“The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read”

May 31, 2011

There’s a belief that literacy in developed, English-speaking countries is “an immigrant problem”, that people who were born in countries like Canada or the US are automatically literate. International surveys conducted in 1994 and 2003 proved that was a myth. The other day I did a post about what those two large-scale tests revealed about literacy rates in Canada.

One astounding fact revealed by IALSS (2003) that tested over 23,000 Canadians, was that 2% of Canadian-born university educated people scored at the lowest levels of literacy… below thousands of immigrants, in fact.

A news story from the US shows us that the situation may not be much different there. John Corcoran, a teacher from the United States who graduated from college with a grade 2 reading level, went on to become a professional teacher who hid his inability to read for years.

This interview from TeachHub.com tells how Corcoran slipped through the cracks, how he adapted and coped in order to have a successful career and how he now runs a non-profit literacy foundation.

Corcoran is living proof that people born in affluent countries can still struggle with literacy. He’s also living proof that people can make tremendous progress as adults, building skills as lifelong learners.

Perhaps the most brilliant part is that Corcoran has learned to read… and write. Now he dedicates his life to helping others do the same.

Related posts:

Related posts

Canada’s 9 Literacy and Essential Skills http://wp.me/pNAh3-qi

Literacy and Essential Skills (video) http://wp.me/pNAh3-y


Share this post: “The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read” http://wp.me/pNAh3-H1

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.


How to Market Your Literacy or Language Program (Free 5-part video series)

May 30, 2011

I’m happy to share this 5-part video series that was recorded live at the 2010 Spotlight on Learning Conference, held in Toronto, Canada by the Ontario Literacy Coalition.

I did a one-hour presentation on how to promote literacy and language programs. The conference organizers videotaped the session and are sharing it publicly. You can consider this a one-hour crash course in marketing:

Low-cost High-Impact Marketing for Literacy Programs – Part 1

Low-cost High-Impact Marketing for Literacy Programs – Part 2

Low-cost High-Impact Marketing for Literacy Programs – Part 3

Low-cost High-Impact Marketing for Literacy Programs – Part 4

Low-cost High-Impact Marketing for Literacy Programs – Part 5

Related posts:


Share this post: How to Market Your Literacy or Language Program (Free 5-part video series) http://wp.me/pNAh3-Gq

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.

Free webinar – New Trends in Education: Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning – Implications for Evaluation and Assessment

May 27, 2011

** This event has passed. Check out the recording of this program here: http://youtu.be/6iH_ikNmn9I **

The Ontario Literacy Coalition has a series of professional development webinars for literacy professionals. I met these folks last year when I spoke at their Spotlight on Learning Conference. I was delighted when they invited me back this year to present via webinar. I gave them a few different programs to choose from and they put the topics out for a vote to their stakeholders. The topic that got the most votes was “New Trends in Education: Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning – Implications for Evaluation and Assessment”.

This is a free event for educators and literacy professionals. But there’s one catch. They have a limited number of seats, so if you’re interested, you’ll need to reserve your spot. Their May webinar was filled to capacity. Join us:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

1:00 – 2:00 p.m. EDT (There is a link to show that in your time zone here).

Feel free to share this post with other literacy advocates. This is an open event. Would love to have you come and be part of the conversation!


Share this post: Free webinar – New Trends in Education: Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning – Implications for Evaluation and Assessment http://wp.me/pNAh3-Gj

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.

You thought Canada was a literate country? Think again

May 26, 2011

In 2003, the International Adult Literacy Skills Survey (IALLS) tested more than 23,000 Canadians in four areas:

  • prose literacy
  • document literacy
  • numeracy
  • problem-solving

Proficiency was rated on the basis of levels one to five, that is, lowest to highest. Level 3 corresponds roughly to high school completion.

In case you’re wondering what this test was all about anyway… IALLS is the Canadian component of the “Adult Literacy and Life Skills” study, which was a joint project of the Government of Canada, the US National Center for Education Statistics and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The larger study was an international undertaking, involving thousands of people from numerous countries. In the literacy world, it’s a big deal. The results are a big deal for all of us Canadians. We have more work to do to raise the bar for all Canadians.

Literacy isn’t a black and white issue. It’s not a matter of “You can read” or “You can’t read”. There’s a continuum. Skills can be built at any time over the life span. They can also decline if we don’t use them.

Sad blonde girl with bookThere is an idea out there at literacy is “an immigrant problem.” Well, folks, it’s a myth. While it’s true that about 60% of new immigrants to Canada scored below Level 3 on the IALSS test, there are tens of thousands of people born right here in Canada who lack sufficient literacy skills.

One shocking result of the test?

2% of Canadian born university-educated individuals scored at the lowest level of prose literacy.

We have to ask ourselves: How are we allowing these people to slip through the cracks, grade after grade and year after year? How is it that someone born in Canada can graduate with an undergraduate degree when they score at the lowest level possible on an international literacy test? Although those results are troubling, some might argue that those people are the exception, that they are the outliers on the bell curve of test results.

Before you write off the stats as being an exception, think about this result:

About 37% of the total Canadian-born population scored below Level 3 in prose literacy.

In other words, about 9 million Canadian-born adult citizens lack sufficient literacy skills to function in the workplace.

Let’s put that into perspective for a minute.

9 Million people…

That’s the entire population of Nova Scotia. Multiplied by 9.

The number of people killed during the Russian Revolution over half a decade from 1917-1922.

The number of people in the UK who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

The number of people who follow Justin Bieber on Twitter.

Just under the total number of people in the entire world who suffer from hunger.

However you look at it, 9 million is a lot of people.

What can we do, Canada, to raise the bar for literacy?



Related posts

Canada’s 9 Literacy and Essential Skills http://wp.me/pNAh3-qi

Literacy and Essential Skills (video) http://wp.me/pNAh3-y

“The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read” http://wp.me/pNAh3-H1


Share this post: You thought Canada was a literate country? Think again http://wp.me/pNAh3-G7

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.

Appreciative Inquiry: A brief overview

May 22, 2011

In research and in leadership, it’s good to know what your biases and values are. In my own work, I take an asset-based approach, finding the strengths and building on them. I’ve grounded much of my professional, leadership and research work on this philosophy, which is grounded in Appreciative Inquiry (AI). The other day, someone asked me what AI is, so I’m posting a brief overview that I wrote up for another project about a year ago. It’s a “quick and dirty” overview, with some references:

Appreciative Inquiry: An Overview

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an approach used in academia, business and the not-for-profit sectors. The main pioneer of  AI is widely recognized to be David Cooperrider.

Traditional methods of assessing and evaluating a situation and then proposing solutions are based on a deficiency model. Traditional methods ask questions such as “What are the problems?”, “What’s wrong?” or “What needs to be fixed?” Sometimes such questions are sugar-coated in trendy jargon. Instead of asking “What’s the problem?”, which can seem a little harsh, the question may be couched in terms of ‘challenges’: “What are the challenges?” Regardless of whether the question is asked harshly or softened with less antagonistic language, the model remains as one of deficiency. The thinking behind the questions assumes that there is something wrong, that something needs to be ‘fixed’ or ‘solved’. Business people (especially consultants) like to say they ‘can provide solutions’. The underlying belief is that there is something wrong and it needs to be fixed.

Appreciative Inquiry flips all that on its head. It is an asset-based approach. It starts with the belief that every organization, and every person in that organization, has something good about it. Each person has something valuable to contribute and the organization itself has merit of some kind. It asks questions like “What’s working?”, “What’s good about what you are currently doing?”

AI seeks to uncover the best of what an organization is currently doing, using interviews with its members. The interviews challenge participants to examine and discuss what is good about their current situation and explore what works well within the organization. This approach then utilizes the data collected from those interviews to construct a plan for enriching the organization by building on what is already working and what is already considered to be successful.

An initial reaction for some people is to balk when they hear questions like “What’s working?” An retaliatory answer may follow of “Nothing is working! It’s all a mess!”. People are so used to working within a deficiency framework, that it is almost like the brain can not process questions that are rooted in an asset-based approach. It may take some time for people to come up with an answer to questions based on an AI approach. This is because AI challenges us to shift our paradigm from deficiency thinking to asset thinking. Changing paradigms takes some time, but the results can be worth it.

Appreciative inquiry can be particularly useful in organizations where individuals or group of people are polarized over major issues. Rather than exacerbating the polarization between or among the parties, it assumes that a core of positive traits exist which can be highlighted and expanded up on to create even more success in an organization.


Cooperrider, D. L. (2007). Business as an agent of world benefit: Awe is what moves us forward.   Retrieved February 21, 2008, from http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/practice/executiveDetail.cfm?coid=10419

Cooperrider, D. L., & Whitney, D. (2008). A positive revolution in change: Appreciative inquiry.   Retrieved March 27, 2008, 2008, from http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/uploads/whatisai.pdf

Cooperrider, D. L., Whitney, D., & Stavros, J. M. (2003). Appreciative inquiry handbook. Bedford Heights, OH: Lakeshore Publishers.

Eliot, C. (1999). Locating the Energy for Change: An Introduction to Appreciative Inquiry. Winnipeg: International Institute for Sustainable Development / Insitut International du Developpment Durable.

Faure, M. (2006). Problem solving was never this easy: Transformational change through appreciative inquiry. Performance Improvement, 45(9), 22-31.
Murrell, K., L. (1999). International and intellectual roots of appreciative inquiry. Organization Development Journal, 17(3), 49-61.

Download this document from Scribd:

View this document on Scribd


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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.

Social Media in a Family Literacy Program

May 21, 2011

Yesterday I was in Edmonton for the Food for Thought conference put on by the Centre for Family Literacy. A group of 42 literacy coordinators, practitioners and other professionals packed the workshop room to learn about how to use social media in a family literacy program. We talked about:

  • How to set up a Facebook page
  • What to put on your Facebook page
  • How to use Twitter including how the “@” and “#” or hashtags work
  • How to use Hootsuite

I gave a live demo of Twitter and Hootsuite. I showed how to mention other people and how to use hashtags to find topics you’re interested in. We also shared tips on how to use programs like Hootsuite to schedule updates and tweets and make social media more effective.

We also had a wonderful discussion about how to have a Facebook page without having it tied to a personal Facebook account. That was new for me. I have a couple of Facebook pages for different things that I do, and the only way I’ve ever built them was through my personal account.

For me, it was great learning to know that there are newer options available that don’t require an individual to have an organizational page tied to their name.

Here are the juiciest tips I shared from my own experience using social media:

Top Tips for using Social Media in a Literacy Program

Use social media as a way to reach more learners

There are some learners, particularly younger ones, who are digital natives. They have grown up with technology and may even be turned off by the idea of “old school” reading and writing. By stepping into the world of social media, you can meet those learners where they are today. You won’t reach all learners that way, of course. But it does open the doors to reaching those who might otherwise dismiss traditional literacy programs because they don’t relate to them.

Decide where you want to be on the “privacy continuum”.

Different people have different needs and comfort levels with posting personal information on the Internet. It is OK to be private… or even fib just a little bit, while still being authentic. We talked about how to figure out where people fit along the continuum and that no matter where that is, it’s OK.

Post regularly

Using a service such as Hootsuite can help you to streamline your social media activity, so it takes less time. I shared that had scheduled a number of Tweets before I left Calgary so that I was covered until I got home.

Think about sharing and helping others

We talked about how to use social media as a way to give and share resources. We looked at pages from a variety of literacy organizations. I pointed out how social media is meant to be a social, and reciprocal, activity. I recommend that people “like” pages of other organizations they support.

Avoid the “Incessant Ask” or “push”

One mistake non-profit organizations make when they use social media is to post a constant barage of requests for funding or donations, or just post about their own programs. The idea of social media is to engage with others, not push information on them, or worse yet, push unending requests for money at them. Re-posting, re-tweeting and sharing others’ information is a good thing!

Create conversations

Social media is just that – social. It’s a place to engage with others… talk with them. Ask questions. Be interested. Keeping a good balance between giving and taking, as well as giving and asking, are key points to keep in mind.

Say “Thank You”

I showed how to track “@” mentions and why it is important to say thank you when others re-post or re-Tweet your material. You may miss the odd one here and there, but overall, making a concerted effort to show appreciation when others like and share what you do, goes a long way in creating positive relationships and making you a good digital citizen.

I just loved working with this group. They’re passionate, engaged and ready to help one another out at a moment’s notice. Thanks to everyone who attended the session, shared and engaged with us!


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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.

Best of Social Media Resources & Guidelines for Education, Literacy and Other Non-Profits

May 18, 2011

Over 20 Resources to Help You Develop Your Own Social Media Protocol or Policy

If you’re with an educational or non-profit organization that is new to using social media, you may find it helpful to establish your own Guidelines, Protocol or Acceptable Use Policy. Here’s my “best of” list of resources and guidelines to help you get started.

ABC LifeLiteracy Canada’s Social Media Guidelines (.pdf)

Social Media Governance Site – Over 170 sample social media policies and guidelines from non-profits and governments all over the world

Red Cross Social Media HandbookLinkedIn logo

NSW Social Media Guidelines for Teachers on Scribd

Creating a Social Media Policy for Your NonProfit

57 Social Media Policy Examples

Sample Nonprofit Policy on Social Networking by Blue Avocado

Social Media Best Practices and Guidelines by Tuft Unviersity

5 Simple Ways Non-Profits Can Measure Social Media ROI (Return on Investment)

What Non-Profits Need to Know about Social Media

How Non-Profits Can Maximize Engagement on Facebook

10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy by Mashable

How to Write Your Firm’s Social Media Policy

Penn State’s College of Education’s Social Media Policy

Improving Your Social Media Policy

Ontario College of Teachers’ Professional Advisory on Social Media

Social Media in Plain English – A brilliant short video (3:33) to help you understand social media

Facebook for Educators by Linda Fogg Phillips, Derek Baird, M.A., & BJ Fogg, Ph.D.

Lake County Schools – Guidelines for Employee Use of Social Media Networks (.pdf)

The Principal’s Partnership: Research Brief: Social Media – Developing an Acceptable Use Policy

Social Media Acceptable Use Policy for Schools

Is there a great site that’s missing from my list? If so, leave a comment and let me know. I’ll be happy to add other great resources to the list.


Share this post: Best of Social Media Resources & Guidelines for Education, Literacy and Other Non-Profits http://wp.me/pNAh3-Fh

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) gmail.com. Please visit my speaking page, too.

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