focused education steps taken to make their learning experience very worthwhile. The technology skills were embedded in their ESL curriculum to make learning smooth and with multiple technology skills for our students. We as a school believe that using and applying is the key element of learning, and by learning the technology along with English, this helped our students gain confidence and integration in the society became faster than before. As a result, our students have continued to learn with us and we still have a waiting list.

Some of the challenges encountered and overcome by the teachers:

  1. Teachers had to take some tech training to upgrade their skills for effective teaching practices.
  2. Teachers work as a strong team and assist each other with the tech skills.
  3. Teachers embrace the digital platform and learn the new normal teaching techniques.

To summarize what worked for us at SCAE is as follows:


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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN200091-A2 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.