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Speaker: OTAN-- Outreach and Technical Assistance Network.

Melinda Holt: Hello, everyone. I am Melinda Holt, and I'm a project specialist with the Outreach and Technical Assistance Network. I'd like to welcome you all for joining this OTAN Tech Talk, Using Technology to Help Students Set, Monitor, and Achieve Goals. Anthony Burik, another project specialist for OTAN, is the presenter for this OTAN Tech Talk. Anthony, it's all yours.

Anthony Burik: Thanks, Melinda. Hello. My name is Anthony Burik. I'm a project specialist with OTAN. And this is my Tech Talk, Using Technology to Help Students Set, Monitor, and Achieve Goals. You can find my resources for today's Tech Talk at the website bit.ly/OTTgoals. These include my slides and a handout with information about the resources that I will share today. Please visit the OTAN website at otan.us for more resources that adult educators can use in their classrooms and in their adult education programs.

Here is our agenda for today's presentation. I want to tell you about the inspiration for this Tech Talk and talk about goals in general. Next, we will talk about students and their relationship with technology in preparation for using tech tools for goal setting.

We will spend some time talking about nudges and how these help our students. We will then cover a number of tech tools for you to consider using to help students set, monitor, and achieve their goals. Finally, we will look at some ways to acknowledge student achievement. Again, the slides and a handout are available at the website bit.ly/OTTgoals.

So why are we here today? A few years ago, I participated in an adult school back-to-school training as an OTAN trainer. And in between my presentations, I had a chance to attend a session on setting goals with students with one of the adult school teachers. She did a great job explaining her process and how to get started setting goals with students using some teacher-developed handouts.

There was a moment, though, when I looked around the room, and everyone with their phones, tablets, and laptops. And there was a bit of a disconnect. I started to ask myself some questions, namely, what happens to the paper handouts once the goal setting is over? How does the teacher put all of this information together into something usable after the first few days of the term? And is there a way to integrate technology in this process?

We should acknowledge here that sometimes goal setting doesn't really happen at all. Perhaps it's only done at intake or during registration process to fulfill data accountability requirements, and that's it. Maybe this information from the office is sent to teachers in a report, and the teacher gives it a once over and files it away. Other teachers will make the effort to learn about their students' goals, but then they are not able to circle back to the monitoring piece because the day-to-day requirements of the class have taken over as the priority.

Because of the open entry, open exit nature of many adult ed programs, if students are not present during the first few dates, the focus is on quickly integrating those students who join the class later into the flow of the class, and there's no time to have students do some of these extra activities. Maybe teachers do have a plan to revisit the goals named by students at a later point in the term of this semester, but it could be too late for some students. They are already off track. These are just some of the considerations and challenges that adult educators face when embarking on goal setting with students.

So knowing that goal setting is so important for adult ed students, I started to wonder about using technology for goal setting. And I just felt that there had to be some options for adult educators. I've been thinking and learning about how to introduce technology into this process, and there are probably still some tools out there yet to be discovered, as keeping up with technology developments is a never-ending process.

Goal setting is a powerful activity for our students, as this quote will attest. "The primary incentive for learner persistence is the learner's ability to set a goal and see progress in reaching that goal." There are a number of things that schools and programs can do to attain an equitable environment. Goal setting and paying attention to this process for each student is one of them because we are prioritizing student needs, perhaps in ways that students have not experienced in other educational settings.

We know that students come to our programs for different reasons. And being able to capture information about why they attend and what their goals are, and make it actionable for students and the teachers and staff who support them, will help create that equitable environment. When we have these conversations with students about their goals and how we can assist them in reaching those goals, students get the sense that the school or the program is invested in their success and that the school or the program is willing to assist students in a variety of ways, depending on the circumstances of the students.

Monitoring the goals to keep students on track tells students that we're not going to give up on them, even though there may be speed bumps along the way. And highlighting success gives us a chance to show how student achievements are as important as other accomplishments at the school or in the program.

One of the silver linings in these COVID times is that we have started applying technology in ways that we didn't think were possible or hadn't explored as an option. This is certainly the case with goal setting and monitoring. If you have a paper-based system, and it works, and students persist in and achieve their goals, that's better than no system at all. But as we'll discuss, there are tech tools out there to consider.

It is important to adopt a goal-setting framework. Many teachers are already familiar with SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. And the SMART goals framework helps an individual bring a lot of clarity and focus to a goal. There are lots of SMART goals handouts and suggestions all over the internet.

In the notes on my website, I listed two examples that have been customized for use in programs with educators and tutors who work with adults. And they're a bit more thorough than many other handouts out there. Educators will probably need some training and practice themselves before using these with students and doing the goal-setting activities. So I do feel that looking at these handouts on my website as a whole give educators a good sense of what to consider and how to help students craft goals that are going to be solid.

As this slide indicates, there are a number of items to explore in terms of understanding students' connection to technology. COVID has given instructors a much better sense of the technology that students possess and some of the challenges students face when using technology. As I suggest, you will want to find out about student tech devices in and outside of the school, where and how students are connecting to the internet, student technology ability and use, and where students are on social media, what their favorite apps are, et cetera.

Surveys are a great way to gather this information. If your program or school already administers a digital skill survey, then maybe it's just a matter of revising what you already have rather than starting from scratch. I also think that these COVID times give us an opportunity to take a second look at these types of surveys to make sure we're asking the right questions and getting the right feedback.

With the wholesale move to distance learning in the last year, we probably want to rethink what staff and student access to technology, connectivity, and digital ability really means moving forward. There are a lot of technology tools to make use of when working with students, so don't feel limited to only one or two tools only.

The next item to discuss is nudging. And a good book to read on the subject is Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein. Nudging is based on an understanding of where each student is and what each student needs on the road to actually achieving the goal. Nudging lends itself well to a student-centered approach to goal setting. Different students are going to need different nudges to help them stay on track.

I think that in general, educators as a profession are more in tune with how to nudge students in respectful ways that acknowledge where students are at any given moment. Nudge suggests how to look at the complexity of nudging and how you craft nudges with a variety of factors in mind, and what might appeal to a particular student depending on where they are in their process.

One of the central ideas in Nudge is what the authors called choice architecture. Choice architecture has six components that provides a framework for adult educator communication that encourages students to make good choices and not be deterred in reaching their goals. Here are the six nudges components for choice architects or, in this case, adult educators to consider to prevent students from straying from the path of reaching their goals-- incentives, understand mappings, defaults, give feedback, expect error, and structure complex choices. So let's look at each one.

According to Thaler and Sunstein, sensible choice architects will put the right incentives on the right people. The most important modification that must be made is salience. Do the choosers actually notice the incentives they face?

A teacher should present an incentive unique to that student and help the student recognize the incentive being presented even in the midst of a difficult situation. For a person who uses the treadmill, perhaps a better incentive would be to know how much exercise it would take to work off the cookies they ate during the day, rather than looking at a bunch of numbers flashing on the screen.

According to Thaler and Sunstein, a good system-of-choice architecture helps people to improve their ability to map and, hence, to select options that will make them better off. One way to do this is to make the information about various options more comprehensible. Students can get bogged down and become frustrated deciding between options. Teachers can help students chart a path through options that make work on their goals in life manageable, much like working through a menu helps the customer decide on a meal from a variety of choices.

According to Thaler and Sunstein, many people will take whatever option requires the least effort, or the path of least resistance. If, for a given choice, there is a default option, an option that will obtain if the chooser does nothing, then we can expect a large number of people to end up with that option, whether or not it is good for them.

Most people don't think about changing the timing of their screensaver from the factory setting to something that might work better for them. The historic default for many adult students is to drop out or give up, so students need to know that we can change the default settings to something that makes more sense and is better suited to what we desire.

According to Thaler and Sunstein, the best way to help humans improve their performance is to provide feedback. Well-designed systems tell people when they are doing well and when they are making mistakes. We should always strive to provide clear, meaningful feedback for students, much as our devices give us instantaneous feedback on the quality of our photos and if we've caught someone with their eyes closed when we took the picture to prompt us to try again.

According to Thaler and Sunstein, humans make mistakes. A well-designed system expects its users to err and is as forgiving as possible. Just as our car beeps when we forget to fasten our seat belts, we gently remind students that mistakes are natural and a part of the learning process, although they may not see them that way.

According to Thaler and Sunstein, when we face a small number of well-understood alternatives, we tend to examine all of the attributes of all of the alternatives and then make trade-offs when necessary. But when the choice gets large, we must use alternative strategies, and these can get us into trouble. For students unaccustomed to goal setting and achieving, this may seem like a tall order in their minds. One of our primary tasks is to help students structure their big goals into manageable chunks, much like finding an apartment or buying a house in a big city requires a series of smaller steps to finally secure a place to live.

We'll come back to nudging shortly, but let's talk about some tech tools to explore when it comes to goal setting. The first tool to discuss is called Lifetick. The web address is lifetick.com. Lifetick is based on SMART goal setting, so it's right in line with what you're already doing as you work on goal setting with students. In addition, an educator, counselor, or other school staff member can also sign up and become a supporter of the student, which provides access to what the student has created in the app. And here is the monitoring piece of the process.

I also have the ability to message the student via the app, so here is where I can nudge the student on what they are currently working on, also part of the monitoring process. There is a free version of Lifetick that should be adequate for educators and their students as well as a paid subscription if you're interested in exploring other features of the app.

Here is a screenshot of the information the student provides to create a SMART goal. On the left side, you see that there is a question for each of the SMART goal components. On the right side, there are two additional questions that address why the goal is important to the student. A student completes this questionnaire and saves it in their account.

You can also set up notifications or reminders from Lifetick that are meant to help the student stay on track. The student has some schedule options for when the notifications are sent, for example, daily or weekly. Setting up some kind of a notification system is key. This will help especially with the monitoring part of process.

Students may be on different timelines for completion. I'm thinking about students in an HSE prep course who plan on taking the tests at their own pace and in their preferred order, versus a CTE course where the students are moving together in a cohort. But the point is that the notifications are going out according to some schedule. That way, we don't lose sight of the goals and what the students need to do to stay on track.

I'm thinking of some of the our HSE students who have a plan or a schedule in their minds to take and pass the tests, but they are missing the deadlines, or they don't have a retake plan if they are not successful with one of the tests. They probably were not realistic in the timetable they had created to achieve their goals, which monitoring could have helped identify early on. Notifications can prompt the educator to check in one on one with each student, or if the student doesn't feel like they're on track, this could prompt them to check in with the teacher.

When the student creates a goal, they can also add a supporter who is able to see the goal that the student is working on and can also send messages via the app. This is where a well-placed nudge can make a difference and help keep the student motivated to continue. One of the great features of Lifetick and other tech tools is this interactivity between the student setting the goal and the educator monitoring the goal.

As a supporter, I can see the goal named and the timetable established as well as the subtasks. Notifications can go out, and I can communicate with the student in the app. These are all features that keep the educator engaged in the student's process. We can't always leave the burden of goal setting, monitoring, and achieving entirely or mostly to the student. We have to be a partner in that process. And technology is a tool that can help us establish and maintain that partnership.

Strides is another tech tool to explore. It has some limitations compared to Lifetick, but it's also easy to create and pays some attention to SMART goal setting. There's a free version of Strides as well as a paid subscription. When you get started setting a goal in the Strides app, make sure to select Project to track the goal. You are then able to create a goal with subtasks and assigned due dates, similar to Lifetick. The Strides app bears a lot of resemblance to other to-do apps, which are very popular with people who set daily goals for themselves, although Strides has more of a SMART goal orientation.

Goalscape is a visually oriented goal-setting tool that pays some attention to SMART goals. To get started, a student can create a free account. The strength of Goalscape is being able to organize the goals and tasks visually, which you can see by the divided circle in the middle of the screen, which may appeal to certain students as well as adult educators. Goalscape is similar to Lifetick in that a student can add a supporter who is able to view the goals and tasks and communicate with the students in the app.

GoalEnforcer is another visually oriented goal-setting tool. You can download a demo version of GoalEnforcer to try it out, but purchase is required to allow the user to save their work and return to their goal to monitor progress. Finally, another tech tool adult educators might consider is Goals On Track, which pays attention to SMART goals but is only available with a paid subscription.

Another option for staying connected with students is to set up a private Facebook group to keep all activity within the class. A Facebook group can be used to share information with students for learning activities to learn more about students and to encourage students to create connections and build relationships.

A teacher can use a Facebook group to nudge, monitor, and keep students on track. And with other students in the group, peers can encourage each other towards achieving everyone's goals. Many students are already familiar and comfortable with Facebook, so this might be a particularly appealing and easy tool for the class to use.

One benefit of a Facebook group is it might include some previous students who have been successful who can provide perspective to current students on how they overcame barriers to be successful in reaching their goals. That peer interaction is particularly effective because many students are similarly in the midst of their own goal-achieving work, so students can better relate to the experiences of their classmates. Sometimes we teachers forget or have forgotten what it's like to be a student.

Another possible option for monitoring student goals and nudging students is through a learning management system, such as Moodle, Canvas, Schoology, or Google Classroom. The first step would be to see if the LMS has an add-on, plugin, a module, or some other component that is useful for acknowledging, establishing, and monitoring goals. Barring this, it is going to take some work and creativity to think about how to help students set, monitor, and achieve goals within the LMS.

One option, for example, is to consider exploring calendar groupings, meaning a group with the teacher and the student, and settings to schedule events and push event notices out to the students on the calendar. Another option would be to set up a discussion forum or board for more informal communication between students and the teacher-- but don't be so teachery in this forum-- where students can check in with one another, get encouragement, ask questions, seek assistance, et cetera.

Typically, when we think about student success, we think about graduations, earning high school diplomas, becoming citizens, and the major accomplishments. But what about intake and registration to show adults taking the steps to better their lives, or in the classes, showcasing student work and projects? Highlight the first day of class, the good work going on daily, the aha moments our students have, particular barriers students have overcome, as well as how the adult ed program or school is a catalyst in the community for adults to better their lives by working on and reaching their goals.

There are various opportunities to communicate to the outside world all of the great work going on at the adult school. And students appreciate the recognition, which is so important to validate their hard work and struggle, in many cases, to succeed. Using your website and social media are tools that can acknowledge the efforts students are making in reaching their goals for a wider audience.

As the following slides demonstrate, you can publicize all kinds of achievements in the adult education program. Don't leave all the recognition until the end. Remember the beginning and the middle, too. Social media is a great way to let the world know about student success and acknowledge the hard work that students are doing and have done. This first slide is a Twitter post with a nudge for those adults who would like to earn their high school diploma, which they can do at the adult school.

What about students coming to campus for the first time? Adult students doing the work every day is an achievement to acknowledge. The adult school is also a place where we can help students with their learning needs, which is an important message to convey. I particularly like this slide and the next slide titled Working on a Goal and Working on Goal Setting, which demonstrate how the school is attentive to student goals and sharing how students are making progress and telling the world about it, which helps to promote the school to a larger audience.

In this slide, we see student Javier telling the other students about his goal and how he is working on creating his dream project. In this slide, we see how the school has set up a goal-setting display for everyone to visit and draw inspiration from.

Celebrating is the fun part, right? I'm active on Twitter. I follow adult ed programs across California. And I see all kinds of ways that schools and programs are sharing celebrations. Accomplishments and celebrations are definitely important, but again, just part of the great work the adult school is doing for its students.

I also want to point out one of our efforts at OTAN to document student success, the California Adult Education Students Succeed program. The web address is adultedlearners.org. These are powerful stories that are documented and can be shared in so many ways.

These stories that we all have at our adult schools are stories that our incoming and current students who are struggling and thinking that they are the only ones who have ever gone through their particular struggles need to hear, how others before them faced similar challenges and overcame them. I think that it gives students hope that they, too, can be successful based on the success of others.

We can create written stories with photos or make them video stories, which social media and other users are more likely to watch. And try to get previous students to come back and share their stories. Every time I've heard about a school doing this, I've heard nothing but how great this was for the current students to listen and ask questions and get encouragement. These visits can also be turned into news items that are shared with a larger audience.

So to wrap up, celebrate achievements, starting with the first day of school, and use achievements to promote the good work happening at the adult school. One other benefit is to consider the various pieces of information you now have available, which can be used to follow up with students for WIOA reporting purposes. We've reached the end of this Tech Talk, but before we go, take a moment to reflect on three things you've learned today, two things you will share with your colleagues, and one thing you will try.

Whether you choose to try out some of the tech tools mentioned or work on beefing up your print goal system, the most important step is to help students write down their goals and create a system to help students stay on track. Persisting with their goals is going to lead to student success. Hopefully, COVID times have prompted us to be open to the possibility of technology for functions, like student goal setting, that we haven't considered up until now. Thanks for attending my OTAN Tech Talk today. And Melinda, back to you.

Melinda Holt: Thank you, Anthony, for a great presentation. For all of those viewing, if you would like to present a tech tool or have some tips to share with your colleagues in adult education, send OTAN an email with your OTT idea to support@otan.us. We'd also like to encourage everyone to subscribe to the OTAN YouTube channel, where other archived videos like the Tech Talks can be found. You can also check out the OTAN website for even more resources for adult education at otan.us.