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CATESOL Book Review: Teaching Adults in the Digital World

Christie Sosa

CATESOL Book Review: Teaching Adults in a Digital World by Glenda Rose (2016), Series Editor Andy Curtis, TESOL Press

By Viktoriya Shevchenko and Kara Mac Donald

The Introduction frames the context of online learning as unique to many language learning settings, as students are often in class spread across many countries and highlights the importance of the diverse factors in online teaching. The format of the book, distinct from other books in the series, is described based on the nature of online learning as not constrained by a particular context.


In Chapter One, Rose narrates, almost in a conversational tone, the trajectory of her professional experiences that lead her to developing expertise in and sharing her knowledge and skills around online learning. She closes by expressing that online digital realm is often not familiar to most with regard to language instruction and she aims to better equip the reader through her discussion of research and professional experience.

The very accessible manner continues in Chapter Two addressing the digital divide of those accessing online language instruction across the globe. Therefore, why it is essential for teachers to be cognizant of the diverse setting from which students access class as it impacts them individually as well as the class group dynamic.

The diversity of digital learning for adult English language learners in the United States is described in Chapter Three through the contexts and experiences of five students across a variety of English language programs (e.g. Intensive English Programs/IEPs, federally funded programs, faith based programs and so on). Each has a distinct focus regarding teaching in the digital context depending on the program’s goal, learners’ learning and personal objectives, yet most programs are beginning to include more use of technology in instruction within the classroom and/or online instructions. So, just as the access to technology and the digital literacy of adult learners varies greatly across the globe, so can it within a country (e.g. United States).

Chapter Four provides additional focus on university IEPs and community college programs and their use of technology with respect to online textbooks, in-class instruction and other activities, but explains why in most cases instruction is not predominantly online based on student demographics (e.g international students wanting an immersion experience through an IEP or local resident students accessing education while working) and learning goals.

The author addressed adult education English language programs and workplace programs by describing some of her experiences working in them in Chapter Five, and the different challenges as well as program models for such programs. In some programs completion is based on meeting a time requirement, in others by teacher confirmation of skill level and in some by a final mastery exam for certification.

Chapter Six moves away from digital learning in English language programs in the Unites States and describes the increased access to asynchronous instruction on social media platforms, synchronous tutoring through video conferences and other applications and the different forms of webinar classes.

An account of experiences and abilities of past technologies beginning in the late 1970s in Chapter Seven offers perspective on how far technology has developed, and consequently, online teaching. With this, some projections of how online teaching may be informed and impacted by further digital technologies are discussed, but with a caveat, that at the base is the student-teacher relationship in language learning regardless of the domain of delivery.
Chapter Eight closes the book by looking back on writing about technology and digital resources in producing the book, where the authors’ express the challenges of access to multitudes of information, but at time absence of any wanted. The reader is reminded that the teacher is the resource of instruction and the digital technologies and resources are simply instruments.
Despite the text’s title, the content of the book is relevant far beyond teaching language to adults and via on an online platform. The book addresses many factors related to teaching diverse groups, young learners, youth and adult, in face-to-face contexts with forms of technology as part of instruction. Classrooms are never homogenous, and teachers always need to understand the diversity of the students, the multifaceted components of instruction and the social interaction that are part of language teaching.

Call for Book Review Co-Authors
If you are interested in co-authoring a book slated for the coming months or if you would like to recommend a book that you would like to review as co-author/sole author in future issues, please contact Kara Mac Donald,