Annual Report
2021-22

Marissa-Amanda-Cindy-DLN

Message from the Chair – Charting a Course

It’s important, now more than ever, to provide our adult learners with clear and, where possible, quick pathways to improve their skills, achieve educational credentials and increase their earning potential.

At the same time, the lives and challenges of our learners are becoming more and more complex. Strong relationships with service providers in the community related to family, food security, justice, and housing enable us to quickly address learners’ challenges, enhancing their ability to achieve their learning goals.

As such, our Board of Directors has established organizational goals for the next three years (2022 – 2025) which focus specifically on responsive and relevant programming, pathways to learning and employment, and supporting our learners through partner referrals and engagement in our Dartmouth Learning Network community.

Jennie

Message from the Executive Director – Laying the Groundwork

While supporting our board to chart a course forward for Dartmouth Learning Network, we’ve also been doing a lot of work behind the scenes with our partners at the Nova Scotia School for Adult Learning to lay the groundwork for working better together and establishing new learning opportunities over the next two to three years. We’re excited to see some of these launching in September so stay tuned…

 

And, we are happy to report that we can welcome more learners into our programs with the addition of a new classroom. Thank you to our partners, volunteers, staff and learners for all that you do to help us create a welcoming space for learning and growth.

Alison

Community Learning Program

The Community Learning Program (CLP) offers free one-to-one tutoring for adults who want to improve their reading, writing, math or computer skills, or prepare to write GED tests. Adult learners are matched with an adult volunteer tutor to meet on a regular basis to work on their learning goals.

In September of 2021, we started the school year with cautious optimism. Learners, volunteers and staff returned with goals, plans and the motivation to work with (or around!) whatever challenges we encountered. It felt great to be back for in-person tutoring, though some embraced the ’new and different’ option and chose to continue virtual tutoring.

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One-to-One Matches
Three-quarters of our learners reached their learning goals or completed the year with us.

4

Volunteers in the Classroom
Supporting approximately 37 adult learners to achieve their goals.

10

New Volunteers Welcomed
Within two weeks or signing up, six had one-to-one or classroom placements; four opted to take advantage of free tutor training.

2

Tutors Receive Certification
Through the Nova Scotia Literacy Practitioner Training and Certification Program. Four new tutors registered for trainig.

To our eager and hardworking learners, we would like to acknowledge and celebrate your hard work this year. We are very proud of all of you! Congratulations on a job well done

Hat’s Off to Our Volunteer Tutors! 

We tip our hats as a sign of recognition and appreciation for the wonderful team of volunteers we have at Dartmouth Learning Network. Words cannot express how much we appreciate the extraordinary work you do; your selfless acts of kindness we witness daily; the fun and laughter you bring to our environment; and your seemingly endless energy! We feel truly blessed to have such a dedicated group of volunteers share their time and talents with us. A thousand thank yous for your continued support!

Adult Learning Program (L I & II)

Level I – Communications

Learning early literacy and phonemic skills is the primary focus of our Level 1 Communications classes. Using structured literacy and the Orton-Gillingham methodology as a back-bone, learners practiced decoding the written word from individual words to sentences and books, and encoding for sounds, spelling and writing.

Learners learned keywords to help them identify and focus on the specific sound or sounds that each letter or letter combination makes, which was especially helpful for learning the short vowel sounds. This year, strategies that our learners particularly appreciated and benefitted from include: the CAT guide, which helped determine whether the ‘k’ sound at the beginning of a word is made by ‘k’ or ‘c; and the generalizations that help inform whether the ending sound is made by a ‘k’ or ‘ck’ and, similarly, ‘ch’ or ‘tch’. 

Every-class-you-learn-something-new!

Of the many external activities and materials brought in, some favorites include biographies for African Heritage month, parodies of traditional fairy tales, and investigating not only how the English language has developed and morphed over the millennia, but also how our food and consumption has changed as well.

Level II – Communications

Our Level 2 Communications class uses structured literacy, but applies it with the Logic of English curricula. This series includes not only a focus on phonemic awareness and all of the different sounds that a letter or combination of letters may make with games and other practice, but also an in-depth study of spelling rules, grammar, and vocabulary. 

Following a discussion with learners about cursive versus manuscript handwriting, the instructor shared research that shows that students who learn cursive improve their fine motor skills, and become better spellers and better writers. The learners were interested in learning cursive, and so cursive handwriting was implemented as part of our ongoing work. As the group got more comfortable with writing, we also included some creative writing with unique prompts as a way to practice cursive, creativity, and sharing with others.

Math Club

For the first part of this school year, our Math groups spent time working on solidifying understanding of place value and fractions. We used manipulatives, white boards and discussion to help us. When it became clear that our group may benefit more from more practice aimed at individual interests and skill level, we changed things up!

Each class, we would spend some time working independently on our own area of interest and at an appropriate level. Then we would dive into a group activity: Jeopardy!-like tournaments, games that were based on logic or geometry, or further developed mental math strategies and spatial skills.

 

math-club_DLN
Not only did we become more comfortable with numbers and strategies: we had fun doing it!

Essential Skills

Adult learners from all levels and skills took part in Essential Skills Modules according to their needs and interests. 

 

Modules covered include: how to apply to NSCC and how to research other learning and program information; a Personality Dimensions workshop, delivered by Barefoot Facilitation, which looked at strengths and weaknesses, complementing the personal discovery unit; and a stress management workshop with the Dartmouth Community Health Team. Lastly, some of our hands-on learners worked together to assemble our new 3D Printer.

3D-Computer-Build

 We’re happy to report that we connected four learners to Nova Scotia Works for support with job searching or continuing on to post secondary.

Motivated to Learn

Cindy came to Dartmouth Learning Network (DLN) because she wanted a better education. While her education is still very much important to her, some of what she values most are the people and friendships she’s built here, the socials and field trips, and the opportunity to give back.

“In my own way, I help where I can,” says Cindy. “Continuous learning is important so that I am able to help others if they need the help.”

Cindy_Darmouth-Learning-Network

And, Cindy demonstrates those values on a regular basis. On field trip days, she steps up to watch for the bus in the mornings and to direct learners to sign in before boarding; if we have food to share, she helps with the distribution; and, if one of her fellow learners needs help in class, she readily volunteers.

“It feels good to help someone in their learning,” says Cindy.

This is especially true when it comes to her new passion: digital skills.

When talking about computers, Cindy says, “There’s lots of things on there you can do that I never knew you could do. I like using Google Slides and Google Docs to make presentations the best.” Cindy’s most recent presentation was about herself and her favorite things.

“I like being creative; I took each letter of my name and came up with something for each of them,” says Cindy.

Cindy’s Computer Applications Instructor Amanda Sabo agrees. “Cindy is a lot of fun to have in class. She understands that skills are developed over time and has been so supportive of her classmates while enjoying her own creativity with the new skills she has been learning. Computer class seems to have awakened a real passion in Cindy!”

Proud of what she’s accomplished this year in both her reading and digital skills, Cindy is eager to return to Dartmouth Learning Network next year to both learn more and contribute to the Dartmouth Learning Network community.

GED

The General Educational Development (GED) is an internationally recognized high school equivalency testing program. One of the most common misconceptions about GED is the testing. There are actually five tests that are written one by one. Our adult learners generally tackle tests in the following order: Science, Language Arts – Reading, Social Studies, Language Arts – Writing, and Math. As one learner put it, the math test is like the final boss in a video game. If you want to beat the final boss, you have to keep playing.

To support our GED learners to stay in the game, this year we introduced a structured reading comprehension class that is dedicated to passing GED tests. Sixty percent of the GED tests are based on reading comprehension. Not only is this course helpful to our learners in passing GED tests; their improved reading comprehension skills have also increased their confidence outside of the classroom and in the workplace

Read about Andrew Tuft’s reflections on his experience in our GED class, on page 21 of Literacy Nova Scotia’s 2022 Adult Learners’ Week eBooklet.

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Adults in GED Prep

Of these, 18 continue to prepare for GED tests. 11 were unable to continue their studies at this time.
20

GED Tests Passed

in Language Arts – Grammar, Language Arts – Writing, Math, Science and Social Studies.
1

GED Certificate Achieved

Typically it takes six months to a year of dedicated hard work for an adult learner complete all five GED tests.

A GED Success Story: Flexible & Safe Place to Learn

About 23-25 years ago, I walked across the stage at my high school graduation and accepted my grade 12 diploma in Alberta. Later, I realized that I hadn’t really graduated. While I had more credits than I needed to graduate, I was missing one of the required credits to graduate.

Six years ago, I finally completed that credit only to learn that Alberta had changed its credit requirements and, I was yet again missing one more credit that would cost me over $500 to get.

Fast forward to 2021. I found myself living in Nova Scotia with young children, unexpectedly unemployed like many of my peers. I wanted to attend Nova Scotia Community College but wasn’t eligible because of that one missing credit!

I did my research and decided I wanted to get my GED. Dartmouth Learning Network was a great option for me. There are a lot of extra expenses involved with going to school which can be discouraging. The fact that Dartmouth Learning Network’s programs were free was awesome. And, their schedule was flexible so I could go to school while my kids were in school.

The instructor was very kind and supportive. It was a safe environment. There were people that were a similar age to me, and everyone wanted to get to the same place. It was wonderful!

Since getting my GED, I was able to find employment within the school system as an Educatonal Program Assistant – something that I could not have done without my GED – and am on a waiting list for the Therapeutic Recreation program at NSCC.

GED-Success-Story

Digital Literacy

The need for digital literacy skills instruction is significant. We are grateful to our partners at the Nova Scotia School for Adult Learning for recognizing and supporting us to meet this demand over the past two years with software and licensing resources, technology and human resources.

8

Digital Literacy Classes
were offered within the year including Computer Basics and Computer Applications.

26

Adults in Digital Literacy Classes
including a Computer Basics and a more advanced Computer Applications level.

1

Learner Transitions to Tutor
As learners improve their digital literacy skills, they naturally help their peers. Some take it one step further and volunteer to tutor.

5

Adult Learners Advance
from Computer Basics to Computer Applications.

Learning to Live in Today’s Connected World

“I haven’t used a computer my whole life.”

As a young man, Billy Stewart had assumed computers were just a fad. After all, in the 1980s personal computers—and in the early 1990s the internet—seemed mainly for nerds. No one could imagine the impact the digital sphere would have on our everyday lives.

A former business owner, Billy dreamed of starting a new business: an asphalt company that could work directly with consumers instead of third parties. He had the knowledge and experience to realize that dream, but he knew that companies can’t get very far these days without an online presence. How could he create a company Yelp page when he didn’t know how to use a mouse, let alone a web browser?

Billy-web-page

Determined to become an entrepreneur at the age of 74, in November 2021 he reached out to Dartmouth Learning Network and put his trademark work ethic into learning everything he could. He obtained his own Chromebook and bought a printer, investing his own time and money to realize his goals.

Billy has taken his learning seriously, attending one-on-one tutor sessions to learn how to find patterns in websites (search boxes, text fields, common buttons), while also attending regular classes to learn how to use email and copy/paste. He’s gone from typing one word per minute to writing whole sentences. He’s set up his Yelp page, troubleshot his own issues, and is managing his own Facebook page. Billy now has a registered business, an email address, a Yelp page, and a Facebook presence to call his own. He’s even taken to watching videos and chatting with friends over Zoom.

Billy has been an inspiration, focusing on his goals and celebrating the successes while turning setbacks into learning opportunities. He’s an example that it’s never too late to learn to live in today’s connected world.

Computer Basics

With the help of our volunteers, this class built fluency around complicated software like email, internet searching, and fun projects in Google Drive. We used Kahoot to do formative assessments as a game, and EdClub to practice typing and as an independent learning tool. Because this class is still learning the basics, there was a lot of repetition and it progressed at a much slower pace than the Applications class.

Computer Applications

This class demonstrated that implementing games when teaching digital skills can increase participation, encourage social and emotional learning, and motivate learners to take risks. This class used EdClub to amass points on typing challenges and earn Words Per Minute certificates. We developed and played Battleship board games using Google Sheets to apply code and formats.

In addition, the class worked with the instructor on projects like using Maps and Sheets to create a guide to a local area. One learner took this a step further and donated their project to their local library for sharing. We analyzed shop sales with Sheets and Docs, and used Forms to send surveys around the school to get results on a series of questions learners brainstormed in class.

Lastly, we worked on some unplanned but welcome side projects, including the use of Google applications to keep in touch about a weekly water consumption challenge that came up in class one day; learners also started emailing each other little jokes, pictures, and question prompts outside of class. Finally, the instructor set up a spreadsheet to share YouTube videos and gave learners editing permissions to develop it. 

In the evening class, one learner obtained an exciting employment opportunity with VIA Rail, while two others were accepted into NSCC for Sept 2022.

Moving On Up

While we haven’t added any new content to our Moving On Up eLearning platform this year, it’s been a busy place! And, we are celebrating “proof of concept”. When we started down the path of eLearning, we weren’t really sure what we were doing but we knew that there was a need within adult learning in Nova Scotia for online resources and content and we were eager to try to fill that void. We may not have filled the void but, looking at the statistics that we’ve collected over the past four years, we’re moving in the right direction – UP!

With no resources available or dedicated to promote or educate adult learners and instructors about Moving On Up, the number of people who continue using Moving On Up after finding it has almost doubled. While we’d like to think we did it all ourselves, we can also thank COVID for the push towards online learning. We’re missing data from May – Jul 2020 but the gap in the chart below really demonstrates the impact of COVID on Moving On Up’s recent wins.

Moving-On-Up-Activity

Family Literacy

For the past two years, Dartmouth Learning Network has partnered with The North Grove, The Dartmouth North Public Library, and Between the Bridges to offer an online Family Fun with Phonics program based on the popular Jolly Phonics resources. This year we were proud to collaborate with the Eastern Shore Musquodoboit Valley Learning Network to extend this program to their regions.

Within the Family Fun with Phonics program parents were provided with take home craft and play activities complemented by online links and resources to guide weekly phonics learning with their children. We’re now compiling that learning and sharing it on our website so that any family anywhere can take advantage of our work.

Thank you to the generous support of the Halifax Youth Foundation through their Family Learning Initiative Endowment Fund.

Learning in the Community

It is important to us and to our adult learners to grow our knowledge of the world around us. Each year we access funds through the Literacy Nova Scotia NSSAL Community Fund so that we can explore and learn in the community. This year we visited the Cole Harbour Heritage Museum and Farm, had a little fun at Woodside Bowlarama (where we practiced our teamwork and math skills) and returned to Dartmouth Learning Network for a community meal.

Working Towards Skilled Trades in Manufacturing

Working Towards Skilled Trades in Manufacturing was an 18-week project delivered to provide 16 individuals interested in exploring careers in the Industrial/ Manufacturing sector with job readiness, academic and safety training and an 8-week work placement in the Industrial/Manufacturing sector.

While Dartmouth Learning Network acted as the project administrator, this project was a true partnership between Dartmouth Learning Network, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency, the Nova Scotia Community College and the YMCA (Dartmouth) Nova Scotia Works Centre.

Sixteen individuals from various backgrounds, barriers and ages participated in the project.

At the completion of the program:

9 were offered full-time employment

1 was offered part-time employment

1 successfully registered as a Sheet Metal Apprentice

2 more were in the process of registering as Apprentices (Painter and Cook)

Nova Scotia Apprenticeship
Hiep - one of several participants offered full-time employment at the completion of the program.

Thank you!

Many thanks to our volunteers for all that you do! Thank you to our learners for showing up every day ready and willing to learn. Thank you to our community partners for your referrals and collaboration. And, lastly, thank you to the organizations that provide funding to ensure we are all able to continue to learn and grow together, specifically the Nova Scotia Department of Labour, Skills & Immigration and Literacy Nova Scotia.

Literacy_NS
Nova-Scotia

Connect with us

Dartmouth Learning Network
73 Tacoma Dr, Suite 802
Dartmouth, NS B2W 3Y6, Canada

Phone: 1 (902) 463-9179
Fax: (902) 704-5086
e-mail: 
executivedirector@dartmouthlearning.net

To contact individual staff members, use the staff directory.

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